Albemarle to unveil Courthouse Plaza

A ribbon cutting event is set for Saturday at 11 a.m.

The alleyway project now known as Courthouse Plaza goes through its construction process (Photo courtesy of the City of Albemarle)

ALBEMARLE — This weekend, a revamped alleyway in downtown Albemarle will be officially rebranded into Courthouse Plaza, the city’s newest public gathering space.

The City of Albemarle announced last week that it is hosting a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the pedestrian plaza on Saturday, June 22, at 11 a.m. The unveiling event will be done in conjunction with an art walk and free live music from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sponsored by the city and the Stanly Arts Guild, the upcoming Courthouse Plaza Art Walk event will feature a free concert by acoustic country musician AJ Bennett.

“Courthouse Plaza will add even more vibrancy to our downtown,” Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael said in a city press release. “This project follows several other positive downtown developments such as Pfeiffer University’s Center for Health Sciences, the renovation of the Historic Albemarle Hotel, and new businesses and restaurants.”

Stretching from West Main Street to King Avenue, Courthouse Plaza has been designed to become a local hub for live music, festivals and special events in the near future, featuring overhead string lighting, decorations, outdoor seating, and the potential for other future amenities available for usage.

The project is funded from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act, ElectriCities of North Carolina, and Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation; the New London-based NJR Group construction company received the bid to complete the construction of the project.

The alleyway, which still features a portion of an original hitching post for horses, contains historical significance as an area that once surrounded the original Stanly County Courthouse.

In 2019, Albemarle acquired the alleyway from the county, setting up a Downtown Vitality Project Team to develop the proposed design and artistic direction of the project.

“Courthouse Plaza also aligns with the city’s strategic plan, which includes downtown revitalization and beautification, something residents told us they wanted to see,” Michael continued. “We’re excited for Courthouse Plaza to come to life and to share this moment with everyone.”

Once floated in city discussions under the ‘Alleyway Project’ moniker, the new event space is part of a “broader downtown streetscape master plan,” according to Albemarle’s ribbon-cutting announcement.

Additional accomplishments under the banner of the plan include updated navigational signage, banners on light poles, outdoor furnishings, and other various beautifications throughout the downtown area.

In early 2023, the City of Albemarle asked the public for name submissions in order to generate interest about the project and finally settle on a name.

With dozens of suggestions available, the Albemarle City Council opted to send David Fath — the city’s public information officer — the four most popular choices based on the public submission database: Courthouse Plaza, Courthouse Alley, City Square Plaza, and Social District Plaza.

After an extended period of discussions and postponements, the council eventually settled on Courthouse Plaza as the formal name for the project, voting 4-2 to approve that title as the planning stages of work continued on to other logistical matters.

Over a year later, Courthouse Plaza’s construction has been completed as the city awaits this weekend’s grand-opening event for the general public.