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No new posts are being added to this blog. For planning news and updates, check out The BIG Picture Huntsville (also on Facebook). For transportation info, check out the Huntsville Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Development: A Look Back

Wow. That was one boring December. Few developments have come down the pipeline, save for a couple of small shopping centers and subdivisions... but nothing to write about. Despite the optimism expressed by government leaders and Realtors, the economic recession has hit Huntsville. But because of a strong start to the year, the total value of construction project start-ups in Madison County this year is on track to be comparable to (and even over) 2007's numbers (over $900 million), but the number of projects will be significantly lower, from 4,000 for each of the last two years to around 2,700. But there were some bright spots this year, as projects either finished-- like the Westin Huntsville, much of the airport expansion project, a medical office midrise in the Medical District, and three new Publix stores-- or just began construction, like Constellation and the Councill Court redevelopment. And more projects are expected to begin in 2009. More on those tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Entertainment center opening at Bridge Street

Bridge Street supposedly landed its newest tenant on Friday: The Station, a 28,000 sq. ft. family entertainment center, will be built on the north side of the development adjacent to the lake according to the Huntsville Times. It will have a 12 lane bowling alley, a restaurant/bar, arcade, billiards, and rollerball. It is scheduled to open in June or July of next year. The first location is supposedly opening soon near Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin, TN, according to a website posted in the comments section (see below). An official lease has still not been signed for the Bridge Street location.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bridge Street developers talking about Phase III

Bridge Street's developers, Los Angeles-based O&S Holdings, are talking about Phase III of the Research Park mixed-use project. But Phase II's only announced tenant (Sports Authority) won't open for another year! An O&S spokesperson told The Times that the two additional tenants will be announced soon. As for phase III, plans are leaning toward a second hotel and more retail.

Battle Discusses Vision for Downtown

This is exactly what Huntsville needed-- a mayor who supports real downtown growth. Mayor Battle told a group of young professionals yesterday about a plan by the Huntsville Housing Authority to build townhomes and lofts that go for $600-1000 a month. You're probably asking, "Does this mean more public housing?" Not exactly. These new homes will probably be built on HHA-owned land (like Councill Court) by a company that specializes in affordable housing developments, like Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties.

He also expressed support in relaxing the height limits (possibly for his "signature tower" he keeps talking about) and placing buffer zones between residential areas and the CBD.

Huntsville Times article

Friday, November 14, 2008

Watercress layout... and is that a Kroger logo?

I was looking at the City of Huntsville GIS Department's Development Map earlier today, and stumbled on this proposed layout of the commercial portion of the Watercress development at 72 West and Jeff Road. In the middle is what appears to be an outline of a shopping center. And in the middle of that is a big black blob. Now, I don't want to fuel any rumors here, but does that look like a Kroger logo to anyone else?

If you need a closer look, check out the development map for yourself at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Kroger being renovated

The Kroger at Drake Avenue and Memorial Parkway will be renovated, with work probably starting early next year. This will be the third Kroger in the area to be renovated in the past year. The most noticeable changes shoppers will see are expanded Nature's Market (organic), deli, bakery, and wine sections, plus a slightly new interior and exterior design.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Copeland's redevelopment on hold

Real estate company Crye-Leike has scrapped plans to build a 3-story office building on the site of the old Copeland's restaurant at the corner of Airport Road and South Parkway. The building would have housed the company's regional headquarters, and was part of what seemed to be an aggressive expansion into the Huntsville region. However, that expansion has been scaled back due to the housing slump, and the Copeland's site is now up for sale again. According to the Times, the site has "received a lot of interest from restaurant and hotel operators." We'll see about that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Huntsville Hotel Boom Update, November 2008

Time for another update to the Huntsville Hotel Boom list. Once again, if I haven't heard any updates on a hotel proposal, I haven't changed it.

Limited-service, extended stay hotel in WaterStone (proposed)
Best Western Inn and Suites (proposed)
La Quinta Inn and Suites (under construction, Late 2008 opening)
2 hotels at the DeBartolo development (proposed, possibly dead)
Hotel at Madison Lakes (proposed)
Comfort Inn and Suites (approved by planning board)

West Huntsville:
Cambria Suites (proposed)
Hyatt Place at Providence (delayed, possibly dead)
Hotel(s?) at Redstone Technology Park (proposed)
Sleep Inn and Suites (under construction, opening 2009)

South Huntsville/Hampton Cove:
Hampton Inn and Suites-Hampton Cove (under construction, early 2009 opening)
Possible hotel in Jones Valley (proposed)

East Huntsville:
Hotel in Harris Hill development (proposed)

Courtyard/Residence Inn by Marriott (under construction, 2009 opening)
Spring Hill Suites by Marriott (under construction, 2009 opening)
Holiday Inn replacement by John Q. Hammons (proposed)

Limestone County:
Hampton Inn and Suites- Athens (under construction, 2009 opening)
Hotel/convention center at Sweetwater development (approved, 2010/2011 opening)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Peaks planning resurrection?

The Peaks at Southchase, a massive and somewhat controversial development at the intersection of Zierdt Road and I-565, is apparently moving along after almost a year of hearing nothing about the project. Plans still call for the 263-acre development to feature a "regional" lifestyle center along with offices and "possible" residential space. And even though there were rumors earlier this year that DeBartolo Development, one of the companies behind the project, was backing out, the plans are still on their website, though they are terribly out of date. The new planned groundbreaking date is July of next year.

DeBartolo Development's Project Website for the Peaks

Thursday, October 23, 2008

VBC Expansion/Renovation Continues

The long-awaited $15 million expansion/renovation of the VBC Arena will begin this spring after the city council unanimously approved the proposal. The "new" arena will be called the Propst Arena, after the family that donated $5 million toward the project. The expansion includes more restrooms, a grill pub facing the Embassy Suites, and more luxury/sky boxes. Matheny and Goldmon Architects worked with Rosetti Architects out of Detroit for the design.

Huntsville Times article

A renovation of the concert hall was announced last month.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Councill Court demolition begins today

Councill Court, the 1950s-era public housing project near the public library on St. Clair Avenue, is finally about to see its demise. A partial demolition will start today to make way for a 4-story senior housing complex called Gateway Place (see rendering below). But this will only take up part (the area East of Gallatin Street) of the housing project's 13-acre footprint. The rest will be sold, hopefully to developers who could use the land (estimated at around $20 million) to bridge the gap between downtown and the Medical District. Some of the ideas being thrown around: more hotels, office space, and moderately-priced apartments/condos.

Another housing project might meet the wrecking ball soon. Sparkman Homes, a project you might know by its infamous former name Mason Court, is expected to be redeveloped as well. Its location on Holmes Avenue between UAH and downtown might make it a great spot for student apartments. (hint, hint?)

Huntsville Times

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sidewalk dining comes to Southside Square

Longtime local auto dealer Jeff Sikes has stepped into the restaurant business with a new European-themed "contemporary American" restaurant called Cotton Row (not to be confused with Cotton Row Market, which was a short-lived establishment next to Humphrey's a couple of years ago). It is scheduled to open this week on Southside Square downtown, according to the Huntsville Times. So, what's so special about this restaurant? The prospect of it prompted the city to lift a ban on outdoor dining a couple of years ago. The building it is housed in-- renovated by Sikes-- was also part of the first phase of a city "sidewalk revitalization project" that never really went anywhere.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Madison Lakes, hotel go before Madison Planning Board

As promised, here's an update on the Madison Lakes development proposed at the SE corner of Brownsferry and County Line in Madison. A public hearing to discuss the rezoning of the land is on the Madison Planning Board's agenda for tomorrow night's meeting. Below are some new renderings from the city's website. As of now, the plans include:
  • A retail center with the usual neighborhood businesses anchored by a grocery store. What chain? This area seems to be saturated in traditional grocery stores; Publix, Kroger, and Wal-Mart will have a presence in West Madison before this is finished. But there are no upscale grocery stores on this side of town, so this might be an opportunity for a chain like Fresh Market to put another location in the area.
  • A town center with some small retail, restaurants, lofts, and a couple of office buildings (some of them will be for medical purposes).
  • The southern half of the development will be multi-family residential, such as condos and townhouses, plus a nature preserve/park.
  • A 120-150 room "limited service hotel." The plans conflict on the number of rooms. The brand is anyone's guess- a limited service hotel is any hotel without a restaraunt, meaning it could be anything from a Motel 6 to a Hilton Garden Inn. It will probably be on the more upacale part of that spectrum.
And speaking of hotels, a 4-story Comfort Inn and Suites is also on the Planning Board agenda. It will be located on the south side of Madison Blvd. between Wal-Mart and Hughes Road.

UPDATE: The Madison Planning Board meeting scheduled for October 16th was rescheduled to October 23rd.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Providence still expanding despite economic downturn

In the current issue of the Town Paper, a publication that features and promotes TND's (Traditional Neighborhood Developments), Providence developer David Slyman talks about future expansion plans for the community, which is approximately 33% complete. In the spring of 2009, work will begin on apartments that will go for around $950/month. Also, plans for the long-rumored grocery store seem to be coming together:

A major grocer is ‘getting it,’” said Slyman. “They’re trying a new design for their next building, one that should fit into Providence. They want to be involved in the fabric of our small town.

Back in April, Slyman said that a Whole Foods Market "or equivalent" would be a "good bet" for the proposed grocery store. While a Whole Foods might still be in the cards for Providence, I think an even better candidate is Asheville, NC-based EarthFare, which has 15 locations in the Southeast, with the first Alabama location opening in Auburn later this year. And, in 2009, the chain will open a new "yet to be revealed" urban prototype store in the Bearden neighborhood of Knoxville.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Madison Commons: The Martin/Zierdt Development

Earlier today, I was out on Zierdt Road checking out a proposed "grocery-anchored shopping center" that I've gotten a couple of emails about. Recently, the site has been prepared for the development, but work has stopped recently. This is probably because the project is awaiting city approval, along with a building permit, which could take weeks. But I found some new info about the development this afternoon that should keep you occupied until construction begins...

First off, the development is called Madison Commons. If you live in the area, you probably know by now that it is being developed by Michael Collard Properties, an Orlando-area developer who, according to their website, has developed many grocery-anchored and pharmacy projects throughout Florida. Most of their grocery-anchored developments include a Publix, but with one only 3 miles away, whether or not they will build one here is up in the air-- a Kroger or some new chain isn't out of the question.

Madison Commons will be a 110,000 sq. ft. shopping center with a 45,000 sq. ft. grocery store, a 30,000 sq. ft. junior anchor (clothing store?), and about 36,000 sq. ft of smaller shops and restaurants. There are also six outparcels for banks, fast-food, etc; one of them (at the corner of Martin and Zierdt) will be a CVS/Pharmacy.

There are also plans for 300 apartments and 450 other residential units next to Madison Commons, along with a possible city park. Those are in addition to the 6700 residences proposed or under construction within a 5-mile radius of the development. This turns out to be an estimated 15-20,000 people moving to this side of town; there is no doubt this shopping center will have a demand.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sports Authority opening at Bridge Street

The first tenant has been announced for the second phase of Bridge Street Town Centre. Sports Authority will build a 42,000 sq. ft. store in a strip of anchors planned across the street (Governors West) from the lifestyle center, and is planned to open next fall. This will be Sports Authority's first Huntsville store. The athletic store chain also has stores in Atlanta, Montgomery, and Memphis.

This is the first of three additional anchors planned for the second phase of Bridge Street. Original plans called for a Linens n' Things, Circuit City, and a larger anchor (department store?). Fortunately, it seems these stores' recent financial troubles forced them out of the project; this would have left one of the strip centers across from Madison Square on University completely vacant.

Sports Authority
Huntsville Times article

Monday, September 29, 2008

Constellation hotel construction delayed

Construction of the 6-story SpringHill Suites downtown has been delayed because crews have found "50-foot variations" in the bedrock where the hotel is to be built, according to developer Scott McLain. Construction will be delayed a couple of months to resolve the issue. The hotel is one of two planned for the $150M Constellation mixed-use development at the Clinton/Parkway interchange in downtown Huntsville.

Huntsville Times article

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bass Pro delayed again

Due to the economic downturn, construction on the Bass Pro Shops proposed at the intersection of I-565 and I-65 will not begin until "at least spring or summer of next year," according to the Decatur Daily. The groundbreaking was originally scheduled for June (of this year), then it was moved to next month. The opening of the store will be 10 months to a year after the groundbreaking, which means that it will open in the summer of 2010 at the earliest.

Decatur Daily article

Friday, September 26, 2008

Northrop Grumman breaks ground on second CRP building

As was promised back in March, the second of four planned Northrop Grumman buildings at their Research Park West campus broke ground today. The four-story, 110,000 sq. ft building, which will look much like the first building (opened in April 2007), is expected to open in 2010.

Madison Lakes: Another County Line Development

Bradford Health Services (yes, the addiction treatment center) will request a rezoning of about 78 acres at the SE corner of Brownsferry and County Line Roads for a mixed-use development. Plans call for about 300 apartments, 14 acres of retail along County Line, 12 acres for offices, a 180-room hotel, 16 acres of greenspace, and-- you guessed it-- Bradford's treatment center, which is currently on the site. We should learn more about this development next month when it goes before the Madison planning board.

(The picture above is from the September 5th Madison Record-- special thanks to Troy for sending it to me.)

Huntsville Times article: More Growth in Madison

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

VBC Concert Hall getting $5M makeover

Through a generous private donation, the Von Braun Center Concert Hall is getting a much-needed makeover. The renovation will include new seating, "luxury suites", a new sound system, a renovated lobby, and a new entrance (shown above). It is being paid for through a $3 million donation from Linda Smith (widow of Mark Smith, the founder of Adtran, which the renovated hall will be named after) and public VBC and TIF district funds. Work is expected to begin in March and end sometime in 2010. This is (hopefully) just the beginning of the VBC renovations, as much of the center is now over 30 years old.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Huntsville Hospital to build medical offices in Hampton Cove

This shouldn't be a big surprise to many people-- Huntsville Hospital (through a partnership with a private company) is planning to build at least one 30,000 sq. ft. medical office building in Hampton Cove. The building, which will be located on 5 acres at the intersection of Taylor and Sutton (near Wal-Mart), is scheduled to open in about a year. And if all goes well, another medical office building could be built, but that one is years away.

Huntsville Times article: Hospital eying Hampton Cove

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Army Materiel Command groundbreaking Wednesday

The Army Materiel Command (AMC) is moving their headquarters to Redstone Arsenal from Virginia as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions. The $127 million, 603,000 sq. ft building will also house the Security Assistance Command. The expected opening date for the building is 2011, which is the deadline for all BRAC moves.

Huntsville Times article

Monday, September 1, 2008

What's going on at the old Tweeter store?

If you have driven down University Drive West in the past couple of weeks, you might have noticed some work going on at the old Tweeter store in front of SuperTarget. The store is being split into two retail spaces, one for a Vitamin Shoppe and the other for a LifeWay Christian Store. The Vitamin Shoppe will be the second to open in Alabama; LifeWay is probably relocating from its current store near the University/Parkway intersection to this more visible location.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Madison Medical Office Building

I found yet another Madison project today. This is a medical office building planned for 72 West next to the proposed Madison Hospital. The 4-story, 72,000 sq. ft. building being developed by EDT Real Estate of Marietta, GA will be located just east (or just west, if somehow Crestwood successfully appeals the State Health Board's decision) of the proposed hospital. The tentative completion date is next year; however, I think that will be pushed back to around the time the hospital actually opens, which could be years from now. Please note that the above rendering may not be the real deal-- it says "Paulding Physicians Center" on the top of the building.

UAH expansion update

UAH president David Williams described some of the expansions the university will undertake in the next few years in the Exponent, the student paper. With the student population now at 7,400 (10,000 are expected by 2013) and the Five Year Plan (created in 2005) almost complete, the university is looking at other projects to expand the university and make it more of a "traditional" campus. This year, the university is doing renovations on two academic halls (Wilson and Madison), and next month will mark the completion of the campus intermodal center/parking garage, which will enable the university to eliminate some parking lots and replace them with greenspace. Williams said that plans for the long-term will include building dorms for 600-700 more students and a second student union/cafeteria food court to accomodate the influx of freshmen and sophomores that will be required to live on campus by 2010.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gold's Gym planned for Madison

Anybody remember the old Gold's Gym that used to be at Marketsquare downtown? It closed a couple of years ago when the mall was being torn down to make way for Constellation. Well, it looks like the fitness center chain is coming back to the area, and their first store appears to be coming to Madison according to this site plan on the city of Madison's website. It will be located on Wall-Triana just north (or behind) of the Star Market shopping center. The owner of the center is a franchise company located in Columbus, GA. Gold's Gym currently has 10 locations in Alabama.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Publix opening 10th store in region; 11th coming

Publix continues its rapid re-expansion in the Huntsville-Decatur area with their 10th store opening tomorrow (Wednesday) in Harvest. And #11 isn't too far behind-- that store's going to Athens at the new East Side Junction development at US 72 and Lindsay Lane, with an opening later this year. The past few years have seen the Florida grocery chain grow past Kroger to become the clear market leader, with new stores in Riverton/Mt. Carmel, Meridianville, West Madison, and now Harvest. Publix opened its first store (the first outside of Atlanta and Florida) in 1996. Now, if they'd put a location in downtown Huntsville....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Watercress update

The "Watercress" development at US72 and Jeff Road in West Huntsville is moving along, at least with obtaining city approval. On the agenda for next week's planning meeting is a subdivision of the project area and 324 planned apartment units. Also on the agenda are over 1000 other planned apartment units and a resubdivision of a possible grocery-anchored shopping center site at Zierdt and Martin Roads.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

WaterStone: a more in-depth look

The summer lull in development news appears to be over. The $1 billion Wann Springs development proposed on County Line Road in Madison is now called WaterStone, and a website is now up with more in-depth plans. Also, the groundbreaking has been delayed for federal approval, and will probably happen late this year.

With the website now up, we can now look further into what is planned for WaterStone. See also the land-use plan I posted on here a couple months back, which in some ways is a better representation of the final product. Here's a "conceptual master plan" posted on the website:
Retail CenterNow, here's a close-up of the retail center portion of the project. The plans for this portion of the development:
  • A suburban retail strip, with 2-3 junior anchors and one big-box anchor. Target would be the best bet for the big-box, considering the Madison area will already have 2 Wal-Mart Supercenters before this project is built. For one of the junior anchors? Barnes and Noble. They like to be near lifestyle centers (discussed later).
  • A grocery store. Publix just opened a store about 3 1/2 miles north of the WaterStone site. Kroger has an older, yet recently renovated store about 4 1/2 miles northeast, but it might be far enough away to warrant a new store. The store that's going to occupy this space is anybody's guess.
  • A movie theater.
  • A open-air lifestyle center, with probably 20-30 stores similar to the ones at Bridge Street. Probably no new names to the metro, but ones that are traditional lifestyle center tenants-- Ann Taylor Loft, Chico's, Coldwater Creek, Bath & Body Works, etc.
Town Center

Ok, so I had a little fun with this picture. But if my lines are too confusing for you, here's a text summary:
  • Two 4-5 story condo buildings adjacent to the lake.
  • A civic (municipal) building. I'm guessing Madison wants to build city government offices here.
  • Two art gallery/education buildings and a performing arts center. This part of the project is at best "iffy." Remember when Bridge Street had plans for a performing arts center?
  • The true town center area will have buildings with retail on the bottom floor and offices on the upper floors, with a common area in the middle.
  • Two waterfront buildings will have retail on the bottom floor, like the town center, but with condos/lofts on the upper floors instead of offices.
Everything Else
  • An office park with up to 2 million sq. ft. of space. This might come in handy when and if BRAC comes.
  • A 66-acre medical park with 1 million sq. ft. of space. It is odd that they are dedicating such a large tract to medical purposes when there isn't a hospital proposed here. The planned Madison Hospital will be located on 72 West.
  • An 800-unit apartment complex.
  • A 150-200 room "limited-service, extended stay" hotel. Example brands: Staybridge Suites, Homewood Suites, Hyatt Place.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Downtown Springhill Suites groundbreaking scheduled for Wednesday

The first of two hotels in downtown's Constellation project, a SpringHill Suites by Marriott, will break ground on Wednesday, according to developer Scott McLain. The 130-room, 6-story hotel is the first element of a much-anticipated mixed-use development, which will include another, almost-identical hotel (a Courtyard by Marriott), a 160-unit condo/apartment high-rise (at one time ~15 floors, but probably toned down because of the city's reluctance to change the height limit restrictions; the election could change this), retail and restaurants, and office space. McLain said that the Courtyard and condos will be next to begin construction, and additional retail/restaurant tenants will be announced soon as well; he said that he hopes to recruit a "green grocer," meaning a Whole Foods-or-similar-type store. The estimated completion of the project is now at least three years out.

Huntsville Times

In May, the Times also reported that the Courtyard had changed brands to Residence Inn, and that the condo building would be apartments. But in Saturday's Times article linked above, McLain said that he was on the "29th plan" for the project, meaning that he's changed it 28 times. Confused yet? Check out some of the older renderings for the project I found over a year ago:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sweetwater in trouble.... again

Yes, you have heard this before. John Q. Hammons has once again pulled out of the Sweetwater project in southern Limestone County. He told The Huntsville Times earlier this year that he had pulled out of the project, citing problems with getting incentives. Hammons was hospitalized in Springfield, MO, earlier this month, creating doubt of his company's continued involvement with the $1.3 billion project. Sweetwater's developers claim that they are in talks with three other hotel developers. Also, the proposed 250-room hotel and conference center has been scaled down to 150 rooms.

Note: Bass Pro Shops will not build a store until a hotel deal has been finalized, which means that its already-delayed groundbreaking of October will probably be moved back again. At least most of the political hurdles have been cleared-- the Decatur City Council approved the project late last month.

Huntsville Times article

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sweetwater website now online

The developers of the troubled Sweetwater development in southern Limestone County have now set up a website showcasing the proposed $1 billion project, which will include a Bass Pro Shops, a glorified 225,000-300,000 sq. ft. outlet center, and a hotel/convention center in the first phase. The website contains renderings, a presentation being showed at today's Decatur City Council meeting, and a listing of the partners in the project (an interesting fact: one of the people involved in the project is George P. Bush, a nephew of the current President). This website was probably set up to reassure citizens and Decatur city officials that the project is still moving forward, even though there have been problems with finding a new hotel partner and the groundbreaking (originally scheduled for June) has now been delayed.

Thompson Tractor building store on Governors

This has been the subject of several questions on forums the past few weeks... Thompson Tractor, a Birmingham-based Caterpillar dealership, is opening a store in Huntsville on Governors Drive West. It is being built on a 16-acre site that used to be a driving range. The store is expected to open around March 1 of next year, according to the Huntsville Times.

Hudson-Alpha plans "mile-long campus"

After opening the first building of its future campus last year, the Hudson-Alpha Institute of Biotechnology is already expanding. Construction has begun on a $7 million conference center, which is scheduled to open next year. According to co-founder and president Jim Hudson, the eventual plan is to have a "mile-long campus" with a "grove" (something like a pedestrian mall) through the center of it. Hudson hopes to have the campus completed in about 15 years.

Huntsville Times article

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dick's Sporting Goods building Jones Valley store

Dick's Sporting Goods is building its second Huntsville store at Valley Bend at Jones Farm. It will be the last junior anchor at the massive development, which opened its first stores in late 2001 and added a second phase (anchored by Hobby Lobby) and a Rave Motion Pictures movie theater in 2006. The 48,000 sq. ft. store will open by next spring, according to the Huntsville Times.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Snappy Tomato Pizza opening its first Huntsville-area restaurant

Snappy Tomato Pizza, a Cincinnati-area-based chain of franchise pizza restaurants, is opening its first Huntsville-area location at the Harvest Square shopping center being built at AL 53 and Jeff Road. It will be the second location in Alabama (the other one is in Tuscaloosa). The news of its opening is the latest of several pizza-chain franchises opening up in the Huntsville area this year, including Marco's Pizza in Madison (already open) and Mellow Mushroom in Providence (opening later this year).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Academy Sports "expanding" in Alabama, probably in Huntsville/Decatur

Academy Sports and Outdoors, a sporting goods chain similar to Dick's, is planning to open "at least" 4 stores in the state in the next year, according to the Birmingham Business Journal. Two of those stores have already been announced to open in Decatur and Auburn. I expect at least one of those other remaining "to-be-announced" stores to be located in Huntsville.

Academy has 7 stores currently open in Alabama, including 5 in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area, one in Gadsden, and one in Mobile.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Worthington Federal building new headquarters on Parkway

Worthington Federal Bank, a small Huntsville-based bank, has plans to build its headquarters at the old Shoney's site on South Parkway between the Drake and Useless overpasses. The two story, 15,000 sq. ft. building should be completed in a year. In the same area, local developers are also building a 52,000 sq. ft. office building on an old lumber yard. Construction on that project should begin once demolition is complete.

Huntsville Times article

Shaq looking at property in Huntsville

So, where does Shaquille O'Neal go in the middle of a controversy centered around him badmouthing former teammate Kobe Bryant in a rap song? He comes to Huntsville, to look at property. The basketball star was in the city Tuesday and Wednesday "checking out real estate properties" according to the Huntsville Times. No word yet on whether it was commercial or residential propoerty was looking for, but O'Neal said he would be back in a couple of weeks with his family.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Plans for GE property in Decatur: Retail/office/hotel

Newly formed development group Chase Financial Group of Alabama is close to closing on a 42-acre tract of land that General Electric now owns in Decatur near Point Mallard Park, according to the Decatur Daily. This comes after the city of Decatur had its bid offer for the land rejected last week. The city planned to use the property for residential and recreational purposes. However, Chase Financial plans to build a retail center, office space, and (eventually) a hotel on the property. The group plans to break ground later this year. The same company is developing two other properties in the Decatur area: a condo development off of Alabama 20, and an expansion of the Celebration Arena in Priceville.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Einstein Bros. Bagels coming soon to Huntsville

On the heels of last month's announcement that Dunkin' Donuts was returning to Alabama, and in competition with Bruegger's, Einstein Brothers Bagels has announced its own plans to expand into Alabama. The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the capitol city will get up to three franchise locations of the chain, which will open in the next 6-18 months, along with other locations in the three other large cities in this state. Expect a similar number of stores for Huntsville.

Einstein Brothers has 600 restaurants in 35 states and DC. Many of the stores are in airports or on college campuses. The closest stand-alone locations are in Atlanta.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chase Creek Town Center

This is a conceptual site plan for Chase Creek Town Center, a proposed shopping center located at US 72 and Shields Road. This picture shows a "big-box" store, a grocery store, and about 40,000 sq. ft of small shops along with a bank in an outparcel. The "big-box" store shown has been all but confirmed to be a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The small shops will be filled mostly by stores that "follow" Wal-Mart, such as Hibbetts Sporting Goods, GameStop, Dollar Tree, etc. Whether the grocery store is built is up in the air, since both Kroger and Publix have stores nearby. Another mid-size tenant, such as a Goody's or a Big Lots, might take its place in the final product. Like most of the plans I post on here, this is only conceptual, and are used just to give potential tenants an idea of what's planned.

*UPDATE (3/09): The contract the land was under to develop the Wal-Mart was dropped in late 2008, so a new Wal-Mart for Northeast is on hold, at least for a couple of years.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Smaller Developments- June 2008

I've found these upcoming projects on my various web searches in the past couple of weeks, but they're just a tad too small to dedicate a whole blog post to them. So here they go:
  • A Guthrie's is supposedly coming to Winchester Road, on one of the outparcels of the old Winn-Dixie shopping center.
  • A CVS/Pharmacy is planned for the northwest corner of Sutton Road and US 431 in Hampton Cove. And, of course, there's Brookestone at Hampton Cove, a 11,250 sq. ft. strip center planned for the northeast corner of the same intersection.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hyatt Place "on hold"

The Hyatt Place hotel that was predicted to be built in Providence is now on hold indefinitely, according to the Times. But it would now make sense that it was the same hotel that was planned for Providence's second phase, since there have been no developments from that for over a year now.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Redstone Technology Park

This is a 420-acre retail/office/hotel development at 565 and Research Park Blvd. on the edge of Redstone Arsenal. It is on the EUL (Enhanced-Use Lease) land set aside for commercial development. Redstone Technology Park is being developed by Jim Wilson and Associates, a Montgomery-based developer that was involved in Riverchase Galleria in Hoover and more recently, The Avenue Carriage Crossing, a lifestyle center in Collierville, TN, a suburb of Memphis. The first phase, according to the site plan above and a PDF flyer on the developer's website, will include:
  • 100,000 sq. ft. of retail space (meaning no "big-box" stores)
  • Six outparcels, probably for restaurants
  • A 150-room hotel
  • One or two office buildings
Future phases of the project could include another hotel and more office space. When the project is completed, there will be up to 2-4 million sq. ft. of office space, according to the flyer.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bass Pro still coming to Sweetwater

In a Decatur Daily article today, Bass Pro Shops confirmed that they are still planning a store in southern Limestone County, and are planning a September groundbreaking. The store is now expected to open next summer, if all goes well. However, the store does depend on the developer (Genesis USA) and the city of Decatur to negotiate financing for road improvements around the project. Bass Pro wants a traffic light on Alabama 20 to help traffic enter and exit the megastore safely onto the dangerous highway (BAD IDEA- ALDOT still hasn't learned its lesson on putting traffic lights at the end of an interstate, e.g. Moores Mill Road; an interchange would be the only safe and efficient solution).

There has been some doubt recently on the stability of the development because the hotel developer, John Q. Hammons, pulled out of the project. Developers claim that they are in negotiations with several hotel developers to replace Hammons, who also developed the Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Huntsville.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jobs, office market expanding

Two somewhat related articles in the Huntsville Times today confirm that the number of jobs and the office market are growing in the area. Office space in the area expanded by nearly 2 million in 2006-2007, much of that growth occurring in Research Park. Several buildings are under construction in the park currently, including a 6-story office building at Bridge Street Town Centre and the second building of four planned on Northrop Grumman's new campus. In downtown, the largest office project planned is part of the Constellation development, which is now expected to be underway in August. The overall occupancy rate for the Huntsville market is 94%. Most cities with occupancy rates above 90% are considered to have "healthy" office markets.

In jobs, the 10,000 private jobs that are expected to follow the BRAC moves could be a "conservative" estimate, and the real number could turn out to be closer to 20,000. This is in addition to the 4,700 military jobs expected to come here by 2011, most from Northern Virginia. Since a majority of the current jobholders won't move to Huntsville, government and military leaders are marketing the city in technology "hotspots" such as Boston and San Jose, and are holding job fairs in cities like Atlanta and Cleveland.

Huntsville Times article: Cummings Park growth expanding

Huntsville Times article: Private jobs to soar because of BRAC

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wann Springs land rezoned to mixed-use

While one billion-dollar project is showing signs of trouble, another is moving forward. The developers of Wann Springs, a 450-acre development off of County Line Road in Madison, had their rezoning request approved by the Madison City Council last night. The council used its mixed-use zone for the first time. However, it will be a long time before the entire project is completed- it is expected to take 7-10 years to build.

Wann Springs Master Plan

Huntsville Times article

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hammons out of Sweetwater: Is the project in trouble?

Hotel developer John Q. Hammons has pulled plans to build a 300-room hotel and convention center at the massive Sweetwater development in Limestone County. Suspicions rose after the developers pulled plans for the $1.3 Billion development off the Decatur Planning Commission's meeting agenda earlier this month. And there has been no word on another hotel developer taking his place. However, Hammons is still interested in developing another hotel in Huntsville, probably downtown.

Huntsville Times article

So, with this first major blow, is Sweetwater doomed like its predecessors had at the 65/565 interchange? If the project does continue, expect the final product to be a much smaller version than was previously announced, with maybe only the outlet center/Bass Pro Shops being built.

Planning Commission- May 27th

Tonight, the Planning Commission will look into a few major rezonings and subdivisions tonight, including ones necessary for the Harris Hill development in Northeast and a possible grocery-anchored shopping center at the Northwest corner of Zierdt and Martin Roads. 250 acres of the Harris Hill project will be rezoned to pave the way for multi-family residential and big-box retail development. This post explains the project in depth.

A blog reader pointed out the proposed Zierdt/Martin grocery store in an email a couple of weeks ago. Some confusion has been swirling around which of the two main grocery chains in the area, Kroger or Publix, will be the anchor. The possible developer of the store almost exclusively builds Publix stores, but there is already one three miles away from the intersection. Kroger seems like a logical choice, but they are not expanding anywhere new right now, and about the only stores the chain is building are to replace older stores. This has also made me doubt the rumor that they will be building a store with the "Watercress" development at the old Monrovia golf course.

The commission will also consider subdivisions that could become over 800 single-family home lots.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On the agenda: height limits and park building restrictions

The city council tonight will look at changing the Planning Commission's staggered 10-story downtown height limit. They will look at three options: keep the 10-story height limit, have no height limits at all, or compromise at a 16-story height limit. The reason noted for putting the limit at 16 floors is so that the Constellation project can move forward with plans for a 15-story apartment building. The council will also look at a proposal to dedicate Big Spring Park to recreational use only, and a referendum would have to be approved to allow any development on the downtown park. This will not, however, stop the Huntsville Museum of Art's expansion plans, which have already been approved.

Huntsville Times article

My two cents:
The council, looking at past opinions on this issue, will probably increase/erase the height limit. But why stop at 16 floors? It will only restrict future developments (such as the proposed 24-story condo building at Holmes and Washington) from moving forward. Once again, any type of height limit will choke downtown of its full potential.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dunkin' Donuts announces Alabama expansion plan

Dunkin' Brands announced today that it plans to open 142 Dunkin' Donuts franchise locations in Alabama in the next few years as part of an aggressive expansion plan to go nationwide and have 15,000 stores by 2020 (it currently has 7,200 worldwide). The company opened franchise development in the "Big 5" metro areas (Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa)- franchisees must agree to build at least 5 locations. If all goes well, the first stores could be open by the end of this year. Currently, there are no Dunkin' Donuts stores in Alabama, though one operated in Huntsville until the early 2000s. Baskin Robbins, which is also owned by Dunkin Brands and planning an expansion, has at least 4 locations in Alabama- 2 each in Huntsville and Mobile.

So, are you going to see a Dunkin' Donuts in your neighborhood? Based on previous announcements, we could see up to 30 Dunkin' and Baskin Robbins stores in the Huntsville metro (including Decatur), which means that if you have a McDonald's in your area, more than likely, a Dunkin' Donuts could be coming soon to you.

Birmingham Business Journal
Boston Globe

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Apple Store to open May 31

One of the most coveted names in retail right now will open in Huntsville at the end of the month. The Apple Store will open its second Alabama store at Bridge Street on May 31. Rumors of an Apple Store began soon after the lifestyle center's groundbreaking, when a conceptual "merchant plan" was leaked and Apple was shown as one of the possible tenants. Apple posted job listings on its website for the store in February 2007, and a building permit for the store was issued earlier this year. So, what makes this store special? One, it's a "high-end" store that very few cities Huntsville's size have, and it's the first store at Bridge Street that a college guy like myself would want to go to...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Harris Hill- The Real Plan?

I attended the meeting at City Hall tonight about the Harris Hill development, one, because I write this blog, and two, I live in the area. Cole Walker of Walker Family Properties discussed the plans for the development, which, as of now, look like this:
  • The "Jones Valley" portion: 10 outparcels lining 72 East and Old Gurley Road, for restaurants (seemed to mention Outback Steakhouse a lot, a clue?), a pharmacy, banks. This part could be completed in about a year, and construction could be seen in a couple of months if all goes well and it is approved by the city.
  • The "Westside Center" portion: 60 acres for "big box" retail; current plans call for two large anchors (one looked a lot like a SuperTarget), 4-5 "junior" anchors (stores such as Goody's and Dick's Sporting Goods), and smaller stores. This phase would be completed in at LEAST 3 years, according to Walker.
  • 200 acres of multi family residential, mostly condos/apartments, but some townhomes. The residences will be priced in "the $200-400,000 range." This phase should be built at the same time or a little later than the retail portion.
  • The "Providence" portion: A 40 acre town center, with retail space on the bottom and lofts/condos on the top floors. Walker said that this will probably be the last thing to be built, when (or if) the development is successful.
  • A hotel, which wasn't talked about but was still on the plans.
  • The rest of the 600-acre development will be preserved as parkland/greenspace, with walking trails, bike paths, etc.
I could have a picture of the plan up as early as tomorrow.

: any tenants I mentioned here are completely theoretical, I am throwing them out there to show what COULD go in there. Walker said that retailers are taking a cautious "wait and see" strategy right now, with the failing economy and upcoming presidential elections, and more locally, waiting to see how many people come with BRAC. Overall buildout could take around seven years, which is common for a project of this magnitude.

One thing I would like to point out about the meeting: the surrounding neighborhood, which has a history of being very vocal about nearby development (a couple of years ago, a developer wanted to build cheap apartments next to the neighborhood, which brought on a lawsuit by some of the homeowners), seemed very enthusiastic about the project for the most part. There were some concerns about traffic, which was forseen, but I think the largely positive attitude shown by the neighborhood will bring this project closer to fruition.

"Environmentally-friendly" homes to be built in West Huntsville

A Nashville home-building company broke ground Monday on a 371-lot subdivision on Indian Creek Road called Anslee Springs. What makes this development different is that the homes will have environmentally-friendly amenities, with some smaller homes being LEED-certified. These will be Huntsville's first certified "green" homes. Buildout of the neighborhood should take 5-6 years.

Huntsville Times article

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Medical office complex planned for Monrovia

A developer will begin construction on an 18,000 sq. ft. medical office building on Jeff Road north of US 72 in Monrovia. The $3 million building, which will include 10 office suites, an X-ray lab, and a pharmacy, is expected to open in about a year. The project's goal is to meet the medical needs of the growing unincorporated suburb, which currently has little medical office space (or any office space for that matter).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Public/Private Investment to Revitalize Lowe Mill Village

First, it was Five Points. Then, in the past couple of years, Merrimack and Lincoln Village. Now, Lowe Mill is hopping on the "gentrification bandwagon." With the Downtown Rescue Mission homeless shelter moving out this year and the mill itself being an epicenter of quirky, underground Huntsville culture AND the headquarters for a biotech company, Lowe Mill has been seen as next in line of the mill villages to be revitalized. Now, apartment owner/investor Gary Reynolds will spend $4-5 million on restoring homes in the neighborhood. The city also plans to use a $1 million federal grant on doing the same.

Huntsville Times article

My two cents: Want to revitalize these inner-city historic neighborhoods? Bring back the early-20th Century streetcar line that linked downtown with the then-outlying mill villages, with some modifications of course. Development will follow, and it would allow residents to drive less- an attractive amenity in this world of climbing gas prices.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Constellation-changing hotel, expanding apartment options

The Constellation project has changed one of its planned hotel brands, according to its developer. Residence Inn by Marriott is replacing Courtyard because of its "business" feel being more fitting close to the Von Braun Center. The other hotel, a Spring Hill Suites, has not changed. Both hotels will have 130 rooms/6 floors.

Another element of the project that is changing is the residential options. The original plans announced last year called for 80-100 apartments or condos. The revised plans have proposed up to 160 apartments due to a "perceived" demand. Site preparation has begun, including work on the road through the development (Constellation Drive), and construction on the buildings should begin by August.

Huntsville Times article

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wann Springs Master Plan

This is a conceptual site plan for the Wann Springs development proposed in Madison off County Line Road (click on image for larger view). Credit to HSVTiger for posting this on SkyscraperPage. From this plan, it looks like the project could include:
  • 800 residential units (probably apartments/condos)
  • A town center (similar to Providence) with a combined 520,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail and upper-level lofts.
  • 2 million sq. ft. of office space
  • Another 1 million sq. ft. of medical office space
  • A 936,000 sq. ft. retail center (excluding the town center space)
  • A 150-200 room hotel
  • An 18-acre lake along with 50 acres of greenspace.

Spencer Square redevelopment

I received a tip in an email last week about a planned redevelopment of the Spencer Square shopping center on Madison Boulevard. The 20-year-old shopping center had a Food World before it closed a few years ago when the grocery chain declared bankruptcy. Burke's Outlet and Fred's are the current anchor tenants. According to Madison County land records, the shopping center and about 10 acres behind it are owned by Michael Matsos from Irondale, AL, who also is involved with the famous Golden Rule BBQ restaurant chain. There are also some records indicating that Aronov, the Montgomery-based developers currently building the Harvest Square shopping center at AL 53 and Jeff Road, might be involved with the redevelopment. So stay tuned; with Wann Springs to the west and the possible DeBartolo development happening to the east, this area is ready for a major rebirth.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sweetwater Update

The Decatur Planning Commission will decide on a proposed subdivision of 109 acres of the 500+ acre Sweetwater development at I-565 and 65 at its meeting next month. The subdivision will be divided into four lots, which consist of the components of the first phase of the $1.1 Billion project: Bass Pro Shops, a 225,000 outlet center, a lake, and the 300-room hotel and convention center. Speaking of the hotel, it was also confirmed in the Decatur Daily that the developer will be John Q. Hammons, who also built the Embassy Suites in downtown Huntsville. So, it's pretty safe to assume that the hotel will be an Embassy Suites, considering his previous record with similar projects.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nordstrom coming to Nashville

In the next couple of years, Huntsvillians will have two Nordstroms to choose from, both 100 miles away from the city. After years of rumors, Nordstrom has officially announced that it will open a 3-story, 149,000 sq. ft store in Nashville, at the Mall at Green Hills in the wealthy southwest corner of the city. It will open in 2010, two years before the Birmingham location (announced last year) will open at Riverchase Galleria.

Tennessean article

The one drawback- this will just make it harder to get a Nordstrom in the Huntsville area. Granted, our population is small, but what we lack in people, we make up for in population growth, a high average income, and a coming explosion in retail space.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

(Another) Billion-dollar development for the area

Madison mayor Sandy Kirkindall announced a $1 Billion, 450 acre development at the intersection of County Line Road and 565 during tonight's State of the City address. The project, which was designed by Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan (a nationwide company that is well-known for its work on the city of Celebration, FL) and is being developed by Wann Springs Development Group, could include up to 4 million square feet of retail, residential, and office space, along with a "four-star" hotel and convention center. Groundbreaking is set to begin this summer.

This announcement comes on top of Sweetwater, another billion-dollar development planned seven miles west of this one. The projects are strikingly similar in size and cost. It'll be interesting to see how two such large projects will work so close to each other in a metro area this small.

More info and renderings- Huntsville Times blog article

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fondue restaurant coming to Bridge Street

The Melting Pot, a chain of fondue restaurants with locations in Birmingham and Nashville, is opening at Bridge Street in the fall. The chain, which opened its first restaurant in Florida in 1975, has approximately 130 restaurants nationwide, with 42 locations "under development" according to its website.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Kroger getting a makeover

After finishing renovations at the Madison store last year, Kroger plans to start soon on renovating its Moores Mill location, which has already seen one other renovation since its opening in 1996. The last renovation removed the in-store video rental store and added a gas station. Probably the biggest changes shoppers will see in this upcoming renovation will be an expanded "Nature's Market" section and the relocation of the pharmacy to the front of the store to allow for a drive-thru window.
Look for similar renovations to happen at the 5 other Kroger stores in the Huntsville-Decatur market, as Kroger struggles to compete with Publix and Wal-Mart.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Planning Agenda- April 22nd

The Huntsville Planning Commission will review subdivision plans for almost 1500 single-family home lots at next week's meeting; most of them, of course, are on the fringes of the city, except for an interesting one on Vermont Road in Southwest. But probably the biggest approval they will give next week is to rezoning requests at the proposed Harris Hills development in Northeast Huntsville. Almost 500 acres will be rezoned to accommodate multi-family residences, big-box stores, and chain restaurants/hotels. Land is being cleared, and the access roads are almost complete. Buildings could be going up as early as this summer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Second hotel possible for Sweetwater

According to the Decatur Daily, discussions are under way for a second hotel at the Sweetwater development in Limestone County. This is in addition to the 300 room hotel and convention center announced when the $1 Billion project was announced a month ago. The hotel brands have not been revealed, but the first hotel is possibly an Embassy Suites. Also, the city of Decatur is expected to approve the deal with the developers on the project at a city council meeting next week.

Zoe's Kitchen expanding: Plans include Huntsville

Another Alabama-based restaurant chain could be opening its first locations in Huntsville in the next couple of years. Birmingham-based Zoe's Kitchen, which already has 20 restaurants in six states, is planning a nationwide expansion of 50 more restaurants, with a possibility of up to 180 in the next five years. Huntsville was one of the cities named as part of the expansion. So, where will they locate? Since it is more of a lunch restaurant, their first location will probably be near Research Park. If they decide to open a second one, look for it in the Airport/Whitesburg "restaurant cluster."

Birmingham News article

Monday, April 14, 2008

Huntsville: Now over 200 square miles!

The Huntsville City Council, in a special meeting held today, annexed another 3,000 acres in Limestone County, bringing the total size of the city to 202 square miles. The land is adjacent to Athens city limits along I-65 and along the future Memphis-Huntsville-Atlanta freeway corridor. Huntsville Times

In the past month, the city has mass-annexed 12 square miles of Limestone County land amid fears that the state legislature could make it tough to annex more land in the county (see earlier post).

Whole Foods "a good bet" for Providence

In Monday's "Ask Us" column in the Huntsville Times, someone asked if a grocery store was planned for the Village of Providence, and if so, what chain would it be. A grocery store has been proposed for the New Urbanism community since its conception. One chain that comes to everyone's mind is Whole Foods Market, the wildly popular supermarket chain that locates its stores in affluent suburban areas across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. A Whole Foods "or equivalent" was noted as a "good bet." Some other possibilities:
  • An "urban-style" Publix. It's like a regular Publix, only smaller and in an urban area. Several have been built in places like Columbia, SC, Jacksonville, and Orlando. Birmingham's been trying to get one for years.
  • EarthFare- a small Whole Foods-like chain based in Asheville, NC with several stores throughout the Southeast.
  • Another Fresh Market. You can't rule it out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Airport Construction Update

Huntsville International's new expanded food court is expected to open on Saturday with a Gevalia coffee shop (a first for an airport), McAlister's Deli (another first), and Breyer's Ice Cream. There will also be an upscale bar with "grab and go" food and drinks next to the food court.

The food court is only a small part of the airport's $65 million expansion plan, much of which will be completed in the next year or two:
  • May 4th- the new 219-ft. control tower opens.
  • July- a new access road to Jetplex Industrial Park begins construction.
  • October- security improvements and a new taxiway.
  • December- Expansion of the main parking deck, increasing the number of parking spaces to nearly 3,000.
  • February 2009- A 92,000 sq. ft. air cargo building opens.
  • July 2009- the expanded 20,000 sq. ft. waiting area opens.
Huntsville Times article

Friday, April 4, 2008

Momma Goldberg's coming to Huntsville?

According to a Birmingham News article, Momma Goldberg's, an Auburn sandwich shop, is planning to franchise and expand to ten locations across the southeast by the end of this year, including possible locations in Huntsville and Decatur. The restaurant opened a trial franchise in Homewood late last year, which according to restaurant operators, was very successful. "Momma G's" also plans to open locations in Mobile, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Atlanta.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crown Pointe: New shopping center at Parkway and Mountain Gap

Businessman Harold Motter is developing a 40-50,000 sq. ft shopping center called Crown Pointe at the corner of Mountain Gap and Memorial Parkway. The $3.5 million development will include a spa and Huntsville's second Bojangles restaurant. A restaurant. sandwich shop, and other stores could also be tenants. The project is expected to break ground in June and open by the end of the year.

Huntsville Times article

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cracker Barrel slated for Guntersville

Cracker Barrel is expected to begin construction soon on a new restaurant on US 431 in Guntersville. If construction starts this month, it will probably open sometime in October or November. It will be the fifth Cracker Barrel in the Huntsville-Decatur region.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Colonial Promenade site plan

For those interested in seeing the plans for the proposed Wal-Mart on 72 West, a conceptual site plan (PDF file) is now up on Colonial's website. A shopping center (with tenants similar to ones that locate near Wal-Marts all over the country probably) will be located closer to 72, with the supercenter behind it. It also looks like a bank is planned for one of the outparcels, and apartments are planned behind the Wal-Mart.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New office building for Depot Village

The developers of Depot Village, a small downtown office building complex at the corner of Church and Cleveland, is expanding with another 3-story, 30,000 sq. ft. office building. Construction could be completed on the building's outer shell by this fall.

Huntsville Times article

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Huntsville- fastest growing metro in Alabama, #50 in the nation

The Huntsville Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Madison and Limestone Counties) grew by 2.3% between July 2006 and July 2007, making it the fastest growing metro area in Alabama and 50th fastest-growing in the nation. The growth rate for the year was 2.3%, the same rate as the Nashville metro. Huntsville grew by 8,578 people last year, making it 70th in numeric growth and putting it between Los Angeles and Allentown, PA and ahead of Birmingham, the only other Alabama metro on the list, which came in at #73.

Census Bureau press release

Huntsville to annex 5,000 acres in Limestone

Tonight, the city council will look into annexing a total of 5,000 acres in the Greenbrier area in southern Limestone County. It will be the largest annexation for Huntsville in nearly 20 years, according to the Huntsville Times, and will bring the total size of the city to 197 square miles. There is a catch: the city must maintain a park on part of the land and build a K-8 school when 800 homes are built in the area.

In the past month, there has been a frenzy of annexations by both Huntsville and Madison due to pending state legislation that could make it tough to annex land in fast-growing Limestone County. The threat of the bill, though, has backfired the county's plans to slow annexations by the two cities and Decatur. Huntsville and Madison have already annexed a total of 1,700 acres since the bill was made public.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Planning Commission keeps height limit

The city Planning Commission once again showed its support for a 10-story maximum downtown height limit by voting 4-3 for the measure. The issue now goes to the city council, which will have the final say.

And once more, the commission was also slated to approve approximately 850 home lots on the fringes of the city tonight. So, while they refuse to let our downtown develop and become more attractive, they will allow these suburban "cookie cutter" houses, which will probably cause many more problems (like traffic and school overcrowding) than 25-story buildings ever will with their "shadows."

"Boutique" hotels coming to the suburbs- USA Today

USA Today had an interesting article today about new "boutique-style" hotels opening in the suburbs of America's largest cities to escape the rising land prices of more urban areas. These modern hotel chains are (at most) a few years old, but they all have aggressive expansion plans. With the hotel boom currently going on in Huntsville, I wouldn't be surprised to see one or more of these chains open a location here in a couple of years:
  • Hotel Indigo- by the same company that owns Holiday Inn. Has 17 hotels open, with 62 planned.
  • NYLO Hotels- A business boutique hotel chain which just opened its first hotel in suburban Dallas. Another hotel will open later this year in Warwick, RI (south of Providence) with 50 more planned.
  • aloft- created by Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Westin and Sheraton). Five hotels are now open, with many more coming, including a hotel in Homewood (opening next year) and Franklin/Cool Springs, TN (opening in October). They are also building hotels in smaller metro areas like Charleston and Greenville, SC and Northwest Arkansas.
Two similar hotel chains, Cambria Suites and Hyatt Place, have both announced plans to build hotels in Huntsville. The Hyatt Place is under construction in Providence and will open later this year.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sweetwater's Impact on the VBC

Decatur's Sweetwater development, announced last week, could bring some much-needed competition to the entertainment and convention market in the region, and the VBC could use it as an excuse to go forward with a proposed expansion/renovation of its 10,000 seat arena and concert space. Sweetwater will have a 300-room hotel attached to an 80,000 sq. ft. convention center, which will be completed in 2010, with an 5,000-8,000-seat entertainment venue that will be built in a later phase. Huntsville leaders aren't worried about the development's impact on bringing conventions and concerts to the VBC, but they do think it will give them a little competition. The VBC has planned a expansion of the 10,000 seat arena to 13,000 and modernizing the rest of the 30-year-old complex.

And this doesn't sound right:

"John L. Morris, who started Bass in Springfield, Mo., in 1971, at one time worked with Springfield-based hotel developer John Q. Hammons to build Bass Pro Shops and Embassy Suites hotels at the same locations. Glover said he has never heard of Hammons, who developed the Embassy Suites Hotel in Huntsville."

The "300 room, all-suites" hotel sounds a lot like an Embassy Suites, and Hammons has a reputation in the hotel industry. I don't see how this developer doesn't know him.

Huntsville Times article: Decatur project no big rival

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Village at Hampton Cove

The first two tenants of a proposed 16,000 sq. ft shopping center in Hampton Cove were announced this week. Hampton Cove Christian Academy and Anytime Fitness will occupy the building on the right in the picture above. The other buildings will be built when there is a demand. The center should be completed sometime this year. Last year, the owner of the property signed a deal to build a Guthrie's restaurant there, but was met with opposition from nearby residents. Guthrie's later decided to "never" try to locate in Hampton Cove again.

Huntsville Times article

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chili's, Academy Sports set for Beltline

Two new businesses are setting up shop on the Beltline in Decatur. One is new to Decatur, while one is new to the whole region. Chili's, which has two restaurants in Huntsville, is opening its first Decatur restaurant in mid-August, next to Home Depot. The 6,000 sq. ft. restaurant will be larger than the Huntsville locations. Nearby, an Academy Sports store is planned. It will be the first for the Huntsville-Decatur area. Academy has had several stores in Birmingham and Nashville for years, so locations for Huntsville will probably be announced soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A HDN "Investigation": What is Going On Here?

Hey, it works for 48...
Recently, land has been cleared on the Winchester Plaza (the Publix shopping center) outparcel next to McDonald's, sparking rumors on what is going in there. Some say it's a restaurant, others, more specifically, say it's an Applebees. Being a longtime resident of the area, I was curious myself and went out to investigate.

First, I checked on Winchester Plaza's website. Note that the outparcel in question is shaded in gray with the letters NIC: "Not In Contract." It has been like this for months. So, no luck there, besides the fact that someone doesn't want nosy people (like myself) from seeing what they're putting there.

So I went to another "weapon" of mine: the Madison County "Interactive Tax Assessment Map". It gives info on every parcel in Madison County, such as the owner, their address, and the assessed value of their property. Kind of scary, actually. Anyway, from there, I learned who owned the property- "Winchester Center, LLC" with a Lawrenceville, GA address. A quick Google search of the address reveals that it is for Marvin Hewatt Enterprises- a company that develops gas stations/convenience stores. Another Google search of the company's name shows a "For the Record" article from the Huntsville Times on Sunday, March 8 where three building permits were issued for the company, two for the property in question. The contractor that was named in the article, Charter South, Inc. specializes in building gas stations. One of their "current projects" is a Mobil station in Marianna, FL for Marvin Hewatt Enterprises.

Conclusion: Sorry, It's probably going to be a gas station. Hope for better luck with Harris Hills.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Sweetwater" announced

As was rumored last week, plans for a $1.3 billion, 540-acre development called Sweetwater at the 565/65 interchange were announced today. The $200 million, 125-acre first phase will include:
  • A Bass Pro Shops, opening in 2009. It will be the fourth location in Alabama.
  • 300,000 sq. ft. of retail space, probably outlet stores
  • A hotel and convention center, to open in 2010.
Future expansions of the development could include:
  • 1 million additional sq. ft. of retail
  • 825,000 sq. ft of office space
  • An 8,000-seat "entertainment venue"
  • 2,700 homes
Source: Birmingham Business Journal
Sweetwater is being developed by Genesis USA Development, and groundbreaking will be June 1st. Let's just hope that this one doesn't fail, like so many proposals have before at this interchange.
Update March 18- Huntsville Times article and map of the proposed development.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Major development at 565/65 to be announced soon

According to the Athens News-Courier, a "major shopping center" with Bass Pro Shops as its anchor could be headed to the 565/65 interchange in southern Limestone County. The property is within Decatur city limits. The project could be announced as early as Monday.

Over 85,000 cars use the 565/65 junction each day, according to the latest ALDOT traffic counts. It is a high-profile intersection that has seen many major development proposals over the years, but all have fallen through. In 2004, the Burnham Group of Kansas City proposed a $450 million mixed-use development called "Tennessee Valley Crossing." It fell through after Limestone County refused to fund infrastructure improvements needed for the project. Another project, which included a 15,000 seat arena, was killed for the same reason.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Northrop Grumman Expanding in Research Park

Northrop Grumman will begin construction this fall on the second of four planned buildings in its new $80 million campus in Research Park West off Old Madison Pike. When completed the campus will house all of the company's 1,200 workers in Huntsville.

The first building broke ground in June 2005 and opened last April.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Westin Huntsville to open March 27

The 11-story Westin Huntsville at Bridge Street will open on March 27, according to the developers. The hotel and condo tower will feature 210 rooms on the first 6 floors and condos on the top 5. The Westin website is now taking reservations for the rooms as early as April 19th.

Other stores and restaurants to open at Bridge Street in March:
  • Francesca's Collection- mid-March
  • S&K Menswear- March 16th
  • Crabtree and Evelyn- March 22nd
  • Cantina Laredo- March 25th
  • Juicy Couture- March 27th
  • Ketchup- Late March

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another height limit update

The Huntsville Planning Commission will keep the 10 story height limit in place in order to "protect the integrity" of downtown. However, they also plan to raise the height limit near residential areas from 2 stories to 6. And in a bit of irony, the commission continued Huntsville's suburban sprawl by approving "several large subdivisions."

Huntsville Times article

Something tells me they are going to regret this decision. This is a terrible move on the city's part. What would you rather see, a parking lot or a 24-story condo tower? A run-down mall or a vibrant entertainment district? Ten years from now, don't be surprised to see our "historic" downtown become dilapidated and blighted. Those historic homes we tried to save from "shadows" and "noisy ventilation systems" will be worthless. People, this isn't Charleston or Savannah. Huntsville isn't known for its historic downtown. It's known for its ability to progress and change. We need to get out of this small town mentality and think like a major city. Because, ready or not, we're fast becoming one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mellow Mushroom update

It's confirmed...
Mellow Mushroom is coming to Providence! A sign went up today on the ground floor of a future commercial building in the "town center" announcing that the Atlanta-based pizza chain is "coming shroom" to Huntsville. The restaurant is expected to open in August.

Friday, February 22, 2008

City Council considers Big Spring building ban

Councilman Glenn Watson unveiled a draft of an ordinance that would ban building on Big Spring Park and the adjacent Holiday Inn hotel site, which is owned by Big Spring Partners, a downtown redevelopment company formed by the city a few years ago. Other council members voiced their concerns about the consequences of the ordinance, including future expansion of the Von Braun Center, a proposed federal courthouse, and a proposed hotel on the site of the current Holiday Inn.

Speaking of that proposed hotel, it is being developed by John Q. Hammons, the same developer who built the Embassy Suites hotel across the street from the Holiday Inn. Looks like he's back for seconds.

Huntsville Times article

The city council already has the authority to restrict what goes into Big Spring Park- it's city land. Huntsville has one of the "greenest" downtowns in the country, with more greenspace on the way with the proposed "riverwalk" along Pinhook Creek. I think that they should lift the height limit on downtown buildings first. Developers could then build "up" more than "out", and there wouldn't be any need to take up more greenspace!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hartselle development

Hartselle is growing with more to come, according to a Decatur Daily article:
  • Walgreens opened yesterday at the corner of Alabama 36 and US 31.
  • Lowe's plans a store on US 31- bids on the project are due by the end of the month, with construction to begin probably this spring.
  • CVS/Pharmacy, Arby's and Guthrie's have all expressed interest in coming to Hartselle.
  • Aronov Realty of Montgomery is possibly developing a shopping center near the I-65/AL 36 interchange. Publix is rumored as the anchor tenant. If built, it would be the 12th Publix in the Huntsville/Decatur area, granted that it would be completed after the Athens and Harvest stores are built.

Apartment building/garage rendering

The plans for the apartment building and public parking garage downtown at the corner of Holmes and Green were shown last night at a meeting in City Hall. Both buildings will be six floors, with the apartment building having 52 residential units of various sizes.

The Times article talked about several downtown public-private projects that have fallen through in the past few years. One was with a developer that wanted to build a 28,000 sq. ft. grocery store in conjunction with a city garage. Another was the proposed convention hotel that eventually evolved into the Embassy Suites project. Mayor Spencer revealed at last night's meeting that a "North Carolina developer" has plans for a similar mixed-use project in conjunction with a parking garage somewhere else downtown.

From the looks of it, I really don't see why people are so up in arms about it. It is a very nice-looking building that will blend in well with its surroundings; kudos to the architect. This is exactly why there shouldn't be a height limit downtown.
Here it is, from the front page of the Huntsville Times:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Height limits debated again....

The recently-imposed downtown height limit was debated at yesterday's planning subcommittee meeting. The limit is currently at 10 stories and 150 feet. By comparison, Regions Center, the tallest building in the CBD, is 170 feet. Some of the projects that have been hampered by the limit:
  • Randy Scrimsher's two downtown residential projects: A 24-story condo tower at the corner of Holmes and Jefferson and an apartment building at Holmes and Lincoln.
  • The Constellation mixed-use project, being developed by Scott McLain, has proposed 5-and 7-story buildings, but the current limit restricts buildings across the street from a residential neighborhood to no more than two floors. A housing project is located across Memorial Parkway from the development.
  • According to McLain, "out-of-town" developers dropped plans to build a 20-story hotel downtown because they did not want to "fight city hall" with the height limit.
My two cents: Huntsville has to make do with a downtown area designed for a town of 20,000, and space is an issue. With land prices being so high in the CBD, developers want to make the most of their land investment. And a 10-story building sometimes doesn't cut it. Huntsville is approaching 200,000 people, with a region of 700,000; we need a skyline that reflects that. A downtown skyline gives outsiders an image of the city. Do we really want people to think that Huntsville isn't willing to progress and move forward?

I think that the downtown height limits should be looked at through a case-by-case basis. A one or two block "buffer zone" between the Twickenham/Old Town neighborhoods and the CBD can be put in place, but at a more reasonable 60-70 ft. (4-5 floors) instead of 30 ft. Leave the rest of the downtown area unrestricted. If taller buildings bring more people downtown and in turn make it more vibrant, then I can handle a couple of "shadows, light intrusions and noisy ventilation systems."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Meeting set to discuss downtown parking garage/apartment building

Looks like Randy Scrimsher's long-awaited downtown condo (now apartment) building is finally coming to life. A meeting has been set for Monday night at City Hall to discuss plans for his planned apartment building and an adjacent city parking garage. The six-story garage will have 400-500 spaces and 10,000 sq. ft in retail space on the ground floor (the city has talked to a sandwich shop, dry cleaners and a small grocery store). Construction will begin by this summer.

Scrimsher's downtown residential development was announced about 5 years ago as a 21-story condo tower with a parking garage. When it seemed like it was dead, the development came up again last year during a height limits debate. I'm not sure how tall the building will be- I've heard anything from 10 stories to 25. But a rendering will probably be shown at the meeting on Monday, and all will be revealed.

Also, there was something else that was interesting in the article: city director for Parking and Public Transit Tommy Brown said that the next possible location for more city parking is at the corner of Green and Eustis, with the potential of development there.

Huntsville Times article: New parking, apartments downtown

UPDATE: It appears that this is a totally different project than the 21 (now 24) story condo project proposed earlier. Even better! Thanks to "HSVTiger" for clarifying that.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ovation dies, Constellation lives

Ovation is now officially dead as of 5pm yesterday (Feb. 5). That was the deadline for Triad Properties to find an adequate restaurant tenant for the Summit office building, or they would lose the lease option for a proposed condo building adjacent to it. There are no plans to extend the option.

However, also yesterday during an emergency Planning Commission meeting, the Constellation mixed-use development was saved from possible doom. Developer Scott McLain said that one of the hotels proposed for the project was in jeopardy if action wasn't taken on approving the project. The two hotels, a Courtyard by Marriott and a Spring Hill Suites, will be the first part of the project to begin construction, which could be later this month or next. Constellation also includes retail/restaurant space, office space, and 80-100 condos priced at $200,000-300,000, a bargain compared to other downtown condo projects and the now-dead Ovation, where condos would have gone for more than $400,000.

Huntsville Times article: One project is dead, second ok'd

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Terry Heights redevelopment

The Housing Authority is asking for proposals for redeveloping the Terry Heights neighborhood, which includes the Sparkman Homes housing project. The neighborhood is located along Holmes Avenue just west of downtown. The study is part of a plan to build a consolidated elementary school in the neighborhood. The deadline for the study proposals is February 22.

In the past couple of years, the Housing Authority has been looking at redeveloping its housing projects, especially the ones closest to downtown. The Councill Court project between downtown and the Medical District could be sold to a developer and redeveloped as early as this year. And a couple of weeks ago, the Searcy Homes project was purchased by the city and will be razed for a greenway along Pinhook Creek and a possible future expansion of the Von Braun Center. The projects to the northwest of downtown are probably next- the Downtown Master Plan designates that area as a future "office district."