North Parkway suffers from an over-saturation of aging retail space. Many of the retail buildings on the corridor were built in the 1960s; while most of them are occupied, few have been renovated since, creating a run-down look that in turn drives away many prospective tenants and creates an eyesore for residents and commuters. Today we're going to take a look at one of the worst cases, and explore options for its redevelopment, hoping that its rejuvenation will inspire other landlords and owners along the Parkway to clean up their properties.
|The North Parkway study area (outlined in yellow). Image: City of Huntsville|
Located on the eastern side of North Parkway between Oakwood and Max Luther, the study area is a narrow strip of mostly vacant buildings that were built in the late 1950s to early 1960s as well as a former hotel site at Max Luther. Thirteen landowners hold property on the 13.6 acre strip. It used to house local establishments like Terry's Pizza and Reid's Hardware; now, after a decade of road construction and general decline, only a few businesses remain. In some places, there is as little as 200 feet between the edge of the service road and a residential neighborhood-- this creates a challenge for new retail development without a complete reconfiguration of the buildings and parking.
Noting these challenges, the Planning Department came up with some ideas for redeveloping the corridor. It was determined early on that, in order make the property viable for redevelopment, demolishing all of the buildings on the strip and starting over would be the best option. Our idea was to create something unique that ties into an issue the entire country is trying to solve-- the health and wellness of citizens. Hence the name-- the "North Parkway Wellness Hub."
|Everything in this concept ties into wellness, from the recreational facilities, to the retail, to the Food Truck Park. (Rendering credit: City of Huntsville)|
|Rendering Credit: City of Huntsville|
A Food Co-Op is a concept where employees and patrons own shares of the grocery store through a non-profit organization. Food Co-Ops usually feature natural and organic goods as well as local produce, and are located in lower-income areas due to cheap rents/land values and little competition from national counterparts like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Some of you may recall that the Food Bank of North Alabama tried to build Alabama's first Food Co-Op in Terry Heights a few years ago; it was put on indefinite hold due to troubles with obtaining financing. For those who are interested, a case study of the Pulaski Pike Market can be found here. An example of an operating Food Co-Op, Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, recently opened a store on a corridor very similar in appearance to North Parkway.
|Rendering credit: City of Huntsville|
Food Truck Park
The food truck park is designed to serve as an incubator to the growing food truck industry and allow them to "feed" off each other, similar to a food court at a mall. It will provide several spaces for food trucks to park temporarily in an attractive environment, with pavilions for seating and restroom facilities to accommodate customers and operators.
It's a concept that recently started in Atlanta on the site of an old hotel; up to fifteen trucks can be accommodated at the park at one time. Here's a picture of another one, in Fort Worth, Texas.
A farm to table restaurant would promote local agriculture by serving produce and other goods from area farmers. This concept seems to be popular in other regions, particularly the Hudson River valley in upstate New York (here's one: Local 111 in Philmont, NY), but it would be the first of its kind in the Huntsville area. Another idea that would tie into this is to use culinary arts students from local high schools and colleges to work in the restaurant, giving them some valuable real-world experience.
|Photo credit: James Vandiver|
A large community garden-- much larger than the one shown here at Lewter Park in Five Points-- is proposed for the area to the south of Lantana Way. Community gardens promote healthy eating habits and present community members with an opportunity to grow their own produce. In addition to the creation of green space in an area currently occupied by vacant buildings and asphalt, it provides a community gathering space for those who live in adjacent Lantana/Imperial Gardens and surrounding neighborhoods.
A farmers' market is proposed in addition to the community garden. It would be a weekly or monthly event in order to complement existing facilities like the County Farmers' Market on Cook Avenue and the weekly Greene Street Market downtown. It would enhance the community garden by allowing citizens to grow and sell their own produce.
Many of these ideas are flexible and don't have to be placed at this site only. The object of this exercise, besides promoting health and wellness options, was to set the standard for future redevelopment along the Parkway and other struggling retail corridors throughout the city.
So, what do you think? Questions, comments, concerns?