DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - Groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday for Phase Two of the Alabama Center for the Arts. It's a project that's expected to change the atmosphere of the entire downtown area.
The Alabama Center for the Arts has proven to be a tremendous asset, not only for local colleges and universities plus their students, but for the City of Decatur as well.
"It's just a great beginning, I think, for things to come for many years," according to Decatur Mayor Don Kyle.
Phase Two of the Center is a $13.5 million dollar facility that will further the arts by bringing drama and music education to downtown. It's a collaborative effort by Athens State University and Calhoun Community College.
"We're doing something no one else is doing, and it will not only change North Alabama but in my view it will change higher education because in an era of diminishing state resources, institutions cannot continue to act as silos and try to be all things to all people. we've got to learn to collaborate," Athens State University President Bob Glenn told the crowd gathered for the ceremony.
The Alabama Center for the Arts already boasts some 300 students, but Phase Two of the facility is expected to add an additional 600 drama and music students, as well as create facilities available for the performing arts. Construction is expected to begin in a few weeks, look for a grand opening in about two years.
The City of Decatur and Morgan County Commission are both also partners in the center.
Phase One of the Center has been open for almost two years. It has not only led to the creation of various art degrees at both schools but has also served as the impetus for growth and revitalization in downtown Decatur.
"You know, we believed strongly that it would create traffic and create business enthusiasm but I don't think any of us really could conceive how large it would be," Kyle told WHNT News 19. He says in fact the effect of the Center for the Arts on downtown Decatur has been enormous. A half-dozen new restaurants have opened in the immediate area in the past two years, and others are looking. He says it's also been the impetus for renewed interest in other downtown businesses. Suddenly, everyone wants to be downtown.
"When you start bringing students into a downtown area, they are a vibrant economic driver," Glenn says.
Phase Two of the arts center will mean hundreds of additional students will eventually fill the area, creating additional opportunities for business and entertainment venues.
"You know, my vision is that we will eventually have a school of about a thousand students down here in the arts, and that will have a huge impact on whats going on here," Glenn said. He adds the benefits will not be limited to only the students.