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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.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Huntsville Hospital wins Madison Hospital

A lengthy (7 years) battle for state approvals and the appeals that followed have ended in vain for Crestwood Medical Center. According to a press release, the hospital's board of trustees decided not to appeal a recent circuit court ruling to uphold the state Certificate of Need Review Board's approval of Huntsville Hospital's proposed Madison Hospital. The competing hospitals proposed separate hospitals along 72 West between Wall Triana and Balch. Huntsville Hospital's proposal is a full-service 60-bed medical center, a centerpiece in their already partially-built "Madison Medical Park." A list of proposed services can be seen on their site. No word yet on when the hospital will open, but hopefully it'll be soon-- an estimated 90,000 people now live in Western Madison County/East Limestone, which, if it were all incorporated as one city, would be the 5th largest in Alabama.

Side note- a Georgia developer last year proposed a 4-story medical office building next to the proposed hospital along 72. No word on if that's still going to happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Defense Aquisition University building CRP office

Defense Aquisition University, or DAU, will break ground in a couple of weeks on a new $12.3 million office building where classes will be held to train federal employees. The 50,000 sq. ft plus building will be located on Old Madison Pike, and will open late this year.

Catholic High breaking ground on new campus

Catholic High School (my alma mater) broke ground on their new campus off of Old Madison Pike today, five years after the school bought the 55-acre site from the UAH Foundation. The new campus will allow the school to have 400-600 students enrolled upon completion. The current campus, which opened in 1996 in a renovated office building in Research Park East with 40 students, is now at capacity with 320 students. Expected completion of the new school will be in mid-2010, with the construction of athletic fields coming later.

Go Falcons.

Park Tower "on hold indefinitely"

In another blow to downtown redevelopment, 200 Park Tower, a project that was to renovate the 9-story office building overlooking Big Spring Park, is now on hold indefinitely, due to a lawsuit filed in August of last year by a group of California investors against the local developers, Park Tower, LLC. The California investors, under the name San Francisco Residence Club (after an old hotel/hostel in the Nob Hill area in SF that seems to have closed a few years ago), claim to have invested $6 million in a ground lease on the building, according to court documents and the Huntsville Times.

The project was expected to begin this spring, but with no news about it in at least a year, I had little hope for it anyway.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kroger planning new store at 72 and Nance

A reader's email I received last week prompted me to look at the parcel of land at the northeast corner of the intersection of Nance Road and 72 West. They wanted to know if I had heard anything about a new Kroger at the location, but I had not. Sure enough, here it is, hidden in a deed to Bank Independent (they're building a new branch here as well) on September 16, 2008:

"Owner of Lot 2... shall solicit approval from The Kroger Company for the development and operation of a new store (the 'Kroger Store') on parts of Lot 2."

Further on in the deed, there are signs that an announcement could happen by June 1st. By the way, "Lot 1" is the immediate corner of Nance and 72, and is where the Bank Independent branch will be built. The Kroger will be located right behind it on a part of "Lot 2."

As always, no lease has been signed, so nothing is official yet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Watercress anchor: Earth Fare?

Yet another blurry site plan has come up, leading me to believe that Earth Fare, a North Carolina-based chain of organic grocery stores, could be another possible anchor tenant for the Watercress development, only adding to the confusion around the project. Until now, there have been rumors and speculation that Kroger would build a store here, with the only proof being a suspicious symbol on the City of Huntsville's development map.

Once again, this is only an educated guess from looking at the site plan above. All I know for sure is this: the words in the anchor tenant aren't "grocery store" or "Kroger." If you believe you have a better guess, feel free to comment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Huntsville Stimulus Package: $570 Million and Growing

The Huntsville Times in today's edition did a special report on Huntsville's wish list of projects included in a "Main Street Stimulus" plan created by the US Conference of Mayors. Huntsville alone has a total of $568,762,000 in projects on the list. And while most of it probably won't ever get the President's signature, it does give us a good look at the city's "wish list" of projects in the next couple of years.

For downtown, the city list includes three new parking garages, the Gateway Place senior housing facility in the former Councill Court area, and a "Courthouse Square Improvement Project." The list has revitalization projects (totaling $24.5M) in the Terry Heights and Lowe Mill neighborhoods, two inner west side areas that have been targeted for gentrification in recent years. It includes new parks, infrastructure improvements, and a grocery store/food co-op in Terry Heights.

And for whatever reason, either intentional or unintentional, the Times did not list any of the projects labeled as "Transit." So here they are:
  • 15 new buses with alternative fuel capability: $3.75M (the city currently has 15 city buses, and has talked about replacing them gradually with biodiesel-powered buses)
  • Replace the city's two trolley buses: $500,000
  • Updated transit center message board: $15,000
  • Bus camera systems for all 15 buses: $75,000
  • Replace bus stops and system maps: $25,000
  • 25 new bus shelters: $125,000
You can look at the complete list of projects for the city of Huntsville here.

And on a side note-- Edwardsville, Alabama (population 194 according to Census estimates) has a $375 million list of projects, ranging from $43,000 for solar panels on its city hall and senior center to $37 million for an "electric solar enhanced railroad line for support of local vineyards and tourism" that would dual as "transport for local schools."

Whether or not any of this money should come out of a stimulus package intended for rebuilding this nation's failing infrastructure, I'll leave that up to your own opinion.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bridge Street plans another office tower

Now that the first 6-story office building is fully leased by defense contractor CSC (no telling what happened to the insurance and dentist offices that were originally planned to occupy space), the developers are now planning a second office tower similar to the first. There are a couple of possible locations for it, including next to the DSW and some vacant areas north of the lake.

The early Bridge Street plans called for at least 3 6-story office buildings.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Development: A Look Ahead

So, now that the new year is here, what can we expect this year in developments? Here's a "brief" list of my predictions, moving roughly west to east for no reason:
  • The "Water" mega-developments, Sweetwater and WaterStone- both of these projects are unrealistically large as proposed, especially in this economy. Expect them to be downsized. Sweetwater will become merely an outlet center, but Bass Pro Shops will remain. There's no way 2,700 single-family homes can be sold 25 miles away from Huntsville! Plus, that's just wasteful sprawl. WaterStone will probably keep much of its retail portion, but scrap its medical and some of its office plans, and hopefully some of its massive parking lots...
  • Madison developments- Colonial Promenade (the Wal-Mart on 72 West) will definitely break ground early this year; Academy Sports could be announced as its secondary anchor. Madison Lakes and The Peaks are more iffy on their timelines, with both scheduled for "mid-2009."
  • More on 72 West- Watercress will probably break ground on its apartment portion early this year, with the retail portion (a Kroger or other grocery-anchored shopping center) coming later. And will Providence residents get their urban-ish grocery store at long last-- will it be Whole Foods, EarthFare, or something different? And, more importantly, where's Mellow Mushroom!? Hopefully they'll stick to their April deadline.
  • Research Park- More office developments, go figure. Phase II of Bridge Street, with a Sports Authority as an anchor, will at least partially open. Just to the south next to Redstone Arsenal, a hotel/office/retail project by mall developer Jim Wilson and Associates has a good chance of getting off the ground this year.
  • Downtown/Center City- Hopefully 2009 will treat downtown much better than 2008. The height limits that have choked projects in the CBD will be eased/lifted, opening the door for several developments to get off the ground. If that happens, the plans for Constellation and Councill Court will become clearer, and some high-rises will be announced. A major VBC expansion/renovation project will begin in the spring. Also, expect more gentrification projects in the Lincoln, Merrimack, Lowe, and Five Points neighborhoods.
  • East Huntsville- Probably the most frequently e-mailed question: What happened to Harris Hill- is it dead? No. It's not. A major tenant announcement could come early in the year just to keep nosy people like myself occupied, with construction starting in the fall at the earliest. And a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at Shields and 72 will be "officially" announced.
  • Metro-wide: A resurgence of Kroger. Dunkin Donuts returns to Huntsville after a decade-long absence. At least six new hotels.