Exploring McClellan: The Catalyst
by Larry May
Special to The Star
Dec 06, 2013 | 837 views |  0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fort McClellan was known primarily around the United States as a chemical training facility and military police school. Locals knew it simply as “the fort”. The installation was as much a part of our background as football games and Sunday lunch at your grandparent’s house. Most Calhoun County denizens had traveled its streets at one time or another. Guarded entries didn’t keep most people out, as most knew somebody with a military ID. For those of us with military backgrounds, it was a city inside of a bigger city, much like most of the other posts we had grown up on. We all knew the topography of Fort McClellan as well as we knew the bland contents of an MRE meal. Each building looked roughly the same, but each had its own singular purpose. The hospital didn’t differ much from the commissary and the barbershop wasn’t a place where any of us younger dependents liked to visit.

The roads still end up at the same buildings, but they now have different names and uses. Simply known as McClellan, the current land is now home to developing projects that will be an important piece of marketing Anniston and its neighbors to potential investors. Economic development is a central theme for city leaders when discussing the property and how to reap benefits from all that it has to offer. While McClellan has enormous size, it won’t be shut off from the remainder of Anniston but rather be a rich component that will enhance and benefit all sections of the Model City through tax dollars and increased population.

The three biggest projects underway are the completion of roads that will not only connect traffic but also attract major investment. The Memorial Parkway, Iron Mountain Road and Pappy Dunn Boulevard will collectively account for roughly 65 million dollars of infrastructure and unite the majority of the roadway at McClellan. All three roads are currently estimated between 60 and 70 percent done and will all reach completion in spring 2015.

The connector’s importance cannot be overstated. They will serve as major arteries to connect the massive acreage of not only McClellan but also serve as outlets to Highways 431 and 21 and Interstates 20 and 59. When all roadwork is completed, the traffic spill from the junction at Hwy 21 will supply Anniston with commercial retail and enhanced shipping lanes through the heart of Calhoun County. The increased car count will spur development on 21 resulting in more visibility for outskirts of the area. Once the commercial growth has started, McClellan will be the site of more planned expansion. Anniston City Planner Toby Bennington says,” Depending on the economy at the time, residential opportunities will boom at McClellan”.

Bennington was quick to note that McClellan would not be an island unto itself. He said, “McClellan is an area that we will market as a crucial piece of our city, but not the only thing we have to offer. McClellan’s strength will be felt through Anniston and the county. The benefits will be shared equally all over the city. McClellan strengthens the city’s ability to market itself as a total package of economic development and ecotourism destination. McClellan will benefit downtown and the bike trails and also accomplish our goal to be a holistic community. Everything will have its place and serve a grander purpose”.

Bennington also spoke about the creation of the McClellan Industrial Compact, a regional cooperative that brought together partners from all corners of the county. Surrounding communities and invested stakeholders joined together to form a state of the art industrial park on Pappy Dunn Parkway. When cities and citizens pooled resources for the new park, a template was set. Bennington said, “The regionalism that was created for the park will be replicated at the Anniston Airport, Chief Ladiga Trail and Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail. Communities around Anniston can invest resources and also utilize the benefits for their citizens. Working together, we can increase job opportunities and set the stage for future regional partnerships”.

While the planned improvements will certainly serve as an advantage, the existing roadways haven’t been forgotten. Bennington explained, “The road network will continue to morph as redevelopment evolves. Some could be repurposed or even redirected. A good example of redoing a road will be the chance we have to reopen Reilly Lake once Iron Mountain Road is finished”.

McClellan has gotten not just a facelift but also a complete overhaul. The makeover will benefit not only Anniston and its citizens but also potentially the entire state. Traffic will flow from all four corners of the once proud post and stamp the old fort as not only Anniston’s windfall but as a fortune for the entire county.
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Exploring McClellan: The Catalyst by Larry May
Special to The Star

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