Spotlight on Cullman, Walker & Winston: Community Development

Economic growth is occurring across the area with retail, housing and industrial development

Smith Lake is attracting visitors and residents to the area.

Cullman County

Cullman County commissioners are working on improving roads and bridges, says Jeff Clemons, commission chairman. “We have the second-most miles in the state, with 1,800 miles of roads,” Clemons says.

The county has upgraded playground equipment at Sportsman Lake Park and has broken ground for a basketball court, he says. Also, the county has several senior centers, with about 1,200 seniors taking advantage of events and programs. “We are working hard to improve quality of life for everyone,” he says. “We are blessed to be the third fastest growing county in Alabama.”

Cullman County has seen more people from out of state purchasing lots at Smith Lake and other areas, and the area is growing by leaps and bounds, along with the many tourism opportunities in the area, he says.

The city of Cullman has completed its first skate park in the downtown area, next to Depot Park, which is set to be redone, says Mayor Woody Jacobs. “We are trying to get as much pedestrian friendly area in the city as we can,” he says.

The city’s new waterpark just finished its first season, and it was very successful, Jacobs says. “We had about 30% of visitors from Cullman, and 70% visitors from other counties. It has had a $13 million economic impact.”

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The city is in the process of bidding out the work on a new civic center and indoor athletic complex in the southern part of town, he says. The 160-acre project, expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million, will include basketball, pickleball, volleyball and more.

“Our parks are top-notch and are award winning,” Jacobs says. “We’ve upgraded our community parks.”

The city is experiencing a population boom and that means a housing boom and school renovations, Jacobs says. Road work also is a high priority, he says. The city recently completed work on the widening of AL Highway 57 in Cullman, a 3.5-mile stretch that was the only remaining section of the 90-mile highway not four-laned.

The city continues to invest in downtown and in other areas. The Cotton Creek warehouse in downtown is home to office space, retail outlets, a brewpub and large event center. There also is a shared workspace for rentals and a full-service wedding venue. And the Klein Building, a former dairy, is slated to open in 2023 with restaurants, office space and more.

Also under construction is Cobblestone Hotel in the middle of Cullman’s Sports & Events District, along with Fairfield Inn and Home2Suites, both on Highway 157. Also, more banks are expanding.

The city will soon see the opening of Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and Taziki’s Mediterranean Café.

The city has about 1,200 homes under construction to handle the demand, officials say.

The Board of Education recently has begun a comprehensive plan to address student safety and growth within the Cullman City School System — a $45 million initiative with renovations and additions planned at middle and primary schools, says Kyle Kallhoff, superintendent.

The city of Hanceville has several large park projects, says Mayor Kenneth Nail. The newest, on 20 acres donated by Lillie Tucker, will include a botanical park named for her and her late husband, Larry. It will include a learning pavilion, elevated wooden walkways and more. New trails will further connect the city’s parks, he says.

The city also is expanding its jail, purchasing four new modular jail cells to augment the existing building, he says. There also will be more showers, storage and office space added.

Schools are a source of pride here as the Cullman city system consistently ranks among the top performers in the state. STEM programs are woven into the curriculum as are opportunities for collaboration, problem solving, reasoning and higher order thinking skills.

Both city and county schools offer an array of career technical programs, several with simulated workplaces.

Construction at Heritage Landing is underway.

Walker County

The Walker County Commission will soon begin a remodel of its Justice Center that will include courtroom renovations. Broadband is expanding in the county.

And work is beginning on a 50-acre multi-use development, Heritage Landing, on a reclaimed mine site in southern Walker County. The development will be built in phases. The project involves Drummond Company, the city of Dora, the Walker County Development Authority, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the Alabama Department of Labor’s Abandoned Mine Land Program. The development can be customized for retail, commercial and industrial tenants.

The city of Jasper is working on a four-point plan for major improvements paid for with a bond issue and a sales tax that will be rescinded once debt is paid, says Mayor David O’Mary.

In early 2023, the city of Jasper plans to break ground for a new sportsplex at Industrial Way and Charles Bishop Drive, says O’Mary. “It’s all city funded,” he says. “It will be a first for our city to have a facility of this caliber. It’s a multimillion-dollar project to be paid for with earmarked funds for this, parks playgrounds and other areas throughout the city.”

While the city hopes to attract tournaments, “even if it’s just locals playing here, it’ll be just fine,” O’Mary says.

The city also plans to break ground soon on a new city hall. Also, the city is embarking on $5 million in paving, as well as $2 million for industrial development, he says.

Retail is healthy, with new restaurants including Freddy’s, Taco Bell and Huddle House, he says. The city also is working with a prospect for a large portion of Jasper Mall. Downtown, Jasper Main Street has worked on and facilitated several projects, O’Mary says.

A priority is more development in the western side of the city, the mayor says. And the city is experiencing the largest residential housing boom in its history, with the Viking Cove development near Jasper High School. “We have had a lot of population growth and we had the largest kindergarten enrollment ever,” he says.

Sumiton is making repairs to its civic center.

City and county schools offer many career and technical options for students, on their own and in partnership with Bevill State’s STEM22 program. Jasper High School recently partnered with Capstone Rural Health to open a school-based health center.


Winston County

In Winston County, the 13-acre home of the former Looney’s Tavern complex and amphitheater is expected to be purchased by the Winston County Arts Council, says J.D. Snoddy, the county’s circuit court clerk and arts council president. “We plan to work with North Alabama Dance Studio in Haleyville and schools in Winston County to hold band concerts, graduations and other events,” he says. “We want to promote the county and bring in events.”

The site includes an indoor theater, the amphitheater, a former restaurant, gift shop, ticket office and concession area. The group plans to renovate areas when money is available and add dressing rooms and restrooms to the rear of the theater.

Double Springs, the county seat, is about to do a new lighting project outside its municipal building and is working on adding a gymnasium and new kitchen to its Seymour Bevill Day Care & First Class Pre-K, says Kim Ownby, city clerk.

The city of Haleyville, the home of 9-1-1, is submitting Community Development Block Grants for projects to refurbish roads and add sidewalks, says Mayor Ken Sunseri. The city’s Rocky Ravine Park downtown will get some improvements, and the new Heart of Haleyville Park downtown is expected to host live entertainment, movies and other events.

Also downtown, the city is working with Main Street Alabama and Retail Strategies for help in recruiting retail and other businesses, he says. “We have a lot of available buildings, and while a lot are filled, we are able to come up with more,” he says.

Residents can download an app that will allow them to report issues, Sunseri says. The city is starting water and sewer projects and used American Rescue Plan funds to pave and restripe Lakeland Community Hospital’s parking lot. The city owns the hospital.

The city is making improvements to its sportsplex, and the Haleyville Airport will get a main runway resurfacing and other improvements, he says.

Schools in the city and county systems offer options such as simulated workplace. Winston County Schools recently have finished capital improvements to draining, HVAC, security, roofs and more, says Marla Price, secondary curriculum director.

The career academy recently partnered with Northwest-Shoals Community College to make the majority of its program dual enrollment.

Wallace State Community College will soon open the Winston County Community Learning Center, which will include classrooms and computer labs that can be used for college classes, adult education, community education, dual enrollment and more.

This article appeared in the November 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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