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Monday, August 3, 2009

Looking Elsewhere...

Well, it's been a slow couple of weeks in Huntsville's urban development (it's always like this this time of year), so I thought we might look at what other cities in the region are doing:

Nashville's Gulch district is having trouble filling 800 condos built in the district in the past few years, according to The Tennessean. Despite TIF District improvements and its proximity to downtown, Music Row, and the West End (Nashville's Medical District), nothing could stop the recession; only 165 condos have sold in the three largest high-rise projects. However, it has had some success in bringing restaurants, clubs, and retail. Some familiar names, like Cantina Laredo and Urban Outfitters, have opened up shop there in the past year.

Those looking for more Sweetwater-type mega-developments might be interested in May Town Center, a project struggling to get approval from Nashville's planning board, partly because of access issues to the project, which will be surrounded on three sides by the Cumberland River. Another reason for the opposition is that it will be located in Bells Bend, a mostly agricultural area that is one of the last major open spaces left in Davidson County.

Chattanooga has 1-up-ped us again. A Monaco-style 12-screen movie theater is under construction downtown to replace the Bijou, a theater built during the first revitalization about 20 years ago. RiverCity Company, a non-profit organization responsible for much of Chattanooga's rebirth (Huntsville has tried to imitate its success with an organization called Big Spring Partners. Never heard of them? Exactly.) is developing the project along with Carmike Cinemas.

Birmingham is looking at building a downtown ballpark (sound familiar?) for the Barons, who currently play at Regions Park in Hoover. A development company is looking at the site near Railroad Park for the new stadium.


Mari said...

I think we should copy Chattanooga. its slightly smaller and similar looking to Huntsville, and their downtown is pretty good considering they're a small industrial city. Aquarium, Museums, Imax, and now a new Monaco-ripoff theater? Huntsville needs some gimicks downtown like that to attract some tourism. I know we have the Space and Rocket Center, but that was so 1992, plus its too far away. And moving a ballpark downtown? Well okay, maybe, but ...really, who goes to see the Stars? All they're good at is cleaning out my wallet and losing. It would also be harder for them to do their fireworks shows without a good amount of space I'm assuming, and thats the only reason anyone in my family goes to Joe Davis anymore.

jacob said...

I think you're exactly right Mari, Huntsville should be taking a long look at Chattanooga. A few times a year my family goes to the riverfront in Chattanooga. We stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, and walk to the IMAX, aquarium, riverfront, restaurants, and Creative kids museum. The kids have a great time, and it's a quick convenient drive for a weekend vacation.

Now look at our city; the Space & Rocket center accounts for just about 100% of Huntsville tourism. Sure, it's a fascinating place, but it doesn't hold a lot of repeat value. You're also not going to spend more than a few hours there.

So what other reasons do tourists have to come to Huntsville? The next runners-up aren't exactly compelling - the botanical gardens, burritt, early works? They're fun places for a Saturday afternoon, but not anything that visitors don't already have in their own hometowns.

Howard said...

Just found the blog today and I find it very fascinating to read. Thank You!

When it comes to tourism, I don't think you should ever copy what another city has done. The lesson one should learn from taking a look at Chattanooga is that they were innovative and Huntsville hasn't been. Aquariums and Zoos are done well enough and often enough by other cities IMO.

I would recommend trying to identify the culture of Huntsville and then exploit that and put it on display for the world. The space center does that appropriately, but I think Huntsville has even more to offer.