Spotlight on Madison County
The Westin Huntsville is the city’s only hotel to have earned AAA’s Four Diamond rating. Located at Bridge Street Town Centre and within Cummings Research Park, the hotel offers 13,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
CITY OF HUNTSVILLE
The city broke ground last year on the $100 million Twickenham Square development on the old Councill Courts public housing site near Huntsville Hospital. The development includes lodging, living, retail and office space, anchored by a Publix supermarket, a 101-room Homewood Suites hotel, 246 loft apartments and a five-story office tower.
“This helps us grow the downtown area into an urban environment where people can live, work and play,” Mayor Tommy Battle says. “An office building will connect with Huntsville Hospital via a pedestrian bridge.”
The city already has opened some loft apartments, along with restaurants and a brewery.
In the heart of Cummings Research Park is the successful and popular Bridge Street Town Centre, a premier mixed-use lifestyle center that features more than 70 upscale shops and restaurants, the Westin Huntsville Hotel, a 14-screen Monaco Pictures and a six-story office tower. It also features a manmade lake, carousel, train ride and fountains.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is that Bridge Street is located in the heart of the second largest research park in the country and is the only mixed-use retail center located in a research park.
“It’s a big pull for us,” says John Southerland, director of Cummings. “There are a lot of people who come from the Huntsville area, but also Tennessee, and the retail is wonderful. It is a destination shopping and dining area and is expanding.” Belk is opening a new 170,000-square-foot fashion store in fall 2014.
Also in Huntsville, private developers are working on Redstone Gateway, a mixed-use park on 468 acres at Redstone Arsenal’s main gate.
The city has hired an urban planner who will help oversee the growth to the west of the city. The chamber is currently negotiating with about 27 different businesses to come to the city, and the economic picture is bright, officials say.
The city is working on a $100 million master plan at John Hunt Park, adding hiking and biking trails, a children’s playground, tennis courts, improvements to the iceplex, an indoor arena and amphitheater as part of the city’s “Healthy Huntsville” initiative. The park, with recreational fields, is in the center of the city, and the city has asked for proposals to develop 30 acres of property adjacent to it to sell as a retail center. The city plans to use sales tax off the retail property to help pay for the project.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” says Battle. “We hope to eventually have 250 miles of greenways in the city. We want to have active parks and something for everyone.”
The city has absorbed most of the people who have moved there as a result of the BRAC realignment of 2005, officials say. That represented about 5,000 jobs relocated, but officials expect more jobs as a result of that move. “Most of the housing inventory we have has been used, and now we are re-platting property for new homes,” Battle says. “Those homes tend to be upper-end homes also.”
The city also is involved in uses for the TVA megasite, a site that city officials hoped would lure Volkswagen a few years ago. Officials are working to get TVA certification for the site, among other things, so it can be ready for development. “We are looking at automotive suppliers, high-tech and other types of industry,” Battle says.
The city also partners with its school system on several projects. Huntsville city schools’ Digital 1:1 Learning Initiative gives digital learning materials and devices to third graders and up. Buses have been equipped with wi-fi. The successful shift to digital learning and away from traditional textbooks has grown so large that educators from several states have been to the city to study it. “Our schools are improving sharply and enrollment is increasing,” Battle says. In 2012, Dr. Casey Wardynski, schools superintendent, was honored nationally for the digital initiative.
The city recently renovated its convention facility, the Von Braun Center. The 170,000-square-foot, multi-purpose facility features a one-stop experience meeting planners and full in-house services for all event needs. The center’s Propst Arena, the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall and the East Halls were included in the renovation.
CITY OF MADISON
In February, Madison Hospital opened, a 60-bed, full-service, general acute care facility on growing U.S. 72. It is part of the Huntsville Hospital System. It can easily expand to 200 beds if the need arises.
In addition, the city’s Shoppes of Madison continue to grow, says Madison Mayor Troy Trulock. The shopping center also is on U.S. 72.
“It is already doing better than expected,” Trulock says. “We expect to be booked up on the west side, and next door there is a 30,000-square-foot Medical Park Station that will have restaurants and an assisted living facility.”
The city also is redeveloping downtown Madison, bringing in new commercial and retail businesses. SciQuest, a hands-on science museum, is moving into a larger home just off I-65. “That will give them a more visible location,” Trulock says. Next to the museum is a new Logan’s restaurant.
Roads are a top priority in the city, Trulock says. A new interchange is under construction at County Line Road off I-65. “We have only one access point through Triana, and this will give us a second interchange,” he says. The $30 million project is 90 percent state funded and 10 percent city funded. “It will help us from an economic development standpoint, and we expect the area to become another boom area.”
Madison’s city school system just celebrated 15 years and continues to be recognized nationally for its accomplishments, Trulock says. “Our economic driver is the school system,” he says. “Rooftops bring businesses.”
Part of Madison is in Limestone County, and officials work on development there as well, Trulock says.