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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Ideas Map Results

Tonight, the City of Huntsville revealed the results of the Ideas Map, which went online in January. In the 18 days during which the map was live, users posted 926 ideas, and 4,897 interactions (likes, comments, etc.) to those ideas. This overwhelming response bodes well for future experiments in public interaction.

For the past couple of months, I've been analyzing the results of the map, and a report of all the lists I created and an analysis of the top retail/restaurants and other ideas is now posted at huntsvilleal.gov/ideas.

Top New Retailers, Citywide:
  1. Trader Joe's
  2. Macy's 
  3. Ikea
  4. Container Store
  5. Whole Foods
Top New Restaurants, Citywide:
  1. Cheesecake Factory
  2. Chipotle
  3. Joe's Crab Shack
  4. Dunkin' Donuts
  5. Dave and Busters
Top Ideas, Individual-- these were the single most-"liked" ideas.
  1. Kroger at Martin and Zierdt
  2. Five Points Streetscaping
  3. Trader Joe's in Lincoln Mill
  4. Joe's Crab Shack at Bridge Street
  5. Target in Northeast Huntsville

Overall, the top ideas were-- this combines similar "liked" ideas in a certain area:
  1. Trader Joe's in Southeast Huntsville
  2. Macy's at Bridge Street
  3. Target in Northeast Huntsville
  4. Downtown Redevelopment
  5. Trader Joe's in West Huntsville
As you can see, several non-retail ideas made it into the top 5, both individually and cumulatively. While downtown ideas ranged from a new ballpark to a brewpub, the idea below got the most support:

The only way to make Downtown Huntsville into a viable walkable community is to pass an ordinance that requires the spaces facing the street to be limited to retail and restaurants. The attorneys, insurance companies, storage space, etc. should be only on upper floors and rear offices…”

This idea for the expansion of the Five Points streetscape project turned out to be very popular:

I'm not sure, but I would guess that 5 Points/Old Town is one of the densest areas in Huntsville. It's also (at least east of California) one of the most affordable for young professionals and families. As a result, it could easily be one of the most vibrant, walkable areas of Huntsville, but it seems that there are power poles growing from every crack in the sidewalk, where sidewalks can be found.  Also, none of the buildings in the area (with the exceptions of Star Market and 1892) have been improved lately. Landlords should be encouraged (read: incentivized) to upgrade their facilities. Ideally, buildings would be 2 or more stories with small setbacks and provide, in some cases, apartment living (like the main street in Providence).  Further, I would personally love to see California turn into a 2 lane road with parallel parking and bike lanes between Randolph and Beirne. That, coupled with sidewalk improvements, would go a long way towards creating a pedestrian-friendly environment in the area of Huntsville that would be most receptive to it.

And, finally, this made me very happy: cumulatively, ideas for better transit service throughout the city came in #6. Most, like the one posted by a user named "Zach" below, revolved around an eventual rail-based transit system:

The key to having a great city is people being able to move around efficiently and quickly. Huntsville should lead the US and create its own mass transit system. There are plenty of existing rail lines that could be upgraded… You could turn the downtown station back into a usable station. It would be great, because it is right by the Visitors bureau and the main Shuttle Bus station. Passengers could then rely on (a much improved version) the shuttle buses to get them exactly where they needed to be. Some major areas could be accessible by the rail network though, such as; UAH, Parkway Place, Huntsville Madison County Library, VBC, Downtown Madison, and the Arsenal. Huntsville Hospital could even offer a van service to shuttle from a station located near Gov. Dr. on the L&N Line to the hospital or extend their trams. Crestwood could also offer the van service. A special Arsenal train could be offered to get people from the Downtown station to the Arsenal. MPs could be stationed on the train to have everyone's IDs checked by the time the train arrived at the Arsenal gates. This would greatly decrease crowding at the gate in the mornings and evenings. Moreover, a efficient and useful mass transit system would greatly benefit the city both now and in the future. Don't wait to build this after the city has already expanded and needs help. Anticipate the expansion and plan for the future!


Anonymous said...

Pretty disappointed with the meeting last night. Would have been nice to hear if the developers had already tried to get all these places before or if we were able to bring new ideas to them. Out of the wish-list of ideas, what is realistic and what is just wishful thinking. Instead we got a "we will take these ideas under advisement."

James said...

Don't forget to read the report I made for the city at http://www.huntsvilleal.gov/ideas. That should give you a better insight for what is realistic and what isn't.

Anonymous said...

Chipotle, Dunkin' Donuts, seem realistic.

IKEA definitely won't be happening anytime soon.

Overall, I agree with your report, James. Maybe I'm wrong on the Trader Joes (I posted the other anon comments about Trader Joes).

There used to be a Dunkin Donuts off of University and Wynn Dr, but it closed back in the 90's. Also, there was a Qdoba for a very short time in the early 2000's in the shopping center on the corner of Airport and Whitesburg. I think it's a Bonefish Grill now.

Really, though, it would be nice for Huntsville to become a little less chain focused. Compared to quality, locally owned places, chains really are pretty mediocre. It would be nice to see some new restaurant concepts pioneered by local Huntsville people, and then expand nationwide. Then Huntsville could be on the cutting edge of something instead of always just following other bigger cities in getting chains 10 years after everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Good report. I wish they had let you present it at the meeting.