FOLEY — A public art and park project in an alley off Alabama 59 and U.S. 98 is the first step in plans to make downtown Foley more of a center for visitors and activities, project supporters …
FOLEY — A public art and park project in an alley off Alabama 59 and U.S. 98 is the first step in plans to make downtown Foley more of a center for visitors and activities, project supporters said.
The Foley City Council voted Tuesday, Jan. 17, to approve $48,600 for enhancements to the alley behind Magnolia Hotel. Darrelyn Dunmore, director of Foley Main Street, said the project will include murals and park areas.
"It's three-phase project to bring public art to downtown Foley in Cat Alley," Dunmore said. "It's our first big initiative."
Dunmore said several groups of local artists and art students are working on a series of panels for a mural to be placed along the alley. Doors on the alley will also be painted as part of the display.
The artist Arcy will also create a mural to be placed on the site. As part of the opening of the alley Arcy will paint the mural on site on April 28.
"He's just superbly talented and he'll do it while everybody's watching," Dunmore said. "He finishes them in six hours. So, we're using that as a draw to get people downtown to help us raise money to continue public art, being able to put more public art into downtown and finish our Cat Alley."
She said the mural painting will be part of a celebration to open the site April 28.
"We're getting a tent so he can do the work under the tent," Dunmore said. "People will be able to sit and watch him do that. We'll have some food trucks out there; local food trucks and we'll have music and there'll be something going on in the park as well. So, people can go back and forth and watch him and we're just going to have fun celebrating art."
The area is being called Cat Alley. John Snook, the founder of Gulf Telephone, owned a large number of cats, which often wandered the alley between the telephone offices and Magnolia Hotel, which Snook also purchased. Dunmore said artists creating all the murals and decorations have been asked to include cats hidden in the artwork.
"We're having fun with this whole cat thing," Dunmore said. "Every mural that we do in this alley. Hopefully probably for the rest of Foley, we'll have an Easter egg cat; a cat hidden within there like a Where's Waldo."
The project is one of a series of "pocket parks," planned around the city. The first park, on a lot near Foley Middle School, was dedicated Jan. 11. Dunmore said Main Street Foley is seeking donations for the parks and other downtown improvements projects.
Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the alley park will be an attractive addition to the downtown area. He said Brightspeed, the company that now owns the telephone company, is working with project supporters to donate property on the alley that can be opened to expand park areas.
"They're giving them an easement there," Hellmich said. "They're going to turn that into a park with a grassy area with benches and make it more attractive. Then, of course, the alley -- we're going to dress that up."
Hellmich said city officials plan to add lighting in the area and move utility lines underground to make the site more attractive.
In the past, arts exhibits and other events were held in the alley area. Hellmich said project supporters are working to bring similar activities back to the site.
"It just really was kind of a cool thing," Hellmich said. "So, they're trying to get back to that and make that more of an attractive area."
Hellmich said city officials are also working on other downtown improvements in the area, such as the renovation of the fountain in the park across Alabama 59 from the alley site.
"We're still working on the downtown area," Hellmich said. "We've got to finish the fountain area. The contractor is working to finish that. I believe he will finish it during the deadline sometime in February and then they'll move over and start at the last stage of the rose trail over between the post office in the buildings to the west."
He said the city also bought a site to the south where officials are considering putting up a building that could be used for public and commercial purposes.
"We feel like that would anchor the western end of our Main Street area," Hellmich said. "That project is moving along and we're going to keep working on our downtown access management plan."