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Alabama Center for the Arts breaks ground on residence hall

DECATUR – While North Alabama is firmly rooted as a national technology hub, it has a rapidly growing arts culture as well.

This week’s groundbreaking for a residence hall at the Alabama Center for the Arts is an example of the steady growth in art education throughout the region.

The three-story student dormitory in downtown Decatur will feature 49 apartments with a mix of 11 studio, 19 one-bedroom, and 19 two-bedroom units.

State Sen. Arthur Orr shared a story about visiting the center a few years ago and talking with an Athens State instructor about making the ACA more prominent and attractive to  students.

“The instructor simply replied, ‘dormitories,’” Orr said. “After thoughtful consideration, I knew what the instructor said was exactly what the ACA lacked among its competitors.

“It’s difficult to attract individuals outside of North Alabama without providing convenient housing accommodations.”

Orr, with the help of both institutions, put together a student housing proposal and  Gov. Kay Ivey signed it in January 2020. She approved $15 million toward the residential project, which was a part of the Public School and College Authority Bond issue. The bond issue was intended for public schools to use toward construction, safety improvement, or technology upgrades.

“What a great day for the ACA and its students, as they will now have student housing right around the corner from its site,” said Orr during the groundbreaking ceremony. “This will make a tremendous impact on not only the future growth of the ACA, but for downtown Decatur as well.”

The rooms include refrigerator, stove/oven, microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, and high-speed Internet.

The building will also be equipped with a 250-mph rated storm shelter on the first floor.

The interior common areas will include a post office and leasing office. There is a study area with computer labs on all three floors.

The building will require keyless entry access cards and video surveillance cameras will be placed on all exterior entrances/exits.

Created by a partnership between Calhoun Community College and Athens State University, the Alabama Center for the Arts seeks to expand opportunities and experiences in the arts for students and members of the regional community.

Each school offers art programs and degrees and they cooperate to address the educational needs of students interested in the visual arts.

Students can complete an associate degree from Calhoun and continue under the same roof to receive a bachelor’s degree from Athens State.

“Today is a great day for Calhoun, Athens State and the City of Decatur,” said Dr. Jimmy Hodges, Calhoun interim president. “This was a project we foresaw working towards in the future, but today bears the fruit of the great work and dedication of our elected officials, city government and institutions who put forth the work in making it happen now, and for that I couldn’t be any more proud.”

Athens State President Dr. Phillip Way said one of the things that stood out in his mind during his first interview to be president at Athens State was the dynamic and close-knit relationship between Calhoun and Athens State.

“It is one that I have watched continue to grow strongly and as a result, our collaborative effort through the ACA continues to grow as well,” said Way. “It is so exciting that people from all over the world can now attend our Arts Center without the worry of where they will live.

“Our achievements today will only continue to expand our programs at the ACA, and I couldn’t be happier.”

The center also represents a partnership between the colleges and the City of Decatur.

“The City of Decatur has made a big commitment to increase opportunities for those who want to learn and work in the various arts fields,” said Jacob Ladner, Decatur City Council president. “The ACA is a world-class facility, and we are excited to have an opportunity to show that to individuals all across the world and provide them with a high-quality format of learning.”


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