Long known as a county that works with its municipalities and businesses to make things happen on many levels, this year has been no exception, despite the challenges.
Chad Scroggins was appointed county manager in early 2020 after the retirement of longtime manager Alex Dudchock.
“We are blessed with a lot,” Scroggins says. “We want that progress to continue. We also want our residents and businesses to have improved services.”
To that end, one of the largest projects underway is the county’s new $12.3 million services center on U.S. 280 and Dunnavant Road. Slated to open in July, it will house a sheriff’s substation, a community room, 911 services, driver licenses and tests and more.
The first projects are being completed under the county’s new comprehensive plan, including parks and trails, greenways and amenities at corporate parks
The county also partnered with Jefferson State on a welding lab and helped Columbiana develop its Old Mill Square.
Shelby County Schools, with 31 schools and 2,818 employees, are often listed among the state’s best — a big draw for the area. All schools are accredited by AdvancED. Career preparation is fundamental, from the Ready to Work program to the new simulated surgical learning lab at Chelsea High School.
Alabaster has worked for many years to upgrade and expand its city facilities, and a new police/justice station is under construction in front of city hall on Highway 119, says Brian Binzer, city administrator. The new justice center, with courthouse on one side and police department on the other, will replace the 1953 structure now in use.
The city has a great deal of retail and is still attracting a lot. District 31 will be developed on 70 acres on U.S. 31 and I-65, Binzer says. Land should be cleared beginning in February.
The city is building sports fields, with attention to soccer and lacrosse. Fields acquired from Kingwood Church will help expand sports facilities on the north side of town, Binzer says. “There are sections of the city that are underserved by parks, and this was a perfect opportunity for us to provide more trails space and fields.”
The city’s Highway 119 artery continues to get improvements to help traffic flow, making a big difference for economic and community development, Binzer says. Hundreds of homes are planned.
Alabaster city schools include five schools with more than 6,000 students in grades pre-K through 12. The system boasts a 97% college and career readiness rate and a 97% graduation rate. The system recently completed a $100 million capital improvement project, including a new high school, multi-sports athletic complex and renovations to all schools, says Wayne Vickers, superintendent.
“We have continued to enhance our career academies each year,” Vickers says. “Our partnerships with the Shelby County Chamber and 58 INC. have been invaluable in helping us provide opportunities for students to explore local businesses and industry.”
Recently, Thompson High School’s football team was named state 7A champions for the second straight year.
One of the fastest-growing cities in the state, Calera has been making improvements to its downtown and has plans for what is being called the Calera Courtyard, an open space behind businesses along U.S. 31 and Alabama 25, to become a possible festival and event center.
As part of the Main Street revitalization program, the city has welcomed more businesses in recent years. Three women-owned businesses recently have opened in the downtown area as well — a bakery, a fitness center and a botanical lifestyle shop.
A popular place to live, Calera is also home to much of the county’s industry, prompting the website Zippia.com to call it the hardest working city in the state.
The city also is working on a comprehensive plan.
Rapidly-growing Chelsea is working to grow its services, as well as its population. The city is clearing property behind the Chelsea Community Center and is adding a new playground and park. Under construction now is a splash pad and wade pool, says Mayor Tony Picklesimer. The city also plans an amphitheater in the new park.
The Weldon Pavilion, built with wood from the former Weldon store building, opened at the city’s athletic complex on Highway 11. The athletic complex is still growing, with plans for new ball fields, trails and a cross country course, Picklesimer says.
A third fire station has opened on Highway 51 at the eastern city limits, where some 600 homes are anticipated in the next three years. The city has committed a 1-cent sales tax to support its portion of the Shelby County schools, specifically the Nick Grant Application Program, named for a parent who was concerned that not enough tax money would be spent on academic offerings for the schools, Picklesimer says. Now, all five schools in the city can submit grant proposals for academic programs, technology and more. To date, nearly $500,000 has been awarded, he says.
The city is developing a business park in the Foothills section of Chelsea and a new biopharma company, Therachem, has an operation there, Picklesimer says. “They will build a corporate headquarters in the coming year,” he says.
The county seat of Shelby County is home to Old Mill Square Park, the site of a former cotton mill. Much of it is leased to the Shelby County Arts Center with a grand hall, art gallery, black box theatre, fountain plaza, outdoor space and amphitheater, says Mayor David Mitchell.
The city is working on a comprehensive plan for economic development in collaboration with the county and nearby communities.
At least 170 homes are underway in Columbiana. The city is working on its website and other social media to communicate better with residents. The city has been designated an Opportunity Zone as well.
A bedroom community, Helena has experienced a great deal of growth throughout the years. The city is adding homes and retail and improving parks. The city just opened the new Lee Springs Park and added more features to its Hillsboro Trail. Much of this was possible through land donated by U.S. Steel, says Mayor Brian Puckett.
To plan growth, the city has a new economic development group that looks at boosting businesses and attracting new development, Puckett says. “We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into only a few sectors — we want to create more job opportunities for our residents.”
Hoover (Shelby County portion)
The Shelby County portion of Hoover hosts several major events, such as the Regions Tradition golf championship, planned for 2021 at Greystone Golf and Country Club, says Greg Knighton, the city’s economic developer.
Hoover’s Veterans Park continues to be one of the most popular parks, with improvements added regularly, and an archery park opened in the Hoover Inverness Nature Park & Trails. The county is working on an Inverness Greenway project along the parkway, with sidewalks and other amenities. The Cahaba Riverchase Greenway Trail has opened with more improvements planned, including river access.
The Tattersall Park development on U.S. 280 is well underway and is anchored by a new Publix. The Village at Lee Branch and Inverness Corners, two other mixed-use projects in that area, have good occupancy.
The city has developed a plan to aid new and growing businesses with “concierge-level services,” says Knighton.
Also, the city modified its zoning ordinance to add “research and development facilities” to reflect the growing number of these businesses in the area, Knighton says. “We have a strong representation of these businesses here,” he says.
Four of Hoover City Schools’ 16 campuses are located in the Shelby County part of Hoover, as is the Riverchase Career Connection Center, offering skilled trades training to high school students.
Montevallo, a historic city and home to the University of Montevallo, The American Village and the National Veterans Cemetery, also has a picturesque downtown and is part of the Alabama Main Street program.
Montevallo partners with the University of Montevallo and Shelby County for many improvements and projects. The Montevallo Development Cooperative District has been instrumental in improvements to downtown, creation and maintenance of city parks and paving projects that make the city more pleasant to travel, says Mayor Rusty Nix.
The city received 168 acres of land, a historical home and numerous barns and outbuildings from Elizabeth Mahler, and it has been developed into Shoal Creek Park, with 11 miles of hiking trails and more, Nix says. The city also has the popular Orr Park.
Montevallo has several ongoing and annual events, including the spring Arts Fest in Orr Park, Friday Nights at the Cove on Main Street, downtown Artwalks, special events at American Village, numerous holiday parades, College Night and other arts, athletic and culture events throughout the year at the University of Montevallo.
The city is working to recruit a new hotel, Nix says.
The city is buzzing with the progress of Campus 124, a retail and entertainment center slated to open this year on the site of the old Valley Elementary School, says Ainsley Allison, communications manager for the city.
The Canopy, another new development, with housing, retail, restaurants and more, is planned across the road from the Pelham Civic Complex, Allison says.
The city has finished the first phase of its greenway trail at Pelham City Park, with plans to extend the trail to Oak Mountain State Park. Youth soccer and pickleball are returning to the city as well.
Construction for a new fire station should begin this year, and plans are in the works to remodel city hall.
Pelham city schools, with 3,404 students, are ranked among the best in Alabama, with a rigorous K-12 curriculum that includes advanced and specialized coursework and career/technical education. The system invests about a million dollars in technology and digital infrastructure every year; almost 75% of all funds go directly to devices used by students every day.
Since 2014, the school system has invested $68 million in improvements, including new elementary and middle schools, updates at other schools and new band and athletic facilities at the high school.