Helena Magazine

City Council update from Chris VanCleave, Place 2

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Throughout the United States, cities and towns are looking for ways to strengthen their economies, provide a better quality of life and build on local assets. Helena is one of them.


For the past 18 months or so, we as a city have been engaged in a partnership with the Greater Birmingham Region Planning Commission and MKSK, a company that specializes in helping small towns establish a comprehensive plan for growth and economic development and I have been privileged to serve on the steering committee for this effort. Hundreds of you have been involved by providing your feedback online and by attending in-person sessions, and it has been great to see so many come forward to help set the course for our future.


A part of the plan was the recent Council action approving the “Helena Forward” project, which will initially build a town center with mixed-use retail and residential space along with a much-needed new City Hall at the corner of County Road 52 and Hillsboro Parkway. Additionally, a much-anticipated sports and leisure complex will be constructed at Hillsboro Parkway and Coalmont Road to meet ever growing needs.


Funded through a partnership with U.S. Steel, ARPA (Federal) funding, bond debt servicing as well as dollars from the Abandoned Mines Land Grant project. Doing so, without depleting the reserves we have carefully and prudently set aside for the city. The overall economic impact of these efforts is estimated at $86 million dollars will be felt for generations to come.


Economic Development is an essential part of city government. It means increased businesses, job creation, tax revenues, construction permit revenue, new building projects and new neighbors moving to town. Economic Development also means strong partnerships with county and state government, Shelby County Schools, utilities and railroads, all of which kicks up a lot of dust in the air and a lot of fuss on social media. If I’ve learned anything as a member of the City Council, is that there are items in which we control and items in which we can have influence, and none of it moves at the pace we’d like it to. As the full comprehensive plan is presented to Council and comes up for approval later this year, I invite you to read it, so you will have an idea of the general direction of the city for the next ten years or so as it will be used as a guide as we move Helena Forward.


Want to get involved and know more about “What’s Happening in Helena” as it relates to city government? Join us in person at City Hall the second and fourth Monday of each month at 5 p.m. for pre-council and 6 p.m. for council session. That is where the rubber meets the road on the decisions that make a difference in Helena. Visit CityOfHelena.org for agendas and minutes of all sessions.