The ACA dorm is expected to be completed by fall 2023; work begins Monday
June 14 – The $15.6 million Alabama Center for the Arts dormitory contractor has moved a mobile office to the downtown Decatur construction site and will have crews working by Monday on the project that the students say they welcome.
“Ever since I started coming (to ACA), I’ve been interested in having dorms,” said Zana Mercury, a Madison resident majoring in multimedia at the Alabama Center for the Arts. She graduated from Calhoun Community College last fall and is currently in a work-study program at Athens State.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity and I’m glad it’s finally officially happening,” Mercury said.
Calhoun Community College and Athens State University are ACA partners, and school officials held a ceremony Monday to mark the start of construction on the three-story, 43,474-square-foot residence hall. Its 49 apartments will include 11 studios, 19 one-bedroom units and 19 two-bedroom units.
Kerry Warren, director of facilities operations at Athens State University, said there were 80 beds in the original plan, but the number needed to be reduced to 68.
Construction of the dormitory at the corner of First Avenue Southeast and Johnston Street is expected to take about 12 months, according to Athens State President Philip Way.
“Technically, you could say (the dorm) will be open in the fall of 2023,” Way said. “I hope that will be the case, but I am also realistic and I understand the delays in the supply chain.
Century Construction of Tupelo, Mississippi, is the residence’s contractor, and project manager Brayden Owen said he should have workers on site within the next seven days.
“We’ll start working six days a week, and then as the project progresses, we’ll work seven days,” Owen said.
Owen said they will start by removing the existing concrete slabs on the site and then “level it up”.
Carlen Anderson is taking classes at ACA this summer and will begin her senior year at Athens State in the fall. She is from Nashville and said she is grateful that prospective international students have a residence close to campus.
“I think it would be a great opportunity to have people like me who don’t live in Alabama to be able to have such a great artistic experience and be able to live here,” Anderson said.
Calhoun’s sophomore, Gadge Wigginton, is in the ACA theater program. Although he is from Decatur, he said he was considering moving to the dorms due to the short distance to school and his job in Mellow Mushroom, which is also downtown.
Fellow sophomore Marcus Patten, who is also involved in the theater program, said he hopes the dorm will serve as a residence for ACA students who commute long distances.
“We have a lot of friends who live a little further out like Huntsville and even a friend from the Tennessee area,” Patten said. “We have a friend from Florence and it’s like an hour’s drive for him.”
Close to lessons
The residence hall will be just over a block south of the two ACA college buildings. The dorm will have a 250 mph rated storm shelter on the first floor.
“There will be indoor common areas to include a post office and rental office on all three floors,” said Jimmy Hodges, interim president of Calhoun Community College.
Hodges also said students will be able to access the dorm with a key card.
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, sponsored legislation in 2020 that provides $15 million in funding for the project. The dormitory will be the first housing project for the ACA.
Monday’s ceremony brought together elected officials and leaders from Athens State University and Calhoun Community College.
City Council Speaker Jacob Ladner told attendees that the dormitory will help improve the city’s arts scene downtown.
“Really, we’re opening the doors for even more people to experience what we have here in downtown Decatur,” Ladner said. “We have the Princess Theater, a world-class Alabama Center for the Arts, our River Clay Festival that we have. Just the talent that we have…when you go to see our grade school productions all the way up to the state of Athens and the Calhoun (theater) players at our community theater, it’s truly amazing the commitment to the arts in this city.”
Hodges said if ACA students had a good experience with the school and lived in the dormitory, it might encourage them to stay at Decatur after graduation.
“Anytime a student can live in a residential environment on a college campus, it enhances their overall college teaching experience,” Hodges said. “It also ties them to the community. That was what our hope and intent was to put (the dorm) in downtown Decatur.”
Unit amenities for the dorm will include a refrigerator, stove/oven, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, high-speed internet, and WiFi. There will be also a fenced outdoor yard and rest and gathering areas.
The dorm is built on a downtown block that will be transformed in just over a year. The City of Decatur is building a parking lot next to the dormitory at the corner of First Avenue and East Moulton Street while the developers are building a Fairfield Inn by Marriott east of the bridge at the corner of Second Avenue and East Moulton.
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