Calera downtown development plan to include public input

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

CALERA — The month of August has the potential to define a significant part of Calera’s future—and local residents will get an opportunity to voice their opinions to help city leaders develop a “master plan” for the historic downtown area.

The plan is based on recent recommendations from the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham as found in the city’s new Comprehensive Plan, and will be a collective effort between the city of Calera, Calera Main Street, local residents and experts.

Community Design Solutions—a Columbiana, SC based planning firm—and Main Street Alabama will conduct a Downtown Development Plan Workshop for the city of Calera on Aug. 23-25 of this year.

“With advice from the Downtown Development Team and the ideas from our local Main Street Organization, I hope that we can implement a more thorough plan for the revitalization of our downtown Main Street area,” said Calera Mayor Jon Graham.

The public is invited to attend a “community visioning session” on Monday, Aug. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Calera City Hall at 7901 U.S. 31. The session will be interactive, and community members are encouraged to attend and provide input.

Community members are also invited to attend the final presentation, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. in the same location. The public presentation will include a summary of the observations and recommendations by the Downtown Development Team.

“Our goal is to create a shared downtown development plan that Calera can use to build on for years to come,” said Jackie Batson, executive director of Calera Main Street. “While we are bringing in experts to guide us through, we hope that the people of Calera (citizens, business owners, leaders and even students) will come together and put all of our ideas into plans and then put those plans into action for a greater tomorrow for the city of Calera.”

Specific items addressed in the plan will include streetscapes, sidewalks, lighting, way funding (which pertains to consistency in signage), green space, design elements for storefronts, branding and grant funding, Batson said.

One major point of discussion will be Calera Courtyard, which is currently a lot located behind the businesses along Alabama 25 and U.S. 31, accessible via 17th Avenue. It is already the central focal point for many of Calera’s events, such as the First Friday Festival Series.

Another important—and potentially exciting—topic will be connectivity between Main Street and the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum.

“If we do this right we should be able to build on this for years,” Batson said. “We should become a destination. We have so many visitors to the museum, the ballparks, the golf course and other areas that are so vibrant for our county, but we need to have more things for people to stay and enjoy while they are here.”

Batson hopes to walk away from the Aug. 23-25 workshop with a hard copy of what people want the downtown area to look like and how to accomplish that.

Of course, the city is not alone in the endeavor. The Downtown Development Plan Team is comprised of individuals with expertise in a wide range of downtown revitalization experiences. The visit will be comprehensive, and the team’s investigation, observations, recommendations and presentation will follow the Main Street approach to downtown revitalization.

The team will provide recommendations for the community based on information gathered through a review of prior planning documents, market research, a community tour, interviews and input sessions, and a facilitated community visioning session.

The team will send a final report to the Calera Main Street organization following the Downtown Development Workshop that will contain all the recommendations from the community presentation.

During the workshop, Main Street Alabama will also provide branding services for Calera Main Street, the purpose of which is to develop a brand system that provides the community with a fresh marketing image that can be deployed to reinforce community pride; connect the city with its surroundings and create a system that is highly expandable while reflecting the character of the community. The new brand identity will expand to marketing pieces to foster investment and enhance the visitor experience. They will develop a marketing program around the brand that is easy to implement, builds off existing colors, and can be deployed immediately.

“The Downtown Development Team looks forward to working with the Calera community to develop a plan for the Calera Main Street organization that will lead to economic growth and vitality in the downtown district which will ultimately benefit the entire town,” said Mary Helmer Wirth, state coordinator of Main Street Alabama.

Team Members include Randy Wilson of Community Design Solutions, Andy Kalback of Kalback Design Studio, Clark Bailey of Kimley-Horn, Tripp Muldrow and Shawn Terpack of Arnett Muldrow, and Mary Helmer Wirth and Tanya Maloney of Main Street Alabama.