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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Council Court is "for sale"... sort of

The remaining 16.3 acres of the Councill Court housing project is now up for sale, in a way. The Huntsville Housing Authority, which currently owns the land sandwiched between downtown and the Medical District, is accepting offers for all or part of the land until April 15th, when-- if a buyer hasn't been found-- a Realtor will take over for HHA. The land is valued at around $20 million.

While I don't think the land will be sold as a whole (I doubt anyone can get $20M+ in financing these days), I do think the city should have discretion on who buys what. This is an opportunity to get the critical mass of residents needed to bring more shops, quick-service restaurants, clubs, even a bookstore and/or grocery store downtown. It would be a terrible waste of valuable land if, say, Huntsville Hospital buys the whole place.

My ideas: A new urban neighborhood

My proposal for Councill Court is to make it the urban neighborhood that Huntsville never had. This is a chance to make a community where people can walk or bike to just about anything, given they work in downtown or the Medical District. If you're not familiar with the area, refer to the map above. The gray-roof buildings in the center is Councill Court. The odd-shaped building on the left is the main library, and Huntsville Hospital is on the bottom.

Throughout the neighborhood and beyond: Pedestrian/bike access to Huntsville Hospital, downtown along Gallatin, and Big Spring Park via Lowe would be greatly improved, with wider sidewalks and more visible pedestrian crosswalks. Some small spaces, including along the creek/ditch/canal on the northern side, would be set aside as parks/greenspace.

Along St. Clair: A row of 3-4 story brick office buildings with retail/restaurants on the bottom floor, anchored by a 6 story medical office building at St. Clair and Gallatin. On-street parking would be available along with the Huntsville Hospital garage at Turner/St. Clair being expanded/converted into a public garage.

Along Gallatin: A pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined commercial district, with 3-4 story buildings similar to St. Clair, but have loft apartments/condos on the upper floors instead of offices. Commercial would be anchored by a small urban grocery store and a multi-screen movie theater.
On-street parking would be available, with public parking garages on the north and south ends of the district.

Along Pelham/new side streets: A mix of 2-3 story townhomes and 1-2 bedroom apartments. Townhomes will go for around $200,000; apartments at about $600-1000/month-- comparable with living in the suburbs, and much more affordable than what is cuurently offered downtown.


Atrian said...

I like your proposal, and it would be totally awesome if that happened. But I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Huntsville Hospital bought it.

Anonymous said...

Your proposal sounds good and would probably happen if Huntsville were Washington, DC or San Diego or some other progressivly run city. Alas, it is Huntsville, so I wouldn't get your hopes up too much. Having said that, a project like that probably has a better chance under the current mayor than under Loretta Spencer, so we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

The Huntsville Housing Authority is planning to build an assisted living facility somewhere on this property. CCC was low bidder and is in planning

James said...

^I talked about the senior housing complex (Gateway Place) in an October 2008 post.