Apartments.com: Huntsville Ranked No. 5 Among America’s Top Affordable College Towns

The Rocket City found itself near the top of another list and this one concerns the area’s future workforce.
According to Apartments.com, the nation’s most visited apartment site, Huntsville is ranked No. 5 among the nation’s top affordable college towns.
A city with no shortage of southern charm and intellectual values, Huntsville’s local schools are among the best in the state. Students interested in attending the historic Alabama A&M University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville or Oakwood University are able to choose from more than 2,000 apartments at an average unit price of $826.
Apartments.com is sharing the top budget-friendly college cities ranked by average rent per unit and the amount of affordable housing options available based on a recent analysis from Apartments.com and parent company, CoStar Group.
The top four towns are:

1. Wichita, Kan.
Topping the list is a thriving cultural and economic hub full of energy and excitement. Students thinking of attending the flagship institution of Kansas’ biggest city – Wichita State University – have more than 1,115 rental options near campus with most of the popular dining, entertainment, and nightlife hotspots just a few miles down the road. With the average rent per unit at just $671, residents won’t have to break the bank. Faculty and other community members supporting the university can expect to pay 16% of their income on rent.

2. Tulsa, Okla.
With eight four-year colleges within 40 miles of Tulsa and nearly 3,000 apartment rentals available, students have a variety of options for not only where to attend school but also where to live. Less than three miles from Downtown Tulsa, the University of Tulsa is surrounded by a wide range of apartments, condos, and houses available for rent. With the average unit price at $694, students are able to find the perfect home at an affordable price with money left over for tuition, textbooks, and more.

3. Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City, one of the least expensive metropolitan areas in the nation with residents spending just 18% of their income on rent, has been expanding in recent years. With the average rent per unit at just $756 and 1,533 rentals near Oklahoma State University, the neighborhoods that surround the campus are full of rental houses, apartments, and condos to fit any budget and within a short walk of the university.

4. Fargo, N.D.
The largest city in North Dakota ranks in the top four affordable college towns, with the average rent per unit averaging at $775 and residents spending 18% of income on rent. Students looking for somewhere unique and artistic with no shortage of things to do should consider North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, or Concordia College at Moorhead. With 1,720 rentals available near North Dakota State University, students looking to become part of the Thundering Herd will have plenty of options to find the perfect apartment.

 

Huntsville’s Burgeoning Regional Economy Part 2: Right-sizing Lifestyle with Quality of Life

(This is the second and final installment of a two-part story on the area’s growing economy.)

Recently, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle shared his vision for Huntsville in terms of an average sized pie. He, along with business owners and civic officials, stood at city center – what Battle calls Huntsville’s “living room” – and looked out in every direction to the edges of the pie’s crust.

What they see are active growth corridors ushering in a significant expansion of the original Huntsville pie, which is accelerating economic growth throughout the North Alabama region.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The success of Twickenham Square, a multi-use development built right in the heart of downtown Huntsville’s medical district and anchored by The Artisan luxury apartments and a Publix, has spurred the development of four more multi-use (multi-purpose or mixed-use) sites in the downtown area.

These developments require the right balance of residential, retail, and commercial space, usually surrounded by a pedestrian-friendly traffic pattern, walking trails and/or parks, and plenty of amenities and activities.

Sealy Realty’s Avenue Huntsville (and the new Avenue Madison); CityCentre at Big Spring with the new AC Hotel by Marriott; the long-awaited Constellation, breaking ground this fall on the old Heart of Huntsville site at Clinton Avenue; and a new development by Rocket Development Partners on the former site of the Coca-Cola plant on Clinton Avenue across from the VBC are either already established or coming soon to downtown Huntsville.

“People ask whether mixed-use/multi-use developments are replacing traditional malls and shopping centers,” said Battle. “But I think you have to look at each one individually. People are looking for more live, work, play types of environments, but I think what we are seeing today is a shift. Is it permanent? Probably some of it is, but I won’t be surprised to see it shift back.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre, as well as MidCity District on the old Madison Square Mall property, agrees.

“Retail centers are not dead. They’re just changing based on consumer behavior,” he said. “Old-style retail centers still play a role in our communities. A good ‘convenience’ style retail center is needed to support suburban neighborhoods.

“However, retailers across most retail center formats are shrinking their footprints and using technology and distribution to keep up with the trends and competition.”

But Battle points out that many online retailers, such as Duluth Trading Company who have been online-only retailers, are building mortar-and-brick stores like the one they opened at Town Madison in June.

And even online behemoth Amazon is now putting stores throughout the U.S.

“I just got back from Nagoya, Japan where they still have huge department stores that are very active because people want to look at what they’re going to buy, touch it, experience the kind of cloth it’s made of and see how it fits,” Battle said.

“When you look at Parkway Place, they are doing very well, and we recently added an apartment component to Bridge Street Town Centre to add a ‘live’ component to it and Research Park’s work and play.

“But when you look at the old Madison Square Mall, it could be found on a site called DeadMalls.com,” Battle said. “We built a lot of malls back in the 1960s and 1970s – probably too many. I think we are now right-sizing back to what we need. There’s still a place for pure shopping like Parkway Place, but I say you need both to succeed.”

Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue Huntsville, which also has a retail component in downtown Huntsville.

Sealy is also building Avenue Madison that will have a retail and parking component in downtown Madison. He said the trend for new developments will be weighted more towards multi-use developments in the future.

“However, the older style shopping centers and malls won’t be replaced anytime soon unless they are old, obsolete, and really in need of replacement anyway,” said Sealy. “These [mixed-use] developments are definitely what residents and consumers prefer now because of the experience they produce.”

Grelier said the mixed-use developments come in a variety of styles.

“These developments are a type of urban development strategy that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and/or entertainment uses to initiate more consumer interactions by creating walkable, livable, and experiential communities,” said Grelier. “Mixed-use developments can take the form of a single building, a city block, or entire districts.

“Traditionally, human settlements have developed in mixed-use patterns; however, with industrialization of the U.S., as well as the invention of the skyscraper, governmental zoning regulations were introduced to separate different functions, such as manufacturing, from residential areas.”

Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison, sees it differently.

“I think we are seeing the death of the supercenter more than malls,” said Ceci. “Those centers with huge parking lots and a row of big box stores lined up next to each other – for one thing people just don’t like that huge parking field and, two, from a developer’s standpoint, if something happens and a business closes or moves out, it is very difficult to repurpose that huge space left behind by a store the size of Target or TJ Maxx. You can use a big box space for a trampoline center or an entertainment center, but you can’t put a restaurant in there.

“Multi-purpose developments are making that space work better by integrating residential into it via restaurants and everyday neighborhood retail like a dry cleaner or hair salon. The idea is to take the new urbanist movement that everyone is following and make smaller blocks of space so that if, in 20 years, that block is no longer viable, knock it down and put something else there. It’s a matter of making it more sustainable over time.”

Sustainability is the focus at Town Madison where Madison Mayor Paul Finley is looking to more than the casual Rocket City Trash Pandas fan to help build out that development.

He’s getting some help from travel sports and softball/baseball recruiters and scouts who will enjoy the regional draw of the new Pro Player Park, just off Wall-Triana Highway.

“The new Pro Player Park and everything Town Madison offers will definitely get foot traffic to our hotels; however, workforce development secures regional success which will also help us locally in aspects of infrastructure and schools,” said Finley.

Finley also points to the success of the Village at Providence, one of the area’s very first mixed-use developments built in 2003, as an example of how popular pedestrian-friendly mixed-use communities have become.

“A mixed-use development offers a live-work-play experience right outside of your front door,” said Finley. “This is appealing to young professionals, established mid-lifers, and retirees alike. These developments are multigenerational that attract businesses to the area.”

“Mixed-use developments are replacing declining malls because they are often well-located within a region that affords them premium access and site metrics,” said RCP’s Grelier who is striving to make the old mall property economically viable again. “When this is the case, there is typically strong demand for several multiple property types such as hospitality, residential, office, restaurants, and retail.

“Single-use commercial centers are becoming more difficult to sustain given changing consumer behavior related to online shopping, and demographic trends focusing on experiences rather than traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.”

However, Grelier said when they purchased the old mall property in 2015, they had a strategy ready for MidCity.

“We began working with the city and Urban Design Associates (UDA) to create a mixed-use project that would meet market demand and help reverse the decline of the West Huntsville commercial corridor,” he said. “We also had a broader, more aspirational strategy in collaboration with the city to use the MidCity District as regional economic growth tool by addressing the ‘next-generation’ workforce demand in Cummings Research Park.”

Grelier said they engaged nationally known market research consultants to perform third-party market studies to guide them in developing programming for a proper balance of uses.

“We used the information from the studies to collaborate with the City and UDA to produce a complete district business plan that would maximize regional draw by creating diverse layers of use and programming at the property,” Grelier said.

“Much of the emphasis is on highlighting our local cultural assets and identifying destination venues like TopGolf, public parks, and an amphitheater to establish a foundation around art and culture.”

He said this is now happening through connections with Huntsville’s and Muscle Shoals’ regional music legacy to bring a world-class 8,500-capacity amphitheater to the development.

“We believe the amphitheatre will be very successful and play a vital role in the elevation of the region as a place you want to live,” Grelier said. “There’s a strong demand for weekend entertainment so the music initiative happening in North Alabama will not only keep locals from traveling to spend in nearby markets, it will attract more weekend tourism to our region.”

Sealy said there is a strategy involved in where they build these mixed-use developments as well.

“These developments are really a long-term strategy in the sense that consumer preferences are shifting this way, so we are building for what is more popular now and appears will be more popular in the future,” he said. “… We are trying to draw certain people and jobs from other cities.  These developments are a recruiting tool and regional draw when we are competing against bigger cities for the same talent.

“Some people, particularly millennials, desire this type of environment for living or work, so we need them to attract that population …. They will spread through the regional area, but they need a certain density of people to work, so they will be concentrated in the growth corridors where the population and jobs are the largest.”

And, now, there is something for just about everyone.

“You hear people say, ‘Huntsville has some pretty cool breweries downtown, I can have some fun on Friday night, go see a baseball game, spend the night, go shop at Bridge Street, play some TopGolf, and get brunch at Stovehouse on Sunday’,” said Ceci. “It makes us a lot like Chattanooga – a kind of weekend destination where people say, ‘Wow! Huntsville is a great place to go for the weekend. There is always something to do.’”

Sealy said the mixed-use strategy is rewarding.

“I enjoy working on mixed-use projects because there is a huge emphasis on architecture, walk-ability, streetscape,” said Sealy. “The multi-use developments are a bigger challenge, but it is a rewarding creative process.”

Battle said the revitalization of one area pays benefits to the entire city.

“The Live, Work, Play strategy has always been our city plan,” said Battle. “Revitalize one area using the profits of another area we have revitalized and watch the spread of that revitalization until eventually the whole city is revitalized from one end to the other in every direction.”

Toyota Donation Helps Drive Advanced Manufacturing Program at Drake State

Toyota is putting its products on the assembly line for education.

The automaker is donating two Corollas and 12 engines to support the advanced manufacturing program at Drake State Community & Technical College in Huntsville.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to partner with educators to support career readiness programs that help develop our future workforce,” said Kim Ogle, Toyota Alabama corporate communications. “By donating these vehicles and engines, we are helping ensure students are trained on up-to-date equipment and receiving the highly technical skills needed for the thousands of manufacturing jobs in our area.”

The donated Corollas and engines – valued at approximately $200,000 – were originally used to provide onsite training for team members at the Huntsville Toyota engine plant.

Now, these products will serve a new training purpose as it supports hands-on learning at Drake State.

“This investment in the development of our workforce by Toyota is a great of example of how we – business and education – should and must work together to ensure that when potential employees arrive at the doorsteps of industry, they are ready to work,” said Patricia Sims, President of JF Drake State.

“We encourage other companies to directly engage with local schools and community colleges to help strengthen overall workforce readiness efforts.”

Lynne Berry Vallely to Receive Humanities Service Award

Lynne Berry Vallely has been honored for serving Alabama Humanities.

BIRMINGHAM — Lynne Berry Vallely has been named the recipient of the 2019 Wayne Greenhaw Service to the Humanities Award, the Alabama Humanities Foundation Board of Directors announced.

Vallely, former AHF chair and longtime member of the board, will be honored with the Greenhaw award Oct. 7 at The Colloquium at Birmingham’s The Club. The award, named in memory of the author and former board member, is given to a past or current AHF board member who has contributed significantly to serving Alabama Humanities.

“My long association with the Alabama Humanities Foundation has been one of the great joys of my life,” Vallely said. “It was a privilege to work with talented staff and board members to share Alabama’s rich heritage, particularly its fascinating literature and history.

“I am especially delighted to have been chosen for the award named for Wayne Greenhaw, who was a dear friend and mentor.”

A native of Huntsville, Vallely is a graduate of Lee High School and Vanderbilt University. She retired after serving as executive director of the HudsonAlpha Foundation.

She was the founding executive director of the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County. She has served in the offices of former U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“Lynne was an outstanding board member and chair, and she served our organization with great energy and enthusiasm,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “Her leadership set the standard that will serve us well in years to come.”

Vallely was a member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation Board for 20 years and served as board chair in 2016. She was a member of the board of directors of The Nature Conservancy, Alabama chapter, and served as board chair 2009-2010.

She was in Class 1 of Leadership Huntsville and is a past board chair, 1992-1993. Vallely proposed and established Huntsville Hospital’s Community Health Initiative in 1996. She received the 2018 Women’s Economic Development Council’s Women Honoring Women Award.

Playing leadership roles in service to the community, Vallely has worked in positions that promoted Huntsville’s tourist attractions, preserved its historic sites and protected the area’s natural environment.

Pruning Cummings Research Park Infuses Vibrancy, Marketability

Any good gardener knows a first-class park requires long-term planning and seasonal pruning to ensure its vibrancy.

In 1962, Teledyne Brown Engineering (then Brown Engineering) lay deep roots on 100 acres off a dirt road that later became Sparkman Drive.

IBM, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville quickly followed. Since then, Cummings Research Park’s 3,843 acres of prime Huntsville real estate has been a focal point of a 50-year master plan.

Cummings Research Park, with a 92 percent occupancy rate and 240 untouched acres to spare, is the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world.

But to better understand the growth strategy at work in the park, it is best to differentiate between Research Park East and Research Park West.

“When we talk about current growth, we mean business growth from companies within the park, especially on the west side,” said Erin Koshut, the executive director of Cummings Research Park. “On the east side, market studies show we need to redevelop that area to create greater density and to replace 1960s and 1970s buildings with properties that align with today’s economy. That will infuse the older section with new vibrancy.

“By doing that, we won’t have to look at physical land expansion per se for a very long time.”

Within the master plan are five-year work plans. The city is currently working off a plan finalized in 2016; a new plan begins in 2021. The plan acknowledges that some of the original buildings and key properties in the oldest sections of Research Park East are no longer viable in the market.

“Without the revitalization, if a company wants to go in and invest in that part of the park, they wouldn’t get their return on investment,” said Koshut. “That is why the zoning ordinances were changed for Research Park East – to give back some of the land to the park and to reduce economic setbacks.”

Cummings Research Park East

Rendering of Bradford Crossing

One such property is at Bradford and Wynn drives on the former site of the St. John Paul II Catholic High School. Driven Capital Partners in California purchased the four-acre site and plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use site called Bradford Crossing.

“Article 55 of the new zoning ordinance is very specific and says if you have a retail element on the ground floor, there has to be two or more uses,” said Koshut. “We cannot build a standalone gas station or drop a superstore in there, but a multistory building with ground floor retail will create density on a small but efficient parcel of land.

“No decision has been made on what other uses will be included, but it could be office space, multi-family residences, a hotel, or a mixture of all three on upper floors.”

There are four big red circles marking areas of Cummings Research Park East targeted for potential mixed-use redevelopment. Currently, no groundbreaking date is set for Bradford Crossing.

“This is not just the (Huntsville-Madison County) Chamber or the city calling for these changes,” said Koshut. “We have landowners like the Olin King family at Crown Leasing who own property on Bradford Drive. They demolished the building that was on it and now have the land for sale. Business and landowners understand the flavor of changes happening in the older section of the park.”

Other planned redevelopments include converting Executive Plaza off Sparkman Drive into a multi-use facility, including an arena for the UAH hockey team and convocations; and Huntsville’s plans to donate up to $1.8 million in land to Alabama’s third magnet school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. It has a temporary home at the Tom Bevill Center on UAH’s campus, but plans are to build a permanent location in Cummings Research Park East by 2022.

“This will give the whole park along the outskirts of UAH, a big infusion of vibrancy and marketability,” said Koshut.

Cummings Research Park West

The new Radiance Technologies facility will consolidate operations and employees.

Over in Cummings Research Park West, it is not about redevelopment but about taking what is there, making it better, and expanding the footprint. In fact, Cummings Research Park West will see three major projects and numerous moderate but significant business expansions this year.

By the end of the year, Radiance Technologies will be moving into a 100,000-square-foot facility at 310 Bob Heath Drive. The new facility will consolidate operations and employees, but with significant growth, Radiance will keep its 38,000-square-foot facility on Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park East for a while.

The new $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is sprouting from a 20-acre site at Old Madison Pike and Jan Davis Drive. It is scheduled to open in 2020.

The $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is scheduled to open next year.

“BAE Systems has a long history with Huntsville dating back many years when they had only a couple of employees,” said Koshut. “We are proud to see them bringing in 200 employees, many new hires, and some recruited to Huntsville from the Northeast.”

Fifty-four-foot walls are up around the $200 million Blue Origin rocket engine production facility on Explorer Drive. Expected to open its doors in March 2020, Blue Origin is estimated to bring up to 300 jobs to the local economy.

Dynetics just expanded its footprint with the 78,000 square-foot Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility; and IronMountain Solutions found a new home on Voyager Way.

“We have the first apartments, Watermark at Bridge Street Town Centre, built in Research Park,” said Koshut. “They consist of two four-story buildings and 240 apartments. Over half already leased before they open and of course a majority of those people work in Research Park.”

She said they would like to see an extension of Bridge Street Town Centre or at least retail that is congruent to Bridge Street grow into the commercial retail corridor between Bridge Street’s outdoor shopping promenade and Lake 4.

It’s All for the Employees

“There is a key component of all this expansion and redevelopment,” said Koshut. “It is driven by the wants and needs of employees.

“These companies want to recruit top talent to Huntsville, and they want to retain them. They require conveniences, activities, and amenities that have been available to them in cities where they are recruited from, many bigger than Huntsville.”

This includes access luxury apartments and single-family homes in or surrounding the park; creating a sense of vibrancy and community with activities such as the Food Truck Fest that draws some 300 people a month; free monthly happy hours in the park; and free Suzy’s Pops or Steel City Pops during the summer.

Later this summer or early fall, Koshut said the city will launch a pilot Bike Share project in Cummings Research Park West with three bike-share stations.

“As the city continues to invest in that program, we hope to connect many bike-share systems across the city so, at any time, an employee can hop on a bike and ride out to lunch,” said Koshut. “Young people enjoy being outside and easily get tired of being stuck in an office all day. Huntsville companies are recruiting people from cities that offer a quality lifestyle amenity.”

So, as new buildings are sprouting up all over Cumming Research Park, it always helps to keep the park neatly clipped and pruned to inspire growth and opportunities among the older, well-established buildings alongside the new and flourishing.

UAH to Host Interim State Cyber and Engineering School; Massey Named President

The University of Alabama-Huntsville’s Bevill Center will serve as the interim site for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering, it was announced Friday.

Also, former Madison County Schools Superintendent Matt Massey was named the school’s first president. The school is scheduled to open in August 2020 with 10th- and 11th-grade students from across the state attending.

“The University of Alabama in Huntsville is excited to be the interim location for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering,” said UAH President Dr. Darren Dawson. “Our Bevill Center on campus will provide secure living arrangements for students, in addition to classroom space and food services.

“We appreciate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working with us to meet their training needs elsewhere on campus so that the School could begin residency and education on our campus next year.”

The announcements were made at a press conference at Redstone Federal Credit Union.

“It’s not only an exciting opportunity to be named president of the school, but to be a resource for teachers and administrators to implement cyber and STEM into their schools,” said Massey, who had served as the county’s superintendent for 4 1/2 years. “The result will not just impact 300 students in the school, but will exponentially reach students and educators all across the state.”

The city of Huntsville is donating property in Cummings Research Park for the school’s permanent location. The school is expected to open there in August 2022.

“The City of Huntsville is proud to be an ongoing partner in this cyber initiative by supporting Alabama’s cyber magnet school with a gift of property for a new campus,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Once again, Huntsville will continue to be the epicenter for the state’s best and brightest to help Alabama and our nation meet the demand for a future workforce in cyber and engineering.”

The independent residential magnet school will provide students from across the state with educational opportunities and experiences in cyber technology and engineering. The school will also assist Alabama teachers, administrators, and superintendents in replicating cyber technology and engineering studies in their own schools.

“The ASCTE Board could not be more pleased with the continued and expanded partnership with UAH, and the tremendous gift by the City of Huntsville through Mayor Battle and the City Council to establish a permanent site in CRP for the school,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, president of the school’s Board of Trustees. “All in all, it is gratifying to see the Huntsville community realize the importance of this school to the area and state as we establish a world-class institution.”

Turner Completes $3.12M Renovation of Thigpen Hall at Alabama A&M

Turner Construction has completed the management of a $3.12 million renovation of Alabama A&M’s Thigpen Hall.

Thigpen Hall, a three-story women’s residence hall built in 1955, typically houses more than 200 first-year freshman female students. The renovations included Thigpen’s 101 double-occupancy bedrooms, bathrooms, study lounges, laundry facilities and a computer lab.

Turner collaborated on the project of the 30,000 square-foot building with Nola Van Peursem Architects, Moody Nolan, Lee Builders, Mims Engineering and EE Group.

The building’s footprint did not change in the renovation including elements of its historical exterior. Thigpen Hall was unoccupied throughout the renovation process, which began in July 2018.

“Alabama A&M is proud of the partnership that we have with Turner Construction,” said Alabama A&M President Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. “Turner has not only worked to restore and modernize Thigpen Hall, one of the historic structures on the campus, thus demonstrating the university’s commitment to historic preservation, but they also continue to invest in the future of Alabama A&M by providing our students with practical experience.”

Thigpen Hall was completed on time and under budget. Turner is continuing to support and manage upcoming projects at Alabama A&M University.

“This has been another excellent project delivered by the team,” said Tyce Hudson, account executive for Turner Construction. “We are excited to see the campus continue to improve. The future is very bright for Alabama A&M University.”

South Huntsville Library: The Future of Libraries at the Sandra Moon Campus

With more than 20 years of continuous growth and service to South Huntsville, the Bailey Cove Library is bursting at the seams.

Research has shown that over the past year, more than 2,000 library cards were issued; more than 10,000 programs attended; and nearly 7,000 people used the public computers – JUST at Bailey Cove branch alone.

Housed in the converted space of an old hardware store, the library opened its doors in 1997. At a mere 10,000 square feet, the library has long since outgrown its space.

The issue of space resulted in plans being drafted for a 40,000 square-foot, high-tech community library and event space. The new library will be at Huntsville’s new Sandra Moon Community Complex on the old Grissom High School campus. When finished, it will be four times larger than the Bailey Cove Branch Library.

At a recent South Huntsville Business Association meeting, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Capital Campaign Director Caroline Kennedy presented plans for the new library, unveiling the Fuqua and Partners masterful conceptualization.

“It will be a gigantic, state-of-the-art library, with lots of light and glass,” Kennedy said. “This is the future of libraries, what new libraries are going to be. It will be Class-A facility; there will be after-hours special events with separate access, event rental space, areas for classes, private study rooms, and meeting space.

“The library will continue to offer free meeting space for nonprofit groups. There will be a full-service catering kitchen, areas for food trucks, and outdoor events. It will be a real boost for the redevelopment of South Huntsville.”

As part of the state-of-the-art technology, there will be a dedicated “Maker’s Space” which will have a 3D printer, large format printer for sign and banner making, and sewing machines. Planned design features include plenty of natural light, an open/bookstore-style floor plan, art gallery, Friends of Library bookstore, a coffee shop with inside entry and an outside walk-up and outdoor, patio seating, indoor fireplace, and a children’s garden.

“The new library will be more user friendly and accessible to patrons,” said Kennedy. “Books will still be organized by Dewey system, but also by ‘neighborhood,’ sort of like what you would find at (bookstores).”

Construction is scheduled to take about 18 to 24 months with an opening date in early 2021. For more information, visit huntsvillelibraryfoundation.org/south

Auburn Receives $5.2M NASA Contract to Improve Liquid Rocket Engine Performance

AUBURN — NASA has awarded a $5.2 million contract to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, it was announced Monday.

The three-year contract is to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, which focuses on evolving lightweight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” said Paul McConnaughey, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”

NCAME will support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialized manufacturing technology vendors to be utilized by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies.

Auburn and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that are created using additive manufacturing, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the additive manufacturing industry. The center is also one of the founding partners of the newly established ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Auburn.

Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME director. Serving as project manager is Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing,” Ogles said. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”