Henry House at Clift Farm Community Breaks Ground

MADISON — There is a lot of plowing and tilling of soil going on at Clift Farm this week, but they aren’t planting cotton.

Henry House at Clift Farm features a community event and club room, game room, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Instead, the Breland Companies announced that SWH Partners and Watercress Partners have planted the seeds of a luxury apartment community on the landmark development along U.S. 72 across from the Madison Hospital and Target Center.

The 273-unit Henry House at Clift Farm is perched on the banks of Knox Creek on the Balch Road gateway into the new Clift Farm development.

Named after the 19th century founder of the Clift family farm, John Henry Clift, it will feature stunning scenic views and miles of pedestrian trails that connect Clift Farm’s 470 acres of residential neighborhoods to its curated Main Street mix of retail and dining options.

A garden-style community that fits the countryside feel of the iconic farmland, Henry House at Clift Farm will feature outdoor kitchens, a saltwater swimming pool with sunning decks, pet spa and off-leash park, community event and club room, game room, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Offering one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans, Henry House is styled with warm plank floors, tile backsplashes, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and oversized walk-in closets.

Breland broke ground on Clift Farm last May after purchasing the farmland from centenarian owner Jack Clift.

With his blessing, the pedestrian-friendly residential community, park, and retail center is the latest upscale commercial and residential development for Breland, which is also developing Town Madison off Interstate 565 at Zierdt Road.

Financed by Bank of America, Henry House at Clift Farm is expected to be completed by spring 2021.

Bobo Development Closes Funding for Madison’s Alexandria Apartments

MADISON — As Bobo Development Group announces the closure of the funding phase of its multifamily luxury apartment development, residents are one step closer to having a new, “future-ready” place to call home.

The Florence-based investment group raised a total equity of $11.8 million, closing its funding phase last month.

The group plans to begin construction of Alexandria Apartments on a 16.54-acre site just west of Madison Medical Park on Balch Road no later than Jan. 31.

BDG entered into a joint venture partnership with Michigan-based Electrical Capital Partners and Florida-based Morrison Avenue Capital Partners. Blake Janover of Janover Ventures, Miami, Fla., helped source construction financing of $28.3 million from BancorpSouth. Birmingham-based Capstone Building Corp. will be the general contractor for the project.

Keeping in step with the area’s technologically advanced population, residents of Alexandria Apartments will enjoy a variety of “smart” amenities, such as cold storage lockers for grocery delivery services, electric vehicle charging stations, a “functional fitness” center, and resident programs focused on 360-degree whole health.

“The Huntsville Metro area is home to a multi-faceted population of professionals, a large percentage of them transplants. These people are looking for a living space that makes daily life a little easier while nurturing a community” said James Bobo, II, CEO of Bobo Development Group and the project’s developer.

“By creating a future-proofed space, the community our residents create can stand the test of time.”

Alexandria Apartments will include 258 units consisting of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments along with 29 garage units equipped with electric vehicle charging stations. It will also feature a dog park and clubhouse with a co-working space.

The total capitalization of the development will be $40.1 million, according to Bobo Development Group.

Visit bobofamilygroup.com.

 

Roadwork Alert: Old Highway 431 Closed for Bridge Construction

Beginning Monday, Jan. 13, at 6 a.m., Old Highway 20 between Segers Road and Greenbrier Road will be closed for railroad and bridge construction over the Norfolk Southern tracks.

The road is anticipated to remain closed until the end of the year as new roadway and bridge improvement projects are completed within the area.

Detour routes will be in place to direct traffic to Greenbrier Road and Segers Road in the area. Motorists are urged to use alternative routes to avoid this road closure.

Visit the City of Huntsville’s Roadwork Updates page to view more projects.

 

Hilton Garden Inn Brings 100-plus More Rooms to Town Madison

MADISON — A four-story, 102-room Hilton Garden Inn joins a cavalcade of new boutique hotels springing up on the west end of the sprawling Town Madison development.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Town Madison developer Louis Breland, and representatives from the Madison Chamber of Commerce shoveled the area’s famous red soil in a groundbreaking ceremony for the $16 million project by PHD Hotels, Inc.

The Hilton Garden Inn will join the avid and Home2Suites hotels at the I-565 and Wall Triana Highway interchange. It is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2021.

The new hotel will feature a full-service restaurant offering cooked to-order breakfast and dinner and a full bar, and 24-hour, self-service retail space known as The Shop, which will offer snacks, locally sourced food and beverages, as well as essential personal items.

Designed for business travelers and regional guests, the hotel lobby will feature contemporary décor and lots of natural light. Guests can take advantage of Wi-Fi and remote printing; an onsite fitness facility and Hilton’s digital check-in with room selection tool. Through the Hilton Honors guest-loyalty program, Hilton Garden Inn guests can choose their room from a digital floor plan prior to arrival.

Hilton Garden Inn has more than 850 properties in 48 countries with more than 300 properties yet to come.

 

‘Career Signing Day’ Helps Aim Students Toward Building Sciences

National Signing Day is a big event in the lives of high school student-athletes and their families.

The kids announce where they plan to continue their education and take their athletic talents to the next level.

Well, in Huntsville, there is another kind of “signing day.”

For the second time, Huntsville City Schools is hosting a “Career Signing Day,” when students are recognized for continuing their career paths within the fields of building science.

Just look around and you’ll see the demand for builders and tradesmen.

Construction zones and caution tape continue to speckle the city, as developers race to keep up with the demands required to complete projects.

Developments designed to enhance the growing infrastructure of Madison County seem to be popping up everywhere, and with no signs of a slow-down, the need for skilled workers and tradesmen is greater than ever.

“We are partnering with people to create more opportunity for internships and practical experience,” said Todd Watkins, director of Career Tech Education for Huntsville City Schools. “We are going to have interviews prior to the event. We are really excited because it gives our students a chance to do interview sessions.

“Then they can actually graduate high school and go straight to work.”

Turner Construction’s Director of Business Development Tyce Hudson said his company is working closely with area schools to ensure that upcoming graduates are aware of their options, whether they choose to pursue a four-year degree or opt for going directly into the workforce from high school.

“We are trying to get the message out that there are very bright careers in the trade industry right now,” he said. “We see shortages in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing so the demand for those is probably the highest.”

Through the efforts of companies such as Turner Construction, Huntsville City Schools students enrolled in the Career Tech Education Department are able to get practical work experience outside of the classroom by working on actual workplace projects.

Watkins also lauds the district’s newest career tech center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

The initial program will allow students to work in the hospitality and culinary industries shadowing staff, giving them the opportunity to leave the school campus and report directly to Space & Rocket Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart.

Watkins said the increased employment opportunities coupled with the area’s demand for progress equals many more options in the building science arena, whether individuals choose to seek a 4 year degree or not.

“What kids are seeing,” he said, “is that they can be employable right out of school or they can also go to (a four-year college) or a junior college.

“Kids are starting to realize that career tech is not a one-way path.”

 

Town Madison is Scoring with Residential and Hotel Construction

MADISON — Soon … very soon, Town Madison will be a lighted beacon along I-565, a welcoming 530-acre gateway into the Rocket City for visitors from the east and west.

Town Madison is a sprawling multi-use development extending along I-565 from Wall Triana Highway to Zierdt Road. (Courtesy The Breland Companies)

The shear enormity of the sprawling mixed-use development is on full display amidst the “preponderance of red soil” that gave Redstone Arsenal its name.

Town Madison has already inspired a boom of construction and activity in downtown Madison. It is changing forever the skyline along I-565 between Wall Triana Highway and the intersection of Madison Boulevard at Zierdt Road.

The new stadium with its red roof is now clearly visible amidst the towering LED stadium floodlights and churned red dirt and rocks. Fans of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the tenants of the new ballpark, are already decked out and geared up for the team’s first pitch at their new home stadium on April 15, 2020.

While the energy is moving toward a April 15, 2020 Opening Day, there is a lot more going on at Town Madison than just baseball!

Phase I Residential

Described as having a “Village of Providence feel”, the first phase of Town Madison’s residential community consists of 216 single-family homes and townhouses, currently under construction.

Townhouses are rising from the red dirt to the north of the baseball stadium. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

The Village of Providence was one of Huntsville’s first mixed-use communities built off U.S. 72 in 2003. It has been a shining example of how popular pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and the amenity-filled lifestyle have become.

Single-family home lots are already selling out while a sales model of the townhouses graces the main drag a block from the stadium itself. Soon, potential buyers will be able to tour the layout and make preconstruction customizations to fit their lifestyle.

Currently the most visible residential component to rise from the red clay is The Station at Town Madison, a four-story, 274-unit luxury apartment complex, also within walking distance of restaurants, retail stores, the sports complex, and a slew of boutique hotels and destination resort hotels like Margaritaville that will be opening there.

“The Station is opening a leasing office within the next 45 days and will be moving new tenants in by the end of the year,” said Joey Ceci, president of the Breland Cos., which is developing the project. “I believe they already have plenty of interest and even some commitments from potential tenants who are interested in moving into such an exciting environment.”

500 Hotel Rooms

Rendering shows the 170-room Hotel Margaritaville which will be just beyond the centerfield wall of the Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium.

Ceci said hotels have always been an important component of Town Madison and progress on that front has been explosive. Convenient to Huntsville International Airport and I-565 and I-65, the new 97-room Home2Suites is open at 135 Graphics Drive, a block off Wall Triana at the westernmost edge of the development.

On the corner, a new Twice Daily convenience store and White Bison Coffee have also opened. Next to it, the 87-room avid Hotel is 50 percent complete, while a Hilton Garden Inn has broken ground a block up the street.

“The Town Madison target is 500 rooms,” said Ceci. “We will hit that number when the 170-room Margaritaville resort hotel breaks ground by the end of the year or very early next year.”

Announced back in 2018, the groundbreaking for Hotel Margaritaville has been delayed, putting into question whether Margaritaville with its tropical beach atmosphere, attached restaurant and lazy, winding river said to flow along the backside of the Trash Pandas centerfield wall, is still a go.

Ceci however is reassuring that Margaritaville will be in full swing by the Trash Pandas’ second season.

Pro Player Park

Other exciting venues such as Pro Players Park are committed to Town Madison, although construction has not yet begun.

The $12 million venue for travel softball and baseball will consist of 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields; a 65,000 square-foot sports facility with batting cages; a pro shop; a small café and vending area; and an indoor soccer field.

Pro Player Park will be situated west of the Trash Pandas’ stadium in what is known as the old Intergraph campus. No dates have been set for that groundbreaking, but it is expected to generate 300,000 visitors a year and, according to Madison Mayor Paul Finley, will yield about 40,000 room nights per year.

Restaurants and Retail

Finally, Ceci believes several restaurant concepts will be making announcements soon about their plans to open at Town Madison on the Zierdt Road side.

“Negotiations and discussions are happening every day with several restaurant and retail vendors and I believe we are very close to some solid commitments, but nothing I can announce today,” said Ceci.

Along with several national commercial tenants who are currently doing their due diligence, several announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

Happy Halloween! Cecil Ashburn set to Reopen by End of the Month

The upcoming reopening of Cecil Ashburn has commuters rejoicing as they look forward to cutting their driving time down considerably.

Business owners are also rejoicing, as they anticipate a return to normalcy and faster commutes for themselves and their clientele when two lanes of the road are scheduled to open by the end of the month.

Ben Patterson, general manager of Mellow Mushroom in Jones Valley, admitted that the restaurant has taken a hit, as diners have chosen to go elsewhere for pizza rather than brave the traffic from the other side of the mountain.

“It has definitely hurt business,” he said. “We have been down quite a bit since January.”

Widely known for its eclectic, funky atmosphere, Mellow Mushroom does have some pretty loyal clientele and Patterson added that although they did continue to see many of their regular diners at dinner and lunch, the overall numbers were down through the winter.

“We did have an ok summer,” Patterson said. “Our projections were a little off and we did a little better than we thought we would.”

As for their neighbors across the street at Terrame Day Spa, business has remained steady. Owner Charles Johnson said his business has fared well throughout the shutdown.

“We have been very fortunate because people make appointments with us and they are able to plan it out a little bit,” he said.

Since the closing of Cecil Ashburn in January, an average 10-minute commute can take as much as 25 minutes, and Johnson believes the inconvenience of the extra drive time weighs heavily on the consumer’s decision on where to eat and shop.

He said Terrame has fared well during the shutdown due to it being a largely appointment-based establishment with a very loyal customer base.

“Business has remained steady,” Johnson said. “But I know, with restaurants and other businesses, the plans are often made at the last minute.”

According to the city, the asphalt wearing layer, temporary striping and traffic control devices will be installed on the eastbound lanes prior to reopening two lanes to traffic.

Other work, including completing concrete ditches along the north side and completion of the remaining lanes on Sutton Road, will continue after October.

The $18 million project is expected to be completed by May 2020.

 

 

Career-prep: Madison Construction Academy, Turner Construction Prepare Students for Skills-based Trades

MADISON — To discover local construction career opportunities, students from James Clemons and Bob Jones high schools took a walking tour of the new Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium at Town Madison.

The tour was part of a workforce development effort by Turner Construction Co., which is building the stadium.

Turner Construction officials give the students an up-close look at the work on the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Students dressed in full site safety gear including bright yellow vests, hardhats and goggles got an up-close look at the entire construction site followed by lunch and a 15-minute presentation about career opportunities in the construction industry and its many related skills-based trades.

Students in their schools’ Construction Academy are taking classes in planning, design and construction. They were selected for the trip by their building sciences instructors for showing the most interest in, or curiosity about a career in building engineering and the many skills-based careers related to the construction industry. These can be carpentry, welding, electrical, heating and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, cabinetry, and the like.

“We are recognizing industrywide that the construction industry can’t build at the pace of growth due to a shortage in skilled labor,” said Dani Latham, human resources generalist for Turner Construction. “This skills gap means we are not replacing the aging workforce with young workers, a problem that seems to stem from the old stigma attached to the business as being dangerous and abrasive.

“That is no longer so today where safety is a top priority. Workers themselves are skilled craftsmen making very good money, and we are seeing more women in the business, often in supervisory positions that has helped to change the culture.”

Latham is implementing a workforce development strategy for Turner Construction designed to bring together educators and partners such as North Alabama Works!; Associated Builders and Contractors; and the North Alabama Craft Training Foundation. The goal is to help kids develop the skills needed for a career in construction while introducing them to the many advantages of the construction industry.

“We find that many high school juniors and seniors are just not college-ready,” said Latham. “They aren’t yet sure what they want to do, some have no interest in going to college, while others can’t afford it, but that shouldn’t take them out of the workforce or leave them without opportunities.

“Our goal is to get them career-ready, rather than college-ready by introducing them to a skills-based trade where they can learn a skill that will stay with them forever, even if they pursue other professions.”

After the tour, the students were shown a presentation about career opportunities in the construction industry. (Photo/Steve Babin)

She said a job in construction doesn’t have to lead to a career in construction, but it can provide a living wage while they are going to school or deciding what they want to do. Latham said some people find their calling, while others branch off into other areas such as carpentry or welding.

“The great thing about it is that many of them can make a good living working construction while pursuing something else altogether; and it can help pay for a higher education like law school or medical school,” she said.

Similar to the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education program for manufacturing, Madison Construction Academy offers a four-year apprenticeship program where students go to school a couple of nights a week, but work full or part-time in the same field they are studying. This allows them to apply what they learn at night in a real-world setting.

This connection between a classroom curriculum and tangible careers in the workforce exposes students to a variety of career opportunities that will ultimately meet the future needs of business and industry.

“In many ways, the construction industry is behind manufacturing in implementing a recruitment strategy for skills-based training,” Latham said. “We found that the old model of holding career fairs with a lot of written literature and an industry recruiter behind a table no longer works.

“There is very little engagement from young people in that process, so we are getting more targeted by going into classrooms and getting in front of students who are taking construction and building trades classes. We make sure they understand their options and, by bringing them out to the stadium site, they can experience it firsthand.”

I-565 Night Work at Town Madison Set

MADISON — Town Madison construction continues and, with that, work on the project’s on- and off-ramps to I-565 proceeds.
The Alabama Department of Transportation said motorists should expect single-lane closures and traffic shifts on I-565 eastbound east of Exit 9 (Wall Triana Highway in Madison) tonight for paving to tie-in the newly constructed ramps.
Work will be from 7 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Progress is turning the Rocket City into Crane City

Downtown Huntsville has a different look as the area evolves on a daily basis.

New store fronts are joined by new hotels and new restaurants as the city continues to build as the population grows. Nothing seems constant in the Rocket City lately except for one thing — cranes filling the skyline.

“It’s the new city bird,” cracked Harrison Diamond, the city’s business relations officer.

Huntsville’s new “city bird” populates the skyline. {Photo/Eric Schultz)

As one crane comes down others go up in the downtown area alone. This summer up to nine cranes were spotted on the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA campus as the car maker expands in the western part of the city.

Cranes recently went up where Huntsville Hospital is building its Orthopedic and Spine Tower and Shane Davis, the city’s director for urban and economic development, said more are literally on the horizon.

“There will be more in the next few weeks,” he said.

Two new parking decks. Three new apartment complexes. Four new hotels. New retail space totaling 50,000 feet. The city is getting a facelift, and construction cranes are now and will in the immediate future be familiar to Huntsvillians.

Constellation, a $180 million project that will have 1.5 million feet of mixed-use space for apartments, hotels, retailers, offices and parking decks, is about to become reality.

“Constellation is breaking ground in October,” Davis said. “It’s been talked about for years and it’s been approved.”

Huntsville developer Scott McLain has partnered with Equibase Capital Group LLC of Chicago to build Constellation at Memorial Parkway and Clinton Avenue. The old Heart of Huntsville Mall was once located at the site.

Davis said any fears of an economic downturn nationally hasn’t slowed down city planners’ ambitions to continue to build and recruit. He said he’s convinced Huntsville has “insulated” itself from talk of a coming recession.

“That’s why we’ve had the FBI, Sanmina, Blue Origin, Mazda Toyota and others come here,” he said. “We’ve put in place an economy that to get to its full strength is half a decade away.”

The economy is one draw for Huntsville. So is what Davis called “quality of life stuff” such as the VBC, Botanical Garden, the Space & Rocket Center and John Hunt Park.

And the ongoing building is part of a plan that began taking shape over a decade ago.

“Whole Foods,” Davis said. “I told the city council that (retail center) could be a catalyst to clean up the Parkway. If you think back to 2008 when Tommy Battle came into the mayor’s office, we began concentrating on the square.

“It’s been a process.”

Davis said residents will continue to see changes from downtown to Mastin Lake in northwest Huntsville.

They’ll also see cranes.