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Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Look Ahead 2013

Happy New Year! If my predictions seem a little recycled, it turned out that, when reviewing last year's predictions, most of the predictions I made (at least the titles) still applied for the year ahead.

A new era in Huntsville planning. In December, the City announced the hiring of Dennis Madsen, an Atlanta-based planning consultant, as the new Manager of Long-Range Planning. His official start date is January 14th. While I don't expect groundbreaking (and potentially controversial) moves like, say, an overhaul of the city's zoning code, a clearer picture of the future direction of planning in Huntsville could come by the end of the year. In an unrelated note, I do expect amendments to the zoning code that will define where brewpubs and food trucks can go, as well as the creation of a downtown "entertainment district" where people can carry open containers of alcohol on public rights-of-way.

The [beginning of the] end of food deserts. Walmart will begin construction on its first Neighborhood Market store in Huntsville this year-- public records indicate that Walmart recently bought a 5-acre commercial lot at the corner of Jordan and Oakwood Ave, much too small for a Supercenter but the perfect size for a 45,000 sq. ft. Market store. If this is the case, the store would eliminate one of the last large "food deserts"-- areas without a full-service grocery store-- in Northwest Huntsville. 

Growth on the Central Parkway corridor. This didn't pan out as well as I expected last year, but I expect it to still happen starting this year. The City (any day now as of this writing) will request proposals for the development of a 25-acre site at Airport and the Parkway. In addition, Walmart is still looking for a suitable site in the area for a larger store to replace its Drake location, a former Kmart.

Continued Downtown development. Twickenham Square construction is now underway, and will continue for the rest of the year. Expect to see several more projects announced this year, including office buildings, new restaurants, and maybe even another residential project. The stagnant Constellation project may be "relaunched" this year.

New Restaurants. The biggest restaurant announcement will arguably (hopefully?) be the "anchor" restaurant for Bridge Street's expansion, which is required by contract to be the selected restaurant's first location in Madison County. Other restaurants will be expanding this year, including 2012 newcomers Dunkin' Donuts and Jimmy Johns, as well as established chains like Zaxby's and Chick-Fil-A.

New Hotels. The first-of-its-kind combined Home2 Suites/Hampton Inn will open in March near Research Park. Construction will continue on a Holiday Inn Express at Jeff and 72, and a Homewood Suites at the Twickenham Square development downtown. At least one of the two new hotels at the Redstone Gateway development will be announced.

South Huntsville gets some love. ALDI will open its third Huntsville store at the Parkway and Hobbs later this year. In Jones Valley, Lendon (a residential/commercial development) will begin serious construction.

'Make it or break it' for Madison Square. With Belk leaving early next year for Bridge Street, Madison Square is effectively finished in its current state. I expect CBL (the mall's owners) to work on-- and possibly announce-- a redevelopment plan this year, one that will most likely involve a mix of uses