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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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Pedestrian-only Courthouse Square?

Greg Hathorn, of Sam and Greg's Pizza, talked to WHNT about an idea he had for the Courthouse Square downtown-- close parts of the square to cars and create a "city market." While creating a mini-Pike Place Market might work, shutting down a part of the relatively busy square might be tough. The east and west sides of the square (Washington/Franklin and Jefferson/Madison streets, respectively) are the main routes in and out of downtown, and Southside is used to connect the two, so closing down any of those to vehicular traffic would be impossible unless the city wants to create gridlock and confusion. The northside of the square is less traveled than the other three, so that would be the only feasible location for a public market. Also, it just so happens to be where Sam and Greg's is located, so I'm sure they'll want to be part of their own project.

UPDATE 4/09: A website has now been launched--http://www.marketplaceonthesquare.com/

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.