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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ideas for the Huntsville Times site

Photo credit: James Vandiver
As you all probably know by now, The Huntsville Times is cutting its print schedule to three days per week starting in October. As a result, the printing operation is moving to Birmingham, and a drastically reduced newsroom is moving to a new "hub" office downtown, making their Parkway offices, the paper's home since 1955, obsolete.

The entire Times site is 7.6 acres, and it is rare that an opportunity comes along to redevelop that much contiguous space on the central Parkway corridor. But you need to consider the challenges.
  1. Most of the site is located in the 100-year flood plain, with the possible exception of the press building, which was built after a major flood in the 1970s. 
  2. Access to the site is limited to three awkward entrances: a right-in/right-out off the northbound Parkway service road, Vanderbilt Drive through a neighborhood, and Market Place though an office park. 
  3. Its mid-block position makes it unappealing to most retailers, despite being on one of the busiest sections of the Parkway-- 110,000 vehicles pass the building every day. 
  4. There is a 150-foot TVA easement on the backside of the site. 
  5. The exterior appearances of the surrounding buildings-- a bowling alley and a 1960s shopping center-- are not very appealing.
In a similar fashion to the North Parkway site, which we discussed last week, the City of Huntsville's Planning Department has come up with an idea for the site that addresses these challenges as well as create a precedent for future redevelopment along the Parkway corridor.

A concept for the Huntsville Times site on Memorial Parkway. Rendering credit: City of Huntsville

There are two components to this concept: A "family entertainment center" and a hotel.

Family Entertainment Center 

"The Launch Pad." Rendering Credit: City of Huntsville
Huntsville is in need of a visible entertainment destination that would be appealing to everyone. The family entertainment center would include room for restaurants, game rooms, and event space in addition to a modern bowling alley. While the entertainment center can be any size, we decided on 40,000 sq. ft. to allow for a possible reuse of the existing printing facility, which is a relatively new building that may have been built outside of the flood plain.

Bowling giant Brunswick has a photo gallery of some award-winning designs for these types of centers.

Rendering Credit: City of Huntsville

The proposed hotel would be approximately 100 rooms. It would most likely be a limited-service hotel, similar to a Hampton Inn or a Hyatt Place. This hotel will be within 1 mile of the VBC, helping the center reach their goal of 1000 rooms, an important milestone that is important to attract larger events and conventions.

Expanded Plan

Rendering Credit: City of Huntsville
Soon after taking on this concept, the planners realized that they were limited by the amount of developable land on the Times property as well as the appearance of the surrounding buildings. Therefore, an expanded plan was created encompassing the adjacent properties for a total size of 14.6 acres. Around 25,000 sq. ft. of retail space and an outparcel for a sit-down restaurant like Houlihan's were added to the concept, in addition to an all-new entertainment destination and a larger hotel.

Of course, the adjacent properties are not currently for sale, and there are no indications that they will be in the near future.

What do you think? Any ideas that you particularly like, hate, or you think we missed?


Anonymous said...

What about a Dave and Busters?

Anonymous said...

Why not put the Whole Foods there since its not far from where they were originally looking

Chris Gardner said...

With that site so close to Parkway City Mall, there definitely needs to be someway to "connect" the two sites without fear of crossing Bob Wallace. The simplest solution would be an elevated walkway. However, if we're going to dream...

Anonymous said...

"Why not put the Whole Foods there since its not far from where they were originally looking " this guy has the right idea!!!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't have a wow factor to it, but a car dealership might be good there...

Anonymous said...

I think it creates more issues than it does solving the existing ones.

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods! I concur!

Jeff Smith said...

A Dave and Busters will be a great idea. Definitely needs to be a entertainment place on whatever is put there. Huntsville needs more entertainment bad.