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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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Patriots fullback interested in opening Dunkin Donuts stores here

In honor of the Super Bowl this Sunday, I found this blog post on the National Post (Canada) website. New England Patriots fullback Heath Evans was quoted that he was interested in opening Dunkin Donuts franchises in four Alabama cities: Auburn, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville. Dunkin Donuts has been looking at opening new stores in Alabama cities as part of its massive nationwide expansion. Their plans for Huntsville haven't been announced, but they are interested in building over 70 Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins locations in the Birmingham area starting later this year.

Hyatt Place coming to Huntsville

According to a press release, a Hyatt Place hotel has been approved for Huntsville in 2008. It is part of the new chain's expansion to include 200 hotels by the end of 2008, which also includes hotels for downtown Birmingham and Chattanooga. No word on where or how large this hotel will be, but it might be the proposed hotel slated to open in Providence later this year.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Too little, too late for Ovation?

The Huntsville Times reported today that a brew pub is lined up to take 6,000 sq.ft. of first-floor space reserved for a restaurant in the Big Spring Summit office building, along with space on the top floor for private parties. This does meet the space requirement to build Ovation; however, it is too late to get building permits approved by next week's deadline. So, in all likelihood, the project is now dead.

UPDATE: Triad Properties said that the first floor would have a "family-oriented, medium price-range restaurant" with an upscale bar on the top level.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Downtown parking garage design contract approved

Plans for a proposed six-level parking garage on a city-owned vacant lot at Holmes and Greene moved forward at last night's City Council meeting. A $437,700 design contract was awarded to Bill Peters Architects. But what was interesting about this that the garage was being built "in tandem with an apartment development," according to the Huntsville Times article. Could this be Randy Scrimsher's long-awaited 21-story tower, and/or the mysterious 15-story apartment complex found on Bidclerk last month (it could be built on top of the garage, making it 21 floors)? Expect an announcement soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mellow Mushroom coming to Providence? Or Jones Valley, maybe?

Rumors are floating around that the famed Atlanta pizza chain Mellow Mushroom will be opening a restaurant in Huntsville this year. Providence seems the most likely location, but Jones Valley isn't out of the question either. It has been a long time coming- a quick look at their website shows that every major city surrounding Huntsville, along with places like Auburn and Oxford (south of Anniston), has at least one.

By coincidence, I checked out the Mellow Mushroom in downtown Chattanooga last week, and it was darn good. I recommend everyone to try it out when it comes to Huntsville.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New homes in Five Points

Normally, a 15-home development is not big news around here. But this one is unique because of its location. A developer more well-known for his developments in the Monrovia area is building up to 15 homes along Rison Street in Five Points. The houses will be built similar to the historic bungalow-style mill houses that are common in the area, and will be priced at about $170,000. The Northeast Huntsville neighborhood has been on the rebound for the past decade with a reputation for being trendy and appealing for young professionals.

Huntsville Times article: New for Five Points

A new medical district forming on Whitesburg

A sudden boom in medical office space near Crestwood Medical Center in South Huntsville is creating a second medical district along Whitesburg Drive. Five medical office buildings with 200,000 sq ft of space are either planned or under construction near the hospital.
  • Triad Properties, the developer of the Summit office building downtown, is planning to build two office buildings on the former site of the Mayfair Church of Christ. The $18M Mayfair Professional Center will have 105,000 sq ft of space, and construction is expected to begin in April.
  • A development company is nearing completion on a two-story office building on the former site of the Girl Scouts building.
  • SportsMed is constructing a massive expansion of their campus. It is scheduled for completion in late 2009.
  • Walker Family Properties, the developers of Harris Hills in Northeast Huntsville, will finish the Bellwood Office Center in late spring.
Huntsville Times article: A second almost instant medical district

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Decatur unveils downtown redevelopment plan

Using inspirations from a trip to Greenville, SC last year, Decatur city leaders unveiled a new plan to revitalize the downtown area at a meeting Wednesday night. The idea is that public infrastructure improvements, such as planting trees, replacing concrete with brick in sidewalks, etc. will bring more private investment.

Decatur Daily article: Ready to turn dirt

James' note: The article states that Greenville and Decatur are about the same size. While the city populations are about the same (around 55,000), the metro populations (what really counts these days) are not at all similar. The Huntsville-Decatur CSA is around 530,000, while the Greenville-Spartanburg CSA has a population of around 1 million. That's a pretty big difference.

More growth in Madison

A Madison Record article from January 17th discussed new businesses coming to Madison in the next few weeks and months:

  • Lawlers Barbecue opened their new Madison restaurant on Hughes Road today. It is the regional chain's sixth restaurant.
  • The new Publix on County Line Road will open on January 23rd at the Village Shops of Madison shopping center. It will be the third Publix in Madison and the ninth in the metro area.
  • Huntsville's specialty chocolate store The Fudgey Nut is opening a new Madison location across from the new Publix.
  • Woody Anderson Ford broke ground on a new Madison showroom on US 72 West this week. Woody Anderson West will also include a service center. It is projected to open this summer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A new city hall coming?

Huntsville's nine-story City Hall, built in the 1960s, is beginning to show its age. Last month, the area surrounding City Hall was fenced off for fears that pieces of the marble facade on the building might fall off. City councilman Glenn Watson suggested in today's Huntsville Times that it might be cheaper to build a completely new complex. He suggested two sites: the large gravel parking lot on Clinton Avenue across from the Post Office and at the new Constellation development. The old city hall could be bought and renovated by a private developer to be converted into condos or offices, or it could be demolished to make way for more greenspace. The fate of City Hall will be discussed at this Thursday's City Council work session.

Colonial Promenade Huntsville to open in early 2010

A question in the Huntsville Times' Ask Us section in the Wednesday, January 16th edition addressed how long it had been since an update for Colonial Properties' new development at US 72 West and Balch Road. The project, tentatively called Colonial Promenade Huntsville, was announced about a year ago with Wal-Mart as the main anchor tenant. An Amstar movie multiplex was also planned, along with apartments. The column said that construction should start within the next year, with completion in early 2010 in order to "accommodate one of the major anchor players and other retailers."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bruegger's closes downtown; Ovation in jeopardy

According to the Huntsville Times, the Bruegger's bagel/sandwich shop at downtown's Big Spring Summit office building closed this weekend due to poor traffic. This will make it harder for Triad Properties, the Huntsville-based developer of the Summit, to meet a 3,000 sq. ft restaurant requirement in order to build the next phase of the project- Ovation, an 8-story condo tower planned adjacent to the Summit. The city council imposed the requirement a year ago to make the building more open to the public. Triad has until February 8th to meet that requirement, or the development option for Ovation is terminated.

My two cents: If Triad had really cared about building Ovation, an adequate restaurant would have been signed by now. Ovation was flawed from the beginning with poor design and advertisement. And for the argument that these projects are encroaching on the park- personally, I would rather have a well-designed condo building there than some overgrown bushes and a 2-level parking garage, which is what will be demolished if something is built there someday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Decatur Mall renovation/expansion plans

Decatur Mall's new managing company, Atlanta-based Jones Lang LaSalle, outlined their plans to revitalize the 1970s mall to mayor Don Kyle last week, according to the Decatur Daily. The plans include relocating the Regal Cinemas movie theater and a new freestanding structure for small shops. The city will provide funding for infrastructure improvements, including constructing an access road on the southern side of the mall. Decatur Mall was built in the 1970s and has been deteriorating in the past few years. Its anchors include Sears, Belk, JC Penney, and Dillard's.

According to the article, another change is happening to the mall this month. Dillard's is consolidating their stores in and around the mall. A "grand reopening" is scheduled for February.

UPDATE: According to Bidclerk, the mall renovation is planned to commence in September, and will also include adding outdoor entrances to certain stores.

Friday, January 4, 2008

DeBartolo pulls out of Zierdt Road project

DeBartolo Development, the Tampa-based developer behind the controversial "Peaks at Southchase" project proposed for the intersection of Zierdt Road and I-565, has pulled out of the project, according to WAFF-TV. It is possible that another developer will pick up the project where it left off. But if the project still hinges on ALDOT approval of an interchange at 565 and Zierdt, it could be years before it is built.

As of the night of January 4th, the DeBartolo website still has a page on the Peaks project.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Recent BRAC articles

Two publications in the region recently ran articles talking about the coming impact of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) in their areas. As you all already know, BRAC will be the largest single economic development in the Huntsville area since Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center opened here in the 1950s. It will bring 5,000 direct jobs to Redstone Arsenal, mostly from Northern Virginia, but also from places like Atlanta and Southeast Alabama (Dothan area). It is also expected to bring an additional 5,000 indirect jobs in everything from private military contractors to fast food. In all, a total of 40,000 more people will call the Huntsville region home before BRAC is expected to be compete in 2011. Of course, not all of them will move into the city of Huntsville, or Madison County, for that matter. That is why cities as far away as The Shoals (about 65 miles from Huntsville) are courting potential commuters.

A Sand Mountain Reporter article in the January 1st edition talks about the impact of BRAC on Marshall County and how it has made it a major part of the greater Huntsville area. Three cities in particular- Arab, Guntersville, and Grant- are actively pursuing companies and people affected by BRAC.

An editorial in Business Tennessee magazine's January edition talks about how the state of Tennessee should work more closely and compete with Huntsville, which is only 20 miles from the state. The editor says that, with Tennessee's "business-friendly" environment and no state income tax, the state could do well in attracting business and commuters from BRAC. This will be especially true in places like Fayetteville and Lincoln County, which is poised to see a population boom in the next few years as Huntsville growth continues to move north. Franklin County, TN is another county to watch, as land prices are already rising rapidly there.