City of Chelsea flourishing in down economy

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – Even after three years of a down economy, the city of Chelsea continues to grow, both commercially and from a residential standpoint.

Shelby Baptist Medical Center is currently building a stand-alone facility next to Chelsea’s soon-to-be-open Publix shopping center on Highway 280. The medical center, set to open in three to four months, will offer emergency care, doctors’ offices, chiropractic services, a pharmacy and possibly diagnostic testing, Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven said.

Across from the medical center, a new Burger King franchise is in the works to start construction, and the new Publix is set to open in April, Niven said.

“We’re also building an assisted living complex,” Niven said. “It will allow seniors to come and go freely, but if they have a spouse in need of assistant care, there will be different levels of care available.”

In 2000, Chelsea had a population of 2,949 citizens. According to the 2010 census, the city has grown to 10,183 citizens. Niven attributes the growth to the quality of life in Chelsea.

“Chelsea is a great community,” the mayor said. “It’s convenient to get to Birmingham events, and it’s centrally located.

“We have excellent schools that we’re proud of,” he added. “We’re supportive of education, and schools are important to a community. Chelsea schools are close to the top as far as I’m concerned, but then again, I’m prejudiced.”

The mayor counts the growth as both a blessing and a curse.

“It’s a blessing because of the revenue it’s bringing in,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to provide for our residents like we do otherwise.

“It’s also a curse. It’s said that we are the beginning of the parking lot of Highway 280,” Niven added, referring to the highway’s slow traffic issue.

Niven encourages the addition of an elevated highway.

“I’m in favor of an elevated highway,” he said. “Once they start the process, all construction will be overhead, not blocking traffic. The highway can be built all at one time, and it’d only take about three and a half years to build.

“It would allow people to get to work and come home, or not, depending if they want to shop,” he said. “The people moving into Chelsea are in their 30s and 40s with children. An elevated highway would allow for them to get home earlier in the evenings to give them more family time.”

Chelsea’s location is key to the boom in both commercial and residential growth, Niven said.

“When the growth ball started rolling over the top of the hill, it sped toward us,” Niven said, smiling. “We have a great opportunity to advance with a vision of what’s best for our people.”