Construction of Luxury Housing Continues as B’ham Developer Breaks Ground Near MidCity

As the worst of the COVID-19 crisis seems to be waning in North Alabama, new jobs, new construction, and plans for a new luxury living development pick up right where they left off in March.

Birmingham developers Capstone Communities broke ground on The Cottages at Old Monrovia, a 25-acre housing development near Old Monrovia Road and Oakwood Road, about a mile from Huntsville’s MidCity district. The rentals will feature a mixture of single-story attached homes, lofts and two-story townhomes.

“Our goal is to build a unique community and true sense of place at The Cottages,” said John Acken, executive vice president of development for Capstone Communities. “With plenty of sidewalks, pedestrian features and open green spaces, we want to create a safe and walkable community where residents can look forward to spending time outside enjoying cookouts, hosting community events and connecting with their neighbors.”

Capstone Communities estimates the project will bring 100 to 120 temporary and permanent jobs to the area in construction in management.

Convenient to Cummings Research Park and Redstone Arsenal, the low-density multifamily development consists of 275 cottage-style homes, expected to attract young professionals and their families, and empty-nesters looking to downsize.

Capstone Properties, the in-house management company for Capstone Communities, will begin leasing this fall. The first units are expected to be completed in March 2021 with the full completion slated for September 2021.

Architect’s rendition of the loft-style home at The Cottages.

Designed by Nequette Architecture & Design, also headquartered in Birmingham, The Cottages at Old Monrovia will offer a variety of upscale amenities such as nine to 12-foot ceilings, granite countertops, wood-grain flooring, in-unit washers and dryers, a smart home technology package, state-of-the-art fitness center, resort-style pool, centralized clubhouse, dog park, electric car charging stations, a car care center, a pet spa, 24/7 on-call maintenance and optional enclosed garage parking.

Capstone Communities (formerly Capstone Collegiate Communities) is a Birmingham-based commercial real estate firm specializing in the development, management and construction of student, multifamily and senior housing. They entered into a partnership with OG Capital, a private equity real estate investment firm specializing in the acquisition and re-positioning of existing multi-family properties throughout the South, to bring the development to Huntsville.

According to OG Capital principal David Oakley, the single-family style rentals have proven successful in other markets with a 50 percent faster lease-up period, and a 20 percent higher resident retention rate than traditional garden-style apartments.

“I first noticed this cottage concept out West a few years ago and grew to love it,” said Oakley. “Apartment living doesn’t have to mean stairs and elevators. The cottage style product meets the market by providing residents with the features they value most – private backyards, high ceilings and in-home tech packages – to name a few.”

It is Huntsville’s surge in innovation and economic growth that makes Huntsville the perfect location, said Shep Nolen, president of CBI Construction Services, Capstone Communities’ in-house general contractor for the project.

“We’re thrilled to enter such a promising market and support the city’s economic development efforts by creating additional jobs as Huntsville prepares for its next chapter of growth.”

Construction financing is being provided by Trustmark National Bank and Renasant Bank.

Reed Submits Apparent Low Bid of $14.3M for I-565 Widening Project

Huntsville’s Reed Contracting is the apparent low bidder to widen and resurface Interstate 565 in Limestone County.

The Alabama Department of Transportation opened bids for the project, one of the first major projects funded by the Rebuild Alabama Act.

Reed Contracting’s bid was $14,312,713.82. Bids must undergo review before the contract will be awarded through an expedited award process and the winning contractor given notice to proceed. Work is anticipated to begin in June or July.

The winning contractor will be incentivized to complete the project prior to Dec. 17, 2021, receiving $25,000 per day the project is complete ahead of that deadline, up to a maximum of 50 days and $1.25 million.

The project will resurface more than seven miles of I-565 from just west of Exit 1 (Interstate 65) to just west of Exit 7 (County Line Road). Paving on existing shoulders will expand the highway to three travel lanes in each direction.

Robins & Morton Building on Relationships for a Growing Huntsville

The first building constructed by Robins & Morton was a Shell gas station in 1946.

The Birmingham-based company now has offices in Huntsville, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas, Orlando, and Miami.

Huntsville Hospital’s seven-story, 382,000-square foot Orthopedic & Spine Tower is expected to be completed in 2021. (Photo/Robins & Morton-Marty Sellers)

“We’ve grown quite a bit since then, obviously,’’ said Mitch Coley, operations manager for the Huntsville office.

Robins & Morton is no stranger to the Rocket City. The firm began a relationship with Huntsville Hospital 31 years ago, and Coley said that partnership is “the backbone’’ of its business in the city.

Two towering cranes just off Gallatin Street are part of the construction for Huntsville Hospital’s seven-story, 382,000 square-foot Orthopedic & Spine Tower. It’s expected to be completed in 2021.

But while hospital construction is Robins & Morton’s calling card, Coley said diversity, particularly in Huntsville, is part of its footprint.

Next to the hospital tower, the finishing touches are being put on Redstone Federal Credit Union’s five-story, Class-A office building with an adjoining four-story parking deck.

“The exterior of the office building is close to complete and it’s a very striking structure,’’ Coley said. “That project will wrap up at the end of this year.”

Robins & Morton recently placed a tower crane downtown for the upscale 106 Jefferson, Curio by Hilton.

“As you can see from the cranes rising above downtown,’’ Coley said, “We have three major projects transforming the Huntsville skyline.”

Robins & Morton is working with Redstone Gateway and Sanmina, and counts Times Plaza on South Memorial Parkway among its projects.

Other local Robins & Morton projects are:

  • Intergraph/Hexagon headquarters
  • Calhoun Community College Huntsville Campus Science Lab
  • Parsons Research Park
  • Huntsville Hospital Madison Hospital
  • Governors Medical Tower
  • Huntsville Hospital Athens Surgery Centers
  • Clearview Cancer Institute
  • Rockwell Collins at Research Park
  • Medical Park Station Retail Center
  • Huntsville Hospice Family Came Inpatient Facility

The company’s projects around the state include the Auburn Arena, the Auburn University Recreation and Wellness Center, Regions Field and the Embassy Suites hotel in Tuscaloosa.

Robins & Morton opened a full-service office in Huntsville in 2007 to further take advantage of the city’s exploding growth.

“We knew the best way to serve the business community was to become an ongoing part of the community,’’ Coley said. “And that’s worked well for us. We have more than 223 projects valued at $1.3 billion completed or in progress throughout Huntsville and the surrounding area.

“Even more important to us: 80 percent of that work is from repeat clients.”

Redstone Federal Credit Union’s five-story office building has an adjoining four-story parking deck. (Rendering courtesy of Robins & Morton)

Another company strength is that Robins & Morton, which employs around 170 salaried employees and craft workers, uses its own workforce.

“We self-employee a lot of the work,’’ Coley said. “For instance, the concrete structure (on the tower), we’re doing that with our own men, our own forces. The reason we do that is it helps with cost, schedules, and quality.’’

Robins & Morton’s economic impact in the Tennessee Valley is substantial. The company reports it is responsible for more than 800,000-square feet of new construction with a projected construction value in excess of $225 million; is working with more than 150 trade partners; and expects to create between 800 and 900 full-time equivalent jobs throughout construction.

While Robins & Morton is involved throughout North Alabama, its local presence has been seen and felt mostly in Huntsville’s downtown and hospital district, both of which have undergone a facelift.

A Notasulga native, Coley met his wife Elaine while both were students at Auburn. They have two sons, Miles (6) and Cameron (4).

When he moved here 13 years ago, Coley said he remembers walking downtown on a weekend and finding a “ghost town.’’

“Now, you go down there and there are food truck rallies, laser light shows, people everywhere,’’ he said. “It’s really neat to see.

“We’re glad to be part of that growth.’’

In late spring or summer, Robins & Morton will announce plans for another downtown project.

“We want people to know that we’re not here just for the duration of a project,’’ Coley said. “We’re an established part of the Huntsville business community, and we look forward to continuing to be part of the region’s growth and economic development.

“We’ll continue the strong relationships we’ve maintained over the past 31 years while building new ones.”

 

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.