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Friday, April 24, 2009

Lowe Mill Revitalization Continues

At the Huntsville City Council meeting last night announced an agreement with GreenCiti, LLC for the ongoing Lowe Mill neighborhood revitalization project. Last year, the city announced a public-private agreement to build/renovate homes in the area-- this was suspected at the time to be the main reason why the Downtown Rescue Mission was forced out of the neighborhood. Either way, it's a step in the right direction-- the homes will go for $100,000-150,000, giving people who want to live in a relatively safe/vibrant neighborhood near downtown another option other than more expensive places like Five Points.


Atrian said...

I'm really excited about this, but I don't know how they will make the area safe. Last time I went for a walk around there with a friend we saw rusty old razor blades all over the place. I really hope they get it all into shape. I love the Flying Monkey, and it would be awesome to be able to live next door to it.

Anonymous said...

This is really good news.

I grew up in Huntsville but now live in Washington, DC. The revitalization process in DC began in the 80's, and has accelerated dramatically since the 90's, so I can tell you how the process goes, as I've lived in several transitional neighborhoods in DC and seen the full cycle.

First, the city or a big private developer or both has to make a big impact to get the ball rolling. In DC, it was a new baseball stadium, or a city tax incentive for people to buy the houses and live in them, or the city relocating "services" in the neighborhood that make it undesirable.

Next, "urban pioneers" move in. These are usually people that value being close to downtown, have money to buy a house, but don't want to live in an expensive historic district. These people frequently are gay/lesbian couples, artists, punks, and others. This is the transitional phase. Crime and safety are still issues, but the people that move in deal with it one way or another.

At first, businesses are few, outside of liquor stores and chinese carry-outs, but slowly new businesses spring up to cater to the new demographic. Coffee shops, organic grocery stores, health food stores, Yoga studios, independent stores, etc. all begin to move in.

At some point, the mainstream begins to notice and the neighborhood gets labeled as "cool" or "hip". Better heeled people that like to think of themselves as "cool" or "hip" begin to move in. The first wave of independent stores get replaced by chain stores like Crate and Barrel, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc. At this point the cycle has completed, and adjacent neighborhoods have already entered earlier steps of the cycle.

All of this, of course depends on the economic fundamentals of the city. If a city is losing people overall like Cleveland or Detroit, then this process is nearly impossible to pull off. But if a city is growing and there's real pent up demand for city living, as in DC, then it works very quickly.

I imagine Huntsville would be a lot like DC, and would be pretty successful with urban renewal. This is good that the city finally has a more progressive leader that is encouraging stuff like this, instead of neverending sprawl to Athens.

James said...

@ Atrian: Many of the current homes in Lowe Mill are rented out, and statistically, neighborhoods with a high number of rentals have higher crime rates. The new/renovated homes will be bought rather than rented out. The purpose of this initial public-private partnership is to start a chain reaction of similar projects, which will help the area become more of a buyer's neighborhood.

@ Anonymous from DC: Great comment. The rebirth of DC in the past few decades has been nothing short of amazing. I've been to Washington twice (in 2003 and 2007), and the transformation the city made even in those four years was huge.

The "urban core" of Huntsville still has a very long way to go before it reinvents itself the way DC did, the first of which is convincing people that having vibrant urban neighborhoods is good for the whole city. Plus there are plenty of density and walkability issues to be resolved, two things Washington didn't have to worry as much about when it decided to revitalize.

Anonymous said...

There is a great renovated house for sale on Boardman, and it looks like they are building a brand new house right next to it. Things are finally starting to happen!