Groundbreaking progress: Calera officially begins courtyard development project

Published 5:05 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

CALERA – Calera city officials held golden shovels during a ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 9 to commemorate the official groundbreaking of the Calera Courtyard, the first phase of the long-awaited Main Street downtown development project. To declare efforts officially underway, Calera Mayor John Graham, and other members of the collaborative effort spearheaded by Calera Main Street, appeared at the worksite and moved the first shovelfuls of dirt at 3:20 p.m.

The courtyard project’s development coincides with the construction of a railroad overpass, a separate project that was made possible through grant funding received on June 5 totaling more than $11.5 million. For city officials and residents, it is an exciting moment that represents the next step in the march that will bring all new life to the city.

The Calera Courtyard project, intent on revitalizing the historic district of Calera, also seeks to boost tourism and to elevate the creation of a local entertainment venue. One that will see both locals and visitors come to Calera, instead of neighboring municipalities, for community gatherings that were previously limited in scope and variety.

“The project here is our first phase of the courtyard area for our Main Street downtown development project,” Graham said. “It will house a pavilion, (and) it will have some public restrooms. It will (also) have some additional parking for the area. We’re excited about this first phase and we do have (further) expansion plans on these properties below us. We’re trying to acquire some different pieces of property and grow this project for about three blocks here.”

This first phase of the project is the beginning of what will likely total at least three phases. While based in the principles of an economic development project, it is geared toward and intended to be a catalyst of transformation for Calera, one that builds upon a sense of community, more than anything.

“I’m really excited about today, because it just makes it all the more real,” said Jackie Batson, executive director of Calera Main Street. “We have been talking about this for almost four years. It is great that our efforts to update the city of Calera’s comprehensive plan and to create community spaces in ways that are walkable, livable and that are connected, are now seeing visible progress. I love what we do and today is very important, because we’ve actually broken ground. Its visible and its proof to everyone here that we are getting started on something great for Calera.”

The courtyard, now officially under construction following the groundbreaking, is also meant to feature a playground upon its completion and will connect pre-existing businesses such as a host of shops, boutiques, cafes and other outdoor gathering spaces with strong focal points and walkable areas, all of which will be more inviting to foot traffic than current accommodations.

Future phases of the project are expected to include a covered stage that will play host to musical guests, grassy knolls and a green space which will allow for play and recreation and, of course, additional parking accommodations that will further allow for safe and easy parking for visitors. Plans for the future phases are still somewhat fluid and open to change, but the current roadmap calls for continued construction efforts that will see any needed alterations made along the way.

Until the project’s completion, everyone is being asked to “please excuse the progress.” That being said, city officials also want it known that Calera’s residents and visitors will not be impeded by the construction and that they can still easily enjoy the surrounding venues. While doing so, they will always be more than welcome to stop in and observe the progress. Progress that is now visibly evident in the city.