Shelby County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, is consistently focused on quality of life. The newest county park, Double Oak Park, opened in December 2022, with 750 acres, a trail system and pavilion. The county also recently opened Dunnavant Valley Park on Shelby County 41, the former Mt. Laurel organic farm site.
Also in 2021, the county opened a $14.5 million services center on U.S. 280 and Dunnavant Valley Road, one of the fastest growing areas of the county. The new building is named the Alex A. Dudchock Shelby County Services Building in honor of a longtime county manager. The center includes an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency driver testing office, the city of Westover’s water services office, Shelby County 911, a Shelby County Sheriff’s Office substation, Central Alabama Wellness and 58 Inc., the county’s economic development agency.
The county also recently has added a mobile medical clinic, partnering with the Community of Hope Clinic, to serve rural portions of the county.
The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce has developed a three-year strategic plan, Forward Shelby County, which aims to expand opportunities by retaining and growing existing business, leading business-driven workforce development, partnering with 58 Inc. for economic development and driving public policy for a stronger business climate, says Kirk Mancer, chamber president and CEO.
The Shelby County school system has 21,198 students and 2,884 staff, making it among the county’s largest employers. The school system is key to the county’s reputation as a desirable place to live. All schools are accredited by AdvancED.
The district is working on its five-year capital plan for improvements and renovations, adding classrooms at multiple schools and a fine arts wing at Oak Mountain High School. The career technical center continues to grow, and individual high schools offer career technical programs. Mercedes-Benz recently donated a test vehicle to the career tech center. Middle-school students can participate in the We Build It Better program.
The district was honored as a Science of Reading Spotlight District by the Alabama Department of Education.
Big news in the city of Alabaster is the city’s purchase of 29 acres from the Alabaster Board of Education to build a new city recreation center that will include gyms, meeting rooms, workout areas, offices for the parks and recreation department, a possible new library and more, says Brian Binzer, city administrator. The area also will include retail development, green space and a park. Future plans include a splash pad, he says.
The city will start clearing some existing structures on the site in about two years, giving the board of education time to relocate its central office from the site to the high school campus, Binzer says. About six acres of property will be sold to the private sector for retail or similar space. “It’s a win-win for us and the school system,” he says.
Alabama Department of Transportation is widening and adding lanes to Alabama 119, a heavily traveled road, he says. The $15 million project, partly funded by the city, should be complete in 2024. Also, the state is repaving and improving Highway 31.
District 31, a private commercial project, should break ground in 2023 and include retail and more, Binzer says. The city has a new Patriots Park underway on seven acres on former Kingwood Church property. The $4.1 million park will have trails, pavilions, sports courts and play areas.
The city also plans an amphitheater and stage between city hall and the senior center, Binzer says. “We are going to be adding two major trails in that area, one that will improve our Birch Creek Trail and another trail leading to the new Thompson High School,” he says.
Alabaster City Schools continues its rapid growth trajectory, surpassing 6,300 students in fall 2022. The system has five campuses serving students in grades PreK-12.
ACS boasts a 97% college and career readiness rate and a 97% graduation rate. The system recently earned an “A” on the Alabama State Report Card, thanks to a continued focus on academics, attendance and college/career readiness.
ACS has established a new partnership with Jefferson State Community College to offer the district’s first Career and Technical Education dual enrollment program. This offers students a short certificate or associate degree in industrial maintenance.
The district also continues its investment in fine arts with the Performing Arts Center — a 1,000-plus seat auditorium on the campus of Thompson High School.
In fall 2022, ACS announced a $6 million athletics capital projects plan, which includes major upgrades and/or additions to boys and girls sports programs at both Thompson Middle School and Thompson High School.
The Thompson Warriors won the 7A state football championship for the fourth time in November 2022.
Consistently ranked one of the fastest-growing cities in Alabama, Calera is a suburb of the Birmingham-Hoover MSA. The Shelby County Airport, paired with interstate access at three exits, generates development opportunities that result in a diverse economy and strong employment base.
This year, Calera became home to a QuikTrip travel center, the second in the state.
Calera is focusing on downtown revitalization and recently adopted a comprehensive plan.
The city also prides itself on excellent schools.
Chelsea, a fast-growing city, continues to add services and amenities. Some of those include a second gym underway at the Chelsea Community Center, to be finished in October 2023 with racquetball courts, lockers and space for home school students to use for gym and recess activities.
Phase 2 of the growing Highway 11 sports complex will include three 200-foot fields, three championship full size fields and more, says Mayor Tony Picklesimer. A new concession stand should be ready in early summer.
A LaQuinta hotel is being built, and construction is complete on the city’s Foothills Business Park, he says. The city also is building a wholesale distribution building for the Alabama Beverage Control Board, which has been operating its retail and wholesale distribution in one location, Picklesimer says. The city will be landlord for the center on U.S. 280. It should open by May 2023.
Columbiana, the county seat, has the charm of a small town with easy access to big city amenities, which contributes to a renewed housing interest in the city where hundreds of new homes are under construction.
The recently constructed Old Mill Square is a $10 million multi-use arts facility with a black box theater, art gallery and a Grand Hall that can be rented for events. In addition, Columbiana is home to Lay Lake, Lewis Lakes Vineyards and the Shelby County Board of Education administrative offices, as well as the county school system’s career technical school.
The city has earned Main Street designation and is now focused on downtown revitalization.
Helena is a thriving suburb that has been ranked one of the best places to live in Alabama. The city has a lively historic downtown district on the Cahaba River and well-planned development, making it popular for families.
With the revitalization of Old Town Helena and new retail development projects underway, Helena is seeing expanded retail and service industry sectors while exploring opportunities to develop sites suitable for knowledge-based industry headquarters.
Recent news includes the city’s plan to move the Helena City Hall to the future Hillsboro Town Center, part of a long-term development plan “Helena Forward.” The new development is part of the master-planned Hillsboro residential community, which also will include a sports complex.
Helena also recently welcomed several new chain restaurants.
Hoover (Shelby County portion)
Future Hoover, the city of Hoover’s comprehensive plan, was adopted in 2019. It provides a guide for development throughout various areas of the city for the next 20 years.
Two key programs will have a strong impact on Shelby County, and both initiatives will solicit input from key stakeholders, Hoover citizens and businesses — which are key to building a greater community, officials say.
First, Hoover is starting plans for parks, recreation and public spaces for the entire city, says Greg Knighton, the city’s economic development manager. The city has engaged a planning firm to create a long-range plan for its park, recreation and public space facilities. The plan will focus on connecting public spaces via greenways and blueways, determining park and space needs and developing programs and facilities that enhance quality of life.
Secondly, Future Hoover identifies Meadow Brook Corporate Park as a potential new technology village, Knighton says. This plan envisions the office park transforming over time into a 24-7 “tech” village with new buildings and a more immersive environment for working, living and playing. The plan identifies Meadow Brook as an ideal location for becoming a city center for east Hoover.
The plan calls for improvements to walking paths around the lakes and infill development to create housing, retail, office and civic uses, he says. The plan envisions that the office park would take on the attributes of a modern traditional neighborhood, providing opportunities for work, shopping, eating and recreation. The city is currently working with stakeholders to fulfill the vision.
Four of Hoover City Schools’ 16 campuses are in the Shelby County part of Hoover — Greystone Elementary School, Riverchase Elementary School, Berry Middle School and Spain Park High School. The entire system’s schools have received an “A” on the most recent state report card.
The system’s high-tech career center, Riverchase Career Connection Center, was recently selected as a Regional Best Practice School by the governor’s office.
The city of Hoover partners with the schools on various projects to benefit the schools and sports tourism. A recent
$9 million partnership includes new turf at Spain Park High School and upgrades at many other city and sports facilities.
Montevallo is a multi-faceted city with an emphasis on preserving its history and embracing its future. The city has more than 70 homes and buildings on the National Historic Register. It is home to the University of Montevallo, the state’s only public liberal arts college, serving as the primary economic engine for the city with approximately 3,000 students and 700 employees.
The city offers retail shops, restaurants and art galleries with walkability and ADA compliance as a priority.
Montevallo partners with the University of Montevallo and Shelby County for many improvements and projects. Since 2012, the Montevallo Development Cooperative District has been instrumental in renovations to downtown, creation and maintenance of city parks, paving projects and athletic improvements that make the city more pleasant.
In addition, Montevallo became a designated Main Street community in 2016, which has stimulated commercial development in the central business district. Through partnerships with Main Street Alabama and Main Street America, Montevallo Main Street works to promote and revitalize its picturesque downtown.
Montevallo hosts annual events that draw residents, visitors and vendors from the Southeast region, such as Montevallo Arts Fest, College Night, Friday Nights at the Cove, Tinglewood Festival/Cars by the Creek, Fire Prevention Parade and multiple holiday parades throughout the year.
“The city offers exquisite park locations, an extensive variety of youth sports, hosting for regional athletic tournaments and miles of hiking and biking trails,” says Mayor Rusty Nix. “A multitude of trails can be found on the AllTrails app. A few to note are Orr Park, a 40-acre park bordering picturesque Shoal Creek, featuring 50 whimsical cedar tree carvings created by local artist, Tim Tingle.
“In 2013, the city received 167 acres of land, a historic home, numerous barns, and outbuildings from the Mahler family. This has been developed into Shoal Creek Park, with 11 miles of hiking trails and recognition as an official Audubon Birding Site on the Alabama Birding Trail. The Pendleton Hydrant Trail, the Ebenezer Swamp Trail and the Montevallo Art Trail add to the list of outdoor activities for visitors.
“Montevallo continues to grow and prosper and is currently recruiting a new hotel development,” Nix says.
Consistently ranked one of the safest cities in Alabama, Pelham is recognized as One of America’s Best Small Towns by Money Magazine and by website Niche as among Best Suburbs to Buy a House in America, Places to Live in Alabama and Places with the Best Public Schools in Alabama.
Pelham boasts extensive indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, a community-inspired school system and a mix of businesses of all sizes.
The city is investing millions in infrastructure improvements, with more than 90 capital improvement projects planned or in progress.
At the same time, numerous major commercial, residential and mixed-use developments are progressing, with construction happening in every corner of the city, says Ainsley Allison, the city’s communications manager.
The Canopy has sprouted up on Amphitheater Road, featuring luxury apartments, retail and dining. The area is part of Pelham’s first planned entertainment district, which will include Campus 124 with anchor tenants The Beer Hog and Half Shell Oyster House and connected to the expansion of the Pelham Greenway Trail.
To the south, the city-owned Oak Mountain Trail development is now recruiting high-end hotel and dining options. Ascension St. Vincent’s announced plans to build a freestanding emergency department in the area, if the state approves, offering multi-disciplinary specialty care from UAB physicians.
Pelham’s tax base helps the city offer and maintain premier amenities. In addition to Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama’s largest at 11,584 acres, Pelham boasts the Pelham Civic Complex & Ice Arena, home to The Birmingham Bulls, a Southern Professional Hockey League team; Pelham Racquet Club, which hosts an annual United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit women’s tournament that attracts top players from around the world; and Ballantrae Golf Club, a favorite for both residents and visitors.
Pelham City Schools has 3,451 students and 433 employees. It has two elementary schools to serve grades K-5, one middle school for grades 6-8 and one high school for grades 9-12. In fall 2022, the system hired Dr. Chuck Ledbetter as superintendent. Website Niche ranked the district 13th best in Alabama and 6th most diverse, while Pelham High School earned the 2022 GreatSchools.org College Success Award.
The community values its rigorous academic standards with STEM classes, English Language Learners programs, individualized options and career tech offerings.
The system has two schools less than 10 years old and has funded nearly $13 million in capital projects over the past two years.
This article appears in the February 2023 issue of Business Alabama.