Dirt Runoff into Lady Ann Lake Raises Concerns; City to Resolve Issue

Recently a lot of attention has been called to dirt flowing into Lady Ann Lake off Zierdt Road. The site is near the entrance to the Edgewater community and less than two miles from Town Madison. 

Residents have raised questions if the long-going construction is contributing to the heavy runoff muddying the small and beloved neighborhood lake.

The runoff from the Zierdt Road construction project the problem was unexpected and “caused by existing pipes in serious disrepair.” (Aerial Photo/Marty Sellers for Breland Cos.)

The source of the problem, according to the city of Huntsville, is a decades-old drainage system.

Joey Ceci, president of the Breland Cos. – the developers of Town Madison and several neighborhoods in the area, said Breland has been questioned about where the dirt is coming from and if any is from Town Madison.

“Dirt is extremely valuable in our business and we need every bit of dirt we have within the development,” Ceci said. “You see trucks going back and forth moving dirt from one site to the other because there is always another spot on the project where more dirt will be needed. 

“It was suggested that if dirt does run off into the big drainage ditch that runs underneath Zierdt Road, it would travel into the surrounding wetlands and come back out down around Redstone Arsenal Gate 7,” he said. “But we have environmental consultants who have doubled back to ensure we have more than adequate silt fencing needed to contain any runoff, and that would be a long way for dirt to travel.

“The good news is the Zierdt Road widening project is coming to a close, but the bad news is there is a lot of dirt washing into Lady Ann Lake.”

The dirt is coming from the Zierdt Road construction at the entrance to the Edgewater community. The Zierdt Road expansion is a state-funded project, managed by the City of Huntsville. Wiregrass Construction Co. is contracted by the City for the work. 

According to Kathy Martin, City of Huntsville Director of Engineering, Wiregrass holds an Alabama Department of Environmental Management permit for storm water discharge for the work, and they are responsible for performing the work required to meet ADEM regulations. 

The problem she said, is the result of a drainage system that has been in place for decades and predates the development in the area. 

“Storm water runoff comes from a large drainage area, into the project site, which then discharges into Lady Ann Lake by three equalization pipes under the existing Zierdt Road,” said Martin. “These pipes function as equalization structures to balance the water elevation on each side of the roadway, therefore they are constantly carrying water.

“Wiregrass is currently working in saturated soil conditions at Lady Ann Lake, which causes disturbance to existing silt and sediment as part of the work activity.”

Martin also said the pipes are a cause of water flowing over Zierdt Road from heavy rains.

“Flooding of the roadway frequently occurred due to the condition of the existing equalization pipes,” she said. “When traffic shifted to the new northbound lanes, Wiregrass began removing and replacing these pipes, as well as constructing new drainage structures to help prevent flooding, and improve safety in the future.”

Martin said since the problem has been identified, gravel bedding and backfill is being used to install the new drainage system to minimize any further silt runoff from the work activity.

According to a spokesperson with Wiregrass Construction, the problem was an unexpected one caused by pipes in serious disrepair. Fixing the pipes and solving the problem was not in Wiregrass’ original contract with the city.

“That work has since been added to the contract to equalize the flooding, which has been an ongoing problem,” said the spokesperson. 

“Wiregrass is currently removing and installing new equalization pipes directly in the drainage flowline, which includes work in Lady Ann Lake,” said Martin. “In an effort to remove and replace the old pipes, they have installed pumps to dewater the work area, discharging water back into Lady Ann Lake, in a process that utilizes best management practices.”

Blue at Valley Bend: Retail Center with ‘Local Flair’ Rises on Aldridge Creek

Curbs are poured, dirt is being moved and Phase I development is underway of a new retail center — Blue at Valley Bend — on Four Mile Post in southeast Huntsville.

Construction underway for Blue at Valley Bend – “A little center that shies away from corporate stores.” (Photo/Alan Clemons)

Developer John D. Blue said the retail center will have approximately 30,000 square feet, with about 16,000 spoken for now. Peppered Pig, a popular local food truck, will open its first permanent location, Blue said, and be an anchor tenant.

Others secured so far include Handel’s Ice Cream “and an ultramodern, 5,000-square-foot nail salon,” Blue said. Financing for the project is provided by Bank Independent.

Blue at Valley Bend will have a patio spilling into a dog park and paths to Jones Farm Park, to the west across Aldridge Creek, via a bridge over the creek, Blue said. The Aldridge Creek Greenway access on Four Mile Post will be routed underneath the bridge. Apartments and office space are part of Phase II and III.

“We’re underway on the first phase,” Blue said. “It seems it took forever and a day, but it takes time. We ran into soil problems and then it started raining, we got the base down and curbs in, so we should be going vertically soon.

“This is a little retail center primarily for local flair, a little center that shies away from corporate stores. It’s a bit more difficult to do from the financial side to try to attract the right people. This could be second-store space for local trade industries, chiropractors, doctors … we’re trying to shy away from anything Amazon can deliver.”

Renderings of the project show slope stabilization and improvements along Aldridge Creek, which flows to Cecil Ashburn Drive. Also shown are a bike path with dedicated right-of-way, walkways, a bridge over a pond (currently is a flood retention area), event lawn, and amphitheater with ticket booths and concessions.

Jones Farm Park has 33 acres of passive recreation opportunities, with walking paths circling two large lakes. It is a popular park for walkers, runners, anglers and others.

Blue said stabilization of Aldridge Creek along with bridges connecting the park to Blue at Valley Bend and the larger Valley Bend complex would be beneficial.

Routing the Aldridge Creek Greenway access under the bridge will be safer “because you won’t have to get on Four Mile Post.” (Photo/Alan Clemons)

“I know that Fleet Feet has some running events and getting around there can be challenging,” he said. “As for the greenway (rerouting under Four Mile Post), that’s a busy road that people have to cross to get to either the park or greenway. There’s a curb on the street, but I’ve seen some kids get ahead of their parents and that could be dangerous.

“Routing the greenway under the bridge will be safer because you won’t have to get on Four Mile Post.”

The property flyer for the project describes it as a “combination of restaurants, retail shops, professional office space, apartments, and residential condos creates an all-inclusive neighborhood that departs from the convention of other developments.

“Large open spaces highlight architectural interest and provide a park-like atmosphere enhanced by waterfalls, exquisitely landscaped gardens and the sight and sound of moving water features. The unique arrangement in which each building intersects the next with corners clipped at 45 degrees allows for wide, shaded sidewalks, large open spaces, al fresco dining and other creative uses of space.”

The project has taken time, Blue said, due to others he has been working on in the area. He said Blue at Valley Bend “is the last piece of the 100 acres we have in that shopping center.” He put this fall as a cautiously optimistic timeframe for completion.

“I guess the reason (it’s taken so long) is because we concentrated on other things,” Blue said. “I spent 10 years at the Ledges doing that and another four with Lendon (of Huntsville, a neighboring development), and that was taking most of the time.

“We’re excited to finally be moving on this.”






Holmes Avenue Intersections to be Temporary All-Way Stop

Motorists traveling on Holmes Avenue in downtown Huntsville over the next few weeks should be ready for all-way stops at two intersections.

Friday at 1 p.m., weather permitting, City Traffic Engineering crews will install new traffic signals at the intersections of Holmes Avenue and Lincoln Street and Holmes and Greene Street.

The existing traffic signals will flash concurrently with stop signs for a few days before they are removed. The new traffic signals should be complete within six weeks, the city said. During this time, the intersections will be all-way stops.

For information on roadwork projects and alerts, visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/RoadworkUpdates.

High Noon Shutdown Tomorrow; South Memorial Parkway Closed for Blasting

All lanes of South Memorial Parkway near Green Cove Road and Freedom Powersports will be closed temporarily at noon Friday for blasting operations.

Weather permitting, a construction crew will be blasting at the intersection of Oak Dairy Lane and South Memorial Parkway. The work is to clear rock for underground utilities for a residential development.

Northbound and southbound lanes of the Parkway will be shut down for about 15 minutes between Green Cove Road and the Parkway near Freedom Powersports.

Law enforcement will be conducting traffic control and drivers are asked to use caution.

Booz Allen Innovation Center at Stovehouse Will Put Technology on Display

Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson: The innovation center “is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent.”

This winter, visitors to the historic Stovehouse will be able to watch innovation in progress through the glass “storefront” of the new Booz Allen Innovation Center overlooking the grassy courtyard of the reimagined factory. On display will be the company’s vast 3D printing capabilities and other additive manufacturing technologies.

Plans for the innovation center were first announced in June, but a live groundbreaking event followed by a virtual tour of the renovated 6,400 square-foot facility was recently carried on Facebook with Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Burns; City Councilman Bill Kling; the Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager Emily Jones; and Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson.

“This new innovation center is a celebration of one of Huntsville’s longtime investors, and a key member of the Huntsville regional growth initiative,” said Burns.

The 3D printing space will act like a “storefront” in front of the windows overlooking the Stovehouse courtyard. Guest office space will be on the right.

“It’s a really big day for Booz Allen, opening this innovation center,” said Hudson. “We have been a part of Huntsville, really from the very beginning when Wernher von Braun was still a director at MDA (Missile Defense Agency). He reached out to Booz Allen to try and figure out how to get the funding to kick off the U.S. missile program here.

“We have grown as a company supporting MDA and NASA since then and grown into the huge company, we are today because of it, and more recently, because of our support for the DoD (Department of Defense) as well.”

The innovation center is a way for Booz Allen to showcase its engineering expertise in a customer and community collaborative environment. The center will feature a reconfigurable layout based on client work and technology requirements, including additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“Huntsville’s newest innovation space is well on its way to being finished,” said Kling. “Booz Allen’s Innovation Center will provide a cutting edge and a welcoming environment in support of Booz Allen and their customers here in Huntsville.

Taking part in a “groundbreaking ceremony” are Kevin Burns, 2020 Chair Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce; City Councilman Bill Kling; Emily Jones, Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager; Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president, Booz Allen Huntsville; and Mayor Tommy Battle

“It will definitely have some very cool features.”

Hudson said the goal is to change as little as possible of the original factory space, while making it as flexible as possible to meet the company’s needs.

Entering the building from the Stovehouse courtyard, Booz Allen customers and Stovehouse guests will find the space open and conducive to social distancing.

The 3D printing space is in front of the windows and on full display. Across from it are guest offices for Booz Allen customers already using that technology.

Off to the right is a large, reconfigurable open space that can be used for multiple purposes and events with desks and tables and chairs.

In the far right corner is a main conference room that includes a soundproof, video-quality environment for customers and clients.

This multi-purpose open space is reconfigurable and will include a main conference room with a soundproof, video quality environment.

“Everything behind the front pillar as you enter the building will be on wheels,” said Hudson. “We will have some carts and toolboxes for light integration work, a lot of work with training in virtual environments such as cockpit controls. We manufacture some training environments and will definitely be demonstrating how we integrate technologies into those different virtual environments.”

They will also have a recruiting area and will hold staffing events.

“It is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent,” said Hudson.

Booz Allen plans to be open in time for a February leadership meeting scheduled at the Innovation Center.

“Innovation is what has made Huntsville what it is today,” said Battle “On behalf of the 205,000 people in the city of Huntsville, I thank you for making Huntsville part of your home.

“As we continue to grow, we are proud this is happening here in our community.”

Turner Construction Reaches Milestone on Monroe Street Parking Garage

 Turner Construction Company has begun precast erection on the Monroe Street parking garage expansion and renovation in downtown Huntsville, the company announced Monday. The milestone signifies that vertical construction has begun.
The $14.4 million Monroe Street Parking Garage project includes the demolition of the two-story west section of the parking garage that fronts Monroe Street and the construction of a five-story parking garage with an additional entry from Clinton Avenue, containing approximately 725 parking spaces.

Construction is progressing on the Monroe Street parking garage. (Photo/Marty Sellers)

Construction began in July, with completion expected in August 2021. The City of Huntsville engaged Turner, who is collaborating on the project with Fuqua & Partners Architects and engineers SSOE GroupLBYD Engineers and Schoel Engineering.

This project is essential to the redevelopment of the Big Spring Park area, which continues to see new hotels. These include the new Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, which will be connected to the new parking deck in the southwest corner. The Autograph joins several other hotel projects within walking distance of the nearby Von Braun Center multipurpose complex, which are being built to accommodate larger conferences and events.
“The expansion and renovation of the Monroe Street parking garage is a key project within the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Huntsville. Once completed, this piece of infrastructure will make it possible for residents and visitors to conveniently enjoy one of the many events at the Von Braun Center, Big Spring Park, or at one of the other attractions in downtown Huntsville,” Ricky Wilkinson, director of general services for the City of Huntsville, said in the statement. “The city is very appreciative of the partnership with Turner Construction Company and the rest of the project team for this project. We look forward to seeing the garage go vertical and begin to take shape.”
The garage will feature 3D-printed composite rain screen panels on the Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue entries, which will provide a modern skin for the garage, visually blending its new and old sections together with the Von Braun Center and Mars Music Hall.
“This parking deck represents a commitment to continuing Huntsville’s growth by bolstering its downtown attractions,” said Brandon Tucker, a project executive for Turner. “With start of the precast structure, the look of Big Spring Park will begin to change very quickly in the coming weeks. Turner is proud to be a part of this project with the city of Huntsville and its design partners.”
As part of the project, a parking-control system will be installed for the new entries on Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue, while existing parking control equipment at both Church Street entries will be replaced. This will bring state-of-the-art remote payment options and increased 24/7 accessibility to the deck, which previously required operation by a city employee. In addition, the deck’s new parking systems will incorporate parking integration for the forthcoming hotels, allowing parking densities to increase without taking away from the beauty of downtown Huntsville and Big Spring Park. Security cameras will also be installed at multiple locations in the new construction and the existing deck, and conduits will be created to accommodate License Plate Recognition cameras.
The existing parking deck was built in the late 1970s, and additional floors were added to the east half of the deck in 2005, which will remain standing.

Construction Begins on Alabama A&M Event Center and Arena

There’s some hoopla happening on The Hill!

After years of anticipation and planning, construction has begun on Alabama A&M’s 132,000-square-foot event center and arena, Turner Construction’s Huntsville office announced Thursday.

The new Alabama A&M University event center/arena will host sporting events, commencement exercises and other campus activities.

The new space will include an arena with a 6,000-person capacity, locker rooms, training rooms, an Alabama A&M athletic Hall of Fame, and a kitchen with the capability to provide meals for all events on campus.

The arena will host sporting events such as basketball and volleyball games, commencement exercises, and other university functions.

“The center will provide the university with a much-needed facility where we can host major functions, such as commencements, convocations, our annual scholarship gala, and athletic events,” said A&M President Andrew Hugine Jr. “It will be a state-of-the-art facility just off of North Memorial Parkway, and we are thrilled to be making this addition for our students and the community, which will transform the landscape of North Huntsville.”

The Alabama A&M University Athletics Hall of Fame will have a home in the new facility.

Turner is the construction management agent for the project. Under the CMa approach, the construction manager serves as an extension of the project owner’s staff and is responsible for construction management services, including advising, coordinating, and inspecting project design and construction, and competitively bidding the various construction components to trade contractors.

Turner will work with architecture firm Nola Van Peursem and engineering firms Moody Nolan (arena consultant); The EE Group (electrical engineer); Mims Engineering (mechanical/plumbing/fire protection); Johnson and Associates (civil engineer); LBYD (structural engineer); Camacho (food service); and Bostick Landscape Architects. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

“We are excited to partner with Alabama A&M on our fourth project together,” said Tyce Hudson, project executive at Turner Construction Company in Huntsville. “We have experienced a lot of success together and there is no doubt that this is going to be the best project yet.

“It is going to be an excellent facility for Alabama A&M University and the community.”

Encompass Health of North Alabama Breaks Ground for Rehab Hospital

After more than 30 years serving patients at its Governors Drive facility, Encompass Health of North Alabama is moving across Chapman Mountain.

The hospital recently broke ground for its new facility at the at the intersection of U.S. 72 and Moores Mill Road.

Hospital and elected officials were on hand, including Doug Beverly, CEO of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of North Alabama; State Rep. Rex Reynolds; and Mark Tarr, President & CEO, Encompass Health Corp.

“This space may dirt for now; but in the spring of 2022, this will be a place where patients will discover hope and regain independence,” said Beverly. “Our hospital has proudly served the Huntsville community for more than 30 years, and we’ve been honored to treat more than 45,000 patients during that time.

“We look forward to this next chapter and continuing to support our community with high-quality, rehabilitative services for many years to come.”

Encompass Health of North Alabama has served the Huntsville community since May 1987 at 107 Governors Drive in Huntsville. The hospital provides intensive rehabilitation services that help patients recovering from strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations and complex orthopedic conditions regain function and independence.

The new inpatient rehabilitation hospital will offer 76 private patient rooms, a spacious on-site therapy gym, advanced technologies, cafeteria, therapy courtyard and an in-house pharmacy. The hospital is expected to begin serving patients in the new location in the spring 2022.

Encompass Health of North Alabama has earned disease-specific care certifications from The Joint Commission for its stroke, amputee, hip fracture and brain injury rehabilitation programs. For information, visit  encompasshealth.com/huntsvillerehab.

U.S. 231 Bridges in Morgan County Open to Traffic

Both roadways of U.S. 231 between Lacey’s Spring and Morgan City opened Monday, more than two months ahead of the scheduled deadline. 

The $14.6 million project included twin bridges constructed to safely span the landslide on Brindlee Mountain. The highway was damaged in February by a landslide triggered by torrential rains. Under Gov. Kay Ivey’s state of emergency proclamation, the Alabama Department of Transportation used all means available, including expedited bidding and contract award.

The reopening was celebrated by state legislators and local officials in a ceremony at Ditto Landing in Huntsville. 

“I am proud that the people of Morgan County and surrounding areas will now be able to enjoy an easier and smoother commute on (U.S.) 231,” Ivey said in a statement. “Not only has a repair and improvement been made to the infrastructure, but it was completed more than two months ahead of schedule, thanks to the state working hard with a private sector partner.

“We remain committed to enhancing Alabama’s transportation infrastructure to ensure every Alabamian in all parts of the state can reap the benefits. This is certainly exciting and welcome news.”

ALDOT produced the bridge design on a reduced timeline, advanced one phase of work simultaneous with preparation for the next phase, ordered $4.2 million in custom-fabricated materials in advance to reduce procurement time, and attached substantial incentives/disincentives to the project to spur early completion. 

After Reed Contracting of Huntsville removed about 200,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris from the slide area in May, Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham began bridge construction June 1. Brasfield & Gorrie completed the structures in less than four months, despite initial estimates placing the timeline at a year or more. 

“We’ve been honored to work with the Alabama Department of Transportation on this important project in our home state,” said Brasfield & Gorrie Vice President and Division Manager Bryan Myers. “Our accelerated construction plan was developed with the goal of completing the bridges as quickly as possible. Brasfield & Gorrie’s self-perform concrete crews, along with our trade contractors and supplier partners, have worked extremely hard over the past four months to get to this point in the project.

“We’re grateful that we were able to complete this important job well ahead of schedule.” 

The contractor stands to receive nearly $2.5 million in incentive payments for reopening U.S. 231 well ahead of the Dec. 2 deadline. Because some further work items are exempt from the deadline, motorists are advised that the area will remain a work zone and temporary single-lane closures are possible. 

Each bridge is about 1,000 feet long and 44 feet wide, accommodating two 12-foot lanes with 10- foot shoulders, and is constructed on stable foundations— massive drilled shafts socketed in solid rock beneath the landslide. Prior to the closure, a daily average of 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles traveled the road in western Morgan County, about five miles south of Huntsville. 

Intersect Development Group Moving Forward on $35M Huntsville 565 Logistics Project

Atlanta-based Intersect Development Group has closed on a 47-acre tract for three buildings in a planned 400,000 square-foot industrial park.

The Huntsville 565 Logistics project will have a ground-breaking in the fall. The first phase of 144,500 square feet is scheduled to be completed in 2021. The Huntsville 565 Logistics park expects to be home to more than 300 workers and represents an investment of some $35 million.

The facility is designed to meet the needs of the growing e-commerce industry and local logistical/service requirements.

The site is adjacent to GE Aviation, the Target distribution center, Polaris Manufacturing and the Mazda Toyota plant.

“This is an exciting time for the Huntsville business community and its workers who will benefit from this new investment,” Intersect founding partner Scott Brown. “With the closing process completed, we look forward to beginning construction quickly and developing this new Class ‘A’ business park that will support hundreds of jobs in the local community.”