Despite these successes, North Huntsville had the second-highest commercial vacancy rate in the city in 2009 (10.8%, behind University) according to Graham and Company.
The North Parkway commercial corridor is different from South Parkway in several ways. First off, the storefront vacancies aren't mostly concentrated in one shopping center, as they are on the South side (in Haysland Square). Second, I have noticed in my research that there is a lack of modern retail space. Many of the shopping centers along the corridor were built in the early- to mid-1960s, and it appears that most haven't been renovated since. This hampers the ability to attract retailers, except for the ones whose only requirement is super-cheap rent-- such as check-cashing centers and thrift stores, which happen to be the anchor tenants of these strip malls.
Any developer will tell you that one major problem with the Parkway (North and South) is that as the road has expanded, the commercial zoning along the corridor has not, leaving little space for major redevelopment projects. My solution to this problem is to turn storefronts away from the Parkway and towards the secondary streets, treating it more like a limited-access freeway rather than a frontage road (see Builder's Square concept below for an illustration).
Some reasonable ideas for North Parkway were submitted by users of the City of Huntsville Ideas Map, including a grocery store, a hotel, and a fitness center. A new grocery store has been a top demand from North Huntsville residents for years now. The hotel and fitness center ideas were new to me, but both seemed logical, as there aren't any good options for either on the North end of town (though A&M recently opened a fitness center).
The maps below are a compilation of ideas for North Parkway's "Opportunity Sites"-- underutilized commercial sites that are in need of a little attention from their owners.
View Ideas for North Parkway in a larger map
I know there are several smaller sites in the area not shown on the map that are in need of a little TLC, but I'm hoping that some more visible redevelopment would draw other land owners to clean up their properties.
Finally, I wanted to focus on one Opportunity Site-- the 135,000 sq. ft. shopping center at Max Luther and the Parkway that once was occupied by Builder's Square and Food World and now houses a flea market, Furniture-4-Less (super super super sofa sale!) and Dirt Cheap. As this is the largest of the seven Opportunity Sites and the most expandable, I thought this would be the best place for a mixed-use redevelopment concept.
|Illustration: Google Maps/James Vandiver|
What do you think needs to be done on North Parkway? What kind of retail do you think would work there? Comment below, or use Facebook, Twitter, or email to share your thoughts.