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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, August 18, 2010

Mellow Mushroom coming to Jones Valley

Love Mellow Mushroom, but live on the South side and don't want to drive all the way out to Providence? Sometime next year, you won't have to.

Mellow Mushroom is opening its second Huntsville restaurant on Cecil Ashburn, at the base of Huntsville Mountain. "Longtime" readers of the blog may notice that this is on the same site as the proposed St. James Place retail/office development that died early last year. The rest of the site isn't being developed, for now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Downtown Development Goals' Announced

This morning (Tuesday), the city of Huntsville along with the non-profit development corporation Big Spring Partners, the UAH Jazz Ensemble and "Tallulah Bankhead," held a media event to announce their goals for raising awareness and developing the city center. This comes a year after 200 leaders and developers made an "ideas trip" to Chattanooga.

While no specific projects were announced at this event, some rather vague goals were laid out:
  • Create a long-term plan for downtown. I thought that was what the Downtown Master Plan, last updated in 2006, was for. However, I would like to see more public involvement the next time it's updated.
  • Compile a list of restaurants, retail, companies, etc. that would work downtown, and bring them there. Not a bad idea, though I would take it a step further-- identify undeveloped and underutilized lots (surface parking, non-historic buildings) and see how each one can be redeveloped to fit with the broader scope of downtown.
  • Build a consensus among the community on downtown growth. See "long-term plan."
  • Create a long-term funding strategy for improvements. What has made Chattanooga's downtown so great? A community that supported it not only with their feet, but with their money. Many of the improvements to their downtown have been funded through private sources. Huntsville is beginning to see this with the work of Jim Hudson and the late Mark Smith (through his wife, Linda).
  • Get people downtown! It's pretty self-explanatory, but it's rather hard to do in reality. It's the old "chicken or the egg" question-- what should come first: the residents or the businesses?
All of this would be great, but we have a whole lot of catching up to do; we're at least twenty years behind most cities in terms of downtown redevelopment.

Also of note-- several representatives from Sci-Quest were in attendance. While their intent on moving the science museum downtown is no secret, this could mean that the move could occur sooner than later.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Offices at Madison Square? They're coming.

UPDATE (8/10): The development will be called "Enterprise Center at Madison Square."Also, the former Steve and Barry's will be converted into office space as well, along with some smaller first-floor space near Buffalo Wild Wings (see updated map below). In all, nearly 138,000 square feet of retail space will be converted, or about 15% of the mall.

Have you ever wanted to work in a shopping mall--work that wouldn't involve the cookie cart or Foot Locker? Your chance may be coming, if Madison Square's developers (Chattanooga-based CBL) have their way. They're expected to announce as early as this week that the old Pizitz/McRae's/Belk anchor-- approximately 100,000 sq. ft.-- will be (at least partially) converted into office space. The store has been vacant since Belk moved to the Parisian space in 2007. Some readers may note that the anchor space is still owned by the Pizitz family of Birmingham-- it will be interesting to see what kind of involvement they have in this redevelopment.
Yellow-- the old McRae's/Belk space that will be completely converted. Orange-- the second level will be converted, whereas the first level will be a retail/office mix.

It's definitely not the complete overhaul I've proposed for the 25-year-old mall that's nearing the end of its useful life. But at least it's a start.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July 2010 on Facebook and Twitter

Get these updates quicker by following my Twitter and/or Facebook feeds. 

July 5: Nashville plans to launch a bike-share program similar to what is now in place (and wildly popular) in cities like Denver, Washington, and Montreal. Paris launched the first bike-sharing system (called Velib) in 2007; it allows users to rent bikes from one station and return them to any station in the city. While it would be great to have a similar system in place here in Huntsville, it would require a significant investment in bike infrastructure (bike lanes, greenways) in order to be successful (and safe).

July 12: Downtown Madison is getting a slight expansion. A 20,000 square foot building is proposed, with retail space on the ground floor and office space on the upper floor.

July 19: Momma Goldberg's Deli, an Auburn tradition, is opening its first Huntsville restaurant in the Village on Whitesburg (Fresh Market center). An opening is expected in late August or early September, just in time for football season.

July 26: The $2.6 million Space Center-Botanical Garden tramway is now open, running three times a day, two days a week. The funding was provided by congressional earmarks from Senator Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa). I asked the Facebook followers of the blog what they would have done with the money if they were the senator. Some of the responses included a Research Park circulator bus and more greenways.

July 29: Newk's Express Cafe is opening its second Huntsville restaurant on Whitesburg in the Piedmont Point shopping center (Publix).

July 30:  Jon Busdecker, entertainment writer for the Times, is leaving for Orlando, but not before giving his ideas for improving downtown to cater to the younger crowd. Before anything happens, we need masses of people downtown, patronizing the existing businesses and activities and demanding that more should be done, like the "Bus." As soon as Pane e Vino has the same wait time as, say, PF Chang's at Bridge Street, the pieces will fall into place quickly. 
Some of my ideas for improving downtown, along with some from others, can be found here