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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.

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.