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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ideas for North Parkway

Before I discuss what's wrong with North Parkway, let's take a look at what's happened on the corridor in recent history. Starting in the late 1990s, a dead mall was demolished and replaced with a Home Depot, Staples, and Costco. An aging/closing Kroger site was redeveloped as a Lowe's. Sam's Club moved elsewhere, but was soon replaced by Gander Mountain. Walmart opened a new Supercenter in 2004, replacing a trailer park; the store it once occupied is now home to Big Lots and Tractor Supply. Kroger recently renovated their Oakwood Avenue store. So while some might look at developments like Parkway Place and Bridge Street and think that North Parkway was somehow "left out," if you think about it, a lot has happened on the corridor, much of it redevelopment/infill, in the past decade or so. Plus, malls are so yesterday.

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
The current site would be redeveloped for a ~100,000 sq. ft. anchor store, along with an equal amount of 1-2 story small shop/junior anchor/office space. The 13-ish acres behind the commercial center would be set aside for a mixture of medium-density residential units (condos/townhomes/apartments) and green space, though if done today, this portion of the redevelopment would require a rezoning from Light Industry to Residential.

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.


Anonymous said...

I really like many of your ideas. Do you think its possible to restructure the shopping centers where a builder could expand on top to floors instead a separate building?

Anonymous said...

Do you think the residential space would we a requirement for this to be successful in luring retail tenants? Or would the residential component maybe provide a boost to the "level" of retail tenants?

What is that building behind all trees with the all the greenspace/lawn?

Lee K. Seitz said...

If I understand correctly which building you're asking about, the "building behind all trees" is Victory Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church.

Anonymous said...

I think residential space above the retail space should be looked into. That way the space on the ground behind the retail center could serve as a greenspace(parks and recreational grounds for residential tenants who wouldn't have a yard). It would also help create a dense and aesthetically pleasing market place.

James said...

The reason why I included residential was to utilize the site with the "Urban Village" concept, something fairly new to Huntsville but unheard of on the North side. This kind of unique design, I think, will attract retailers and restaurants that might not otherwise locate on North Parkway in a conventional strip mall.

I'm cool with the mixing of retail and residential. However, I think that upper-floor office space would be better suited for the commercial buildings nearest the Parkway.

Cody said...

I hope something like this comes to fruition. That area needs something like this badly to revitalize it. I wonder if residents and tenants would be turned away from the site due to any crime problems?

What I would like to see happen along the entire parkway eventually would be an extension of your idea where business switch their frontage from the serviee roads to streets that parallel the parkway. Then, eventually, the parkway could be expanded or light rail could be added in the area that the service roads currently take up. Some trees would be nice along there as well, but I digress.

Anonymous said...

Why is no one talking about the Harris Hill development parcel at the intersection of Moores Mill Rd and Hwy 72? So much ground work has already been done and a large number of residents in the Winchester Rd area purchased their homes there because of the promise of a large retail plaza. I see so much development going on in Jones Valley, Madison, and the Bridge Street areas. What about the residents who live east of Chapman Mtn? There are a lot of residents here who have to drive 20 minutes or more to do our shopping. Has anyone bothered to look at how many people live east of Chapman Mtn. into Gurley, Scottsboro and New Market? Just watch the number of cars passing that location during rush hour. Plus, I wonder how much revenue is being lost to Tennessee because so many people shop in Fayetteville rather than drive into Madison. Not to mention how much the schools in this area could use the additional sales tax money. Seriously, Huntsville doesn't just exist west of the Parkway.

James said...

^I'm working on ideas for the redevelopment of established commercial corridors. There aren't a whole lot of opportunities for redevelopment along 72 East.

Anonymous said...

North Huntsville has a serious image problem. If you look at the crime blog in the newspaper, North Huntsville always has the most ones reported. A lot of Huntsville associates it with being run down and depressing. You can discuss the reasons for this until the cows come home, but this is the biggest problem it faces.