Here's what to look forward to in Huntsville development for 2015:
A shameless plug on The BIG Picture-- Huntsville's comprehensive planning effort. The public involvement phase will be winding down in late spring, but not before several more Citizens Academies, including one on Transportation. The first half of the report (historic and existing conditions) will be released in the next month or so, with the full report (hopefully) approved by the end of the year. Check out bigpicturehuntsville.com for updates, and sign up for the email newsletter.
The Avenue-- Charlie Sealy's next downtown project-- will begin construction early this year. Construction will also begin on CityCentre at Big Spring-- the mixed-use redevelopment of the Holiday Inn site. These two developments have nearly 400 apartment units between them, bringing the total units constructed in Downtown since 2010 to over 700. There's also the potential of at least a dozen new restaurants in Downtown with these projects. CityCentre includes a boutique hotel in its first phase, and I expect another to be announced elsewhere. Plans for the Coca-Cola site at Clinton and Monroe will become clearer. A baseball park somewhere Downtown is still a possibility, but a team and a developer willing to foot the bill would be necessary to make it happen.
The future of Cummings Research Park is going to be discussed further this year, especially the area east of Research Park Blvd. As companies consolidate their office space, they have left large swaths of vacant office space in their wake. Making problems worse, much of this space was built more than 20 years ago, making it obsolete for today's workforce needs. It may be time to rethink the park's restrictive zoning policy to allow for non-office uses such as apartments and restaurants that could replace at least some of the aging office buildings.
The existing "Big Three" grocers (Walmart, Kroger, and Publix) will continue expanding. Walmart will be building mostly small neighborhood market stores throughout Madison County, and only one full-size "Supercenter" will begin construction at the corner of Winchester and Homer Nance in Northeast Huntsville.
In 2014, I expected two (maybe three) new grocery store chains to enter the Huntsville market. Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods announced plans to open one store each, February and this fall respectively. The third chain was Trader Joe's, which announced in 2014 that its first store in Alabama will open in late 2015... in Birmingham. With that said, I think this is the year TJ's will announce a Huntsville location, with an opening in 2016.
Town Madison will get started, but don't expect a whole lot of new-to-the-area stores... Cabela's will open later this year just south of Research Park-- some smaller retailers and restaurants are expected to follow... Three new-to-Huntsville restaurants will open at Bridge Street this year-- Texas de Brazil (January), Bravo! Cucina Italiana (January), and BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse... At Home, formerly known as Garden Ridge, will open a store in the soon-to-be-former Kmart on North Parkway in the summer... The old Walmart across from Parkway Place will be filled... We may learn more about a shopping center in Jones Valley... Joe Davis Stadium will be torn down in the fall, possibly for an indoor sports facility... Construction will continue on the redevelopment of the old Stone Middle School property, which will be home to two breweries and an amphitheater.