Strand project gets state OK, receives grant
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although the scheduled start date for The Pride of Atmore’s Strand Theatre-Atmore Hardware Store renovation project has come and gone, organizers are still wearing smiles on their faces.
Good news came last week in the announcement by Rural Development Partners (RDP) and Coastal Growers LLC that the two had teamed up to provide a $150,000 grant to help fund the project, which is the focal point of a downtown renovation effort that has already begun bearing fruit.
But the biggest news came Monday (April 19), when officials in Montgomery snipped the last piece of red tape holding the project folder shut.
“Ultimately, with any large-scale project, especially a historic one, you have to wait on final approval from the state,” POA President Bub Gideons pointed out. “Today, we got our project commitment letter from the Alabama Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management. We had to have that before we could start construction.”
A formal Letter of Commitment indicates “the signatory’s intent to commit resources to the funded project as specified in the letter.”
The massive renovation project was expected to cost about $3.6 million and was to have gotten under way by the end of March. But shortages of building materials and a highly unstable materials market have made setting a timetable for construction almost impossible.
“We hope to start soon,” Gideons said. “When we do, we’ll have the biggest construction project in the downtown area. We have 9,000 square feet of downtown.”
Gideons said in-kind and monetary contributions have helped keep POA and others confident their efforts will soon pay off. He said the $150,000 grant, funded through RDP’s Community Investment Program, was a godsend.
“We’ve gotten some in-kind lumber donations, and those are worth their weight in gold,” he said. “Those have really helped cut into our shortfall. And the grant, we are so thankful for it. It could not have been timelier, coming just as we got final approval to start construction.”
Gideons said a trio of POA board members — Dale Ash, Cindy Colville and Foster Kizer — were the driving force behind procurement of the grant and success of the group’s capital campaign.
Ash agreed that the funds couldn’t have come at a better time, or for a better project, saying “the generous donation … makes a huge impact on our small rural community’s inclusive downtown revitalization project — (it’s) truly, a game changer.”