Albemarle council selects official name for downtown alleyway project

After spending several recent meetings discussing the topic, Albemarle City Council took action on the downtown alleyway project, approving Courthouse Plaza as its formal name.

The council approved the name by a 4-2 vote, with council members Dexter Townsend and David Hunt in opposition.

Right before the vote, Townsend inquired what the name would be for the parking lot for the alleyway, noting he did not want “everything in downtown named after the courthouse.”

The alleyway, which stretches from West Main Street to King Street, will become a pedestrian plaza with seating for outdoor dining and casual gathering. It will include overhead string lighting and decorative poles and green space, including planters that can be adjusted for the seasons.

The project is part of a downtown streetscape master plan, which has produced several upgrades to the downtown area including new navigational signage, new banners on light poles, new outdoor furnishings and other beautifications.

The alleyway is a portion of a road that surrounded the courthouse originally located where the intersection at the square now exists.

Earlier this year, the city asked the public to submit possible names for the project. More than 60 names were suggested, including Albemarle Alleyway, City Square Plaza, John Stanly Way, Court House Alley, Gene Starnes Alley, The Gathering Spot and Wiscassett Way.

During its March 20 meeting, the council agreed to send their top three choices to David Fath, the city’s public information officer. The most popular choices were Courthouse Plaza, which received four votes, along with Courthouse Alley, City Square Plaza and Social District Plaza, which each received two votes.

The council tabled a decision on choosing a name during its April 3 meeting, deciding it needed more clarification and information, particularly in regards to the appropriate length of such a name.

Funding for the project has been made possible by the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The council awarded NJR Group, a construction company based in New London, the bid to complete construction of the alleyway during its Feb. 20 meeting. NJR Group came in at the lowest bid of $837,595, which is a revised amount from the company’s original bid in 2021.

The council had already approved utilizing $350,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to go along with the $547,000 already in the project budget.

The total budget will be a little more than $1 million, which includes $98,000 previously funded from the city’s General Fund, $97,450 previously funded from the city’s Electric Fund and $5,000 from private grants, most notably through Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation.