Nominees were chosen by a panel of experts which included editors from USA Today, editors from 10Best.com, expert contributors, and sources from other Gannett media properties. Finalists were chosen by an online public vote that took place over the course of four weeks.
An elevator shaft stands tall as crews move dirt and erect structures over nearly eight acres of land at the corner of Oakwood Avenue and North Memorial Parkway, the latest project taking shape in the city landscape that is changing daily.
This project — on the site that was housed grocery chain stores Albertson’s and Bruno’s and most recently a Halloween haunted house – will become the Madison County service center.
The 60,000-square foot complex will house county offices of the tax assessor, tax collector, license director, voter registrar, sales tax and probate judge.
“This is scheduled to be open first quarter of 2021,’’ Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong said. “There will be right at 400 free parking spaces for Madison County residents to do their business.’’
Strong recently visited a major project — the new FBI campus in the center of Redstone Arsenal.
Strong said he was also briefed by Robert Hamilton, the FBI Senior Executive at Redstone Arsenal. Hamilton is leading the transition of multiple FBI offices there.
“There is right at $700 million currently under construction and 500 employees working for the FBI,’’ Strong said. “They are anticipating for 2020 there will be 1,000 people who will be hired.
“We’re going from 500 to 1,500 by the end of 2020; so that’s really exciting.’’
The FBI has announced plans to bring as many as 4,000 job to the new site over the next eight to 10 years.
Strong also said there is $350 million worth of transportation projects either under construction, in design, or recently completed in the county.
“That’s the efforts of a lot of hard work not only here locally by mayors and county commissions, but also with our legislative body in Montgomery and also with our folks in (Washington) D.C.,’’ he said. “We’re looking in the next three years to have somewhere around 14,000 new jobs to be filled with a 1.8 percent multiplier, which leads you to about 25,000 jobs.
“Then, if you look at the retail commercial businesses like McDonald’s and Walmart, we probably are looking at a somewhere around 50,000 in the next three years in employment numbers.’’
Strong, who graduated from Sparkman High School, will deliver the annual State of the County address Jan. 28.
“These are exciting times,’’ he said. “This is the best economy my generation has ever seen.’’
Huntsville’s expertise in aerospace and missile defense has always been on full exhibit for visitors to Huntsville International Airport.
Now, thanks to a partnership between the airport and Carnegie Visual Arts Center in Decatur, travelers will be greeted by artistic expressions of Alabama’s rich Southern culture and breathtaking landscapes created by artists from across the Tennessee Valley.
Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr joined Huntsville International Airport CEO Rick Tucker and Carnegie Visual Arts Center Executive Director Kim Mitchell for the unveiling of two inspirational art galleries at the airport.
The Airport Artway is on the second floor of the airport terminal, directly above the airline ticket counters and baggage claim.
The opening exhibit is entitled, “Friends and Family of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.” The gallery features of work from 15 local artists in a variety of mediums from traditional paintings and sculpture to mixed media.
The art gallery can be viewed anytime free of charge and will welcome new works every quarter.
“Huntsville International Airport is pleased to partner with Carnegie Visual Arts Center on our brand-new Airport Artway and Community Art Wall,” said Tucker. “We are excited to utilize our facility to continue to allow people from all over the world to experience a part of our community while visiting HSV.
“We are hopeful that this will encourage them to stay a little longer, come back and visit again, or take a piece of North Alabama home when they go.”
The airport also unveiled a Community Art Wall in the breezeway connecting the airport to the parking garage on the second level.
This quarter, the Community Art Wall is featuring a series entitled “Therapy Through Art.” It features art created through the Carnegie Center’s outreach program with its partner, the Mental Health Center of North Alabama. The artists in this series were students of the late Jason “JBird” Sharp, a well-respected Decatur artist.
“The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is excited to partner with the Huntsville International Airport to showcase local artists and community outreach programs like the Mental Health Association art therapy program,” said Mitchell. “This is a great opportunity to share with everyone the growing art community in our region.”
The airport will host artist receptions each quarter when a art series is unveiled.
If you are looking for a new career, mark your calendar for Jan. 13.
Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will begin hiring opportunities Jan. 13 for production workers at the company’s 3.7 million square foot plant in Huntsville, the automaker and AIDT announced.
Production team members represent the largest percentage of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing workforce. They will be responsible for the hands-on assembly of the 300,000 vehicles a year.
The first hiring phase of production team members will open Jan. 13 and continue on a rolling basis through 2022. Some 4,000 workers are expected to be hired at the plant, the only one in the world with combined Mazda and Toyota manufacturing.
Applicants will begin online at www.mazdatoyota.com where they will provide basic contact information, work history, and answer a few questions. Applicants who meet hiring criteria are then invited to take an online assessment, which includes a written portion.
Candidates who advance beyond the online assessment will then be invited to a “Day of Work Assessment”, which will place the applicant in a simulated plant environment to assess their skills at various tasks. This will help ensure that qualified candidates are matched to positions suited to their skills and abilities. Job offers are contingent upon a successful background check, drug screening and physical.
Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will hire approximately 4,000 team members to meet its production projections through 2022. The volume of anticipated applicants means the timeline from assessment to job offer could take up to three months.
Team member positions, duties, and details describing the application process can be found at mazdatoyota.com.
A truly unique addition to MidCity District will be coming.
Hotel Indigo is joining the growing lineup at the $850 million mixed-use development in Huntsville at the intersection of University Drive and Research Park Boulevard, RCP Companies announced. This is a first-to-market hotel brand for the area and is developed by Chattanooga-based ViaNova Development.
Construction is scheduled to begin this spring and the targeted opening date is mid-2021.
Just as no two places are alike, no two Hotel Indigo properties are the same. Each hotel draws inspiration from the local neighborhood, culture and popular trends in food, drink and design to create a warm and vibrant atmosphere.
The Hotel Indigo Huntsville – MidCity will be the first Hotel Indigo property in North Alabama. With more than 100 hotels across 19 countries, Hotel Indigo is a branded boutique from InterContinental Hotels Group.
Every hotel is uniquely designed to capture the essence of the neighborhood with curated artwork and seasonal menus reflecting the local character and culture.
“Hotel Indigo offers guests an immersive experience that is truly reflective of the local community,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies. “By celebrating local art, music and food, Hotel Indigo delivers a genuine boutique hotel.
“Hotel Indigo’s commitment to the local culture is truly aligned with the MidCity District mission.”
Located along Nunnuhsae Park Drive, the 120-room five-story Hotel Indigo will provide guests with expansive views of the 40-acre public park and adjacency to Topgolf and the 8,500-capacity amphitheater.
In addition to the boutique hotel, the property will feature a restaurant offering locally sourced options, a comprehensive craft/beer cocktail menu, and indoor and outdoor spaces for gathering.
“ViaNova Development is extremely pleased about the opportunity to become one of the cornerstones of such an exiting and dynamic development,” said Vyomesh Desai, managing partner. “The growth in Huntsville has been amazing and we are proud to join the community …
“We are looking forward to bringing a truly boutique experience that embodies the cultural assets of the ‘Rocket City’ to the MidCity development.”
Recently ranked as the fourth-largest commercial real estate project in the U.S., MidCity Huntsville features first-to-market concepts in retail, dining, entertainment, residential and hospitality, including Topgolf, REI Co-op, Dave & Buster’s, High Point Climbing & the Adrenaline Zone, Wahlburgers, and world-class music venues.
Two more office buildings are on the rise at Redstone Gateway as government contractors warm to the office park’s amenity-rich environment and proximity to both Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park.
Corporate Office Properties Trust, in partnership with Jim Wilson & Associates, developed the 4.6 million square-foot, mixed-use development as a Class-A office park near Gate 9 at I-565 and Redstone Road.
Redstone Gateway includes seven office buildings totaling 569,000 square feet; a full-service, 120-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotel; and The Shops at Redstone Gateway consisting of over 19,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants and a conference center.
The existing office buildings are 100 percent occupied.
“The growth of availability at Redstone Gateway continues to be an asset to government contractors locating close to their customer base on Redstone Arsenal,” said COPT Chief Operating Officer Paul Adkins. “This pre-lease, along with other recent leases, highlights the value proposition of Redstone Gateway.”
Currently, there are seven buildings under construction at Redstone Gateway, expected to add another 662,000 square feet to the development.
One of those buildings is a 100,000 square foot, four-story office building along Rideout Road. There will be 113,000 square-feet of office leasing space available upon completion end of the year.
The other is a soon-to-be 42,000 square-foot single-story office building located at 6000 Redstone Gateway at the corner of Redstone Gateway and Market Street, within the Redstone Gateway development.
It, too, should be complete by the end of 2020 but will just keep pace with the demand as it is already 75 percent pre-leased to a government contractor. Approximately 13,000 square feet will be available for lease upon completion.
James Lomax, director of Asset Management for COPT Huntsville, said the buildings support Redstone Arsenal, clearly an economic engine for North Alabama.
“We’re excited about the rapid development at Redstone Gateway as Huntsville’s modern office park,” said Lomax. “Redstone Gateway is the most forward-thinking office development in North Alabama, creating an amenity-rich environment and walkable environment focused on employee satisfaction and efficiency.
“We’re excited to continue this phase of development and are thankful for the support from the whole community in North Alabama.”
COPT, whose Huntsville office is at Bridge Street Town Centre, specializes in developing and operating office buildings in locations that support the U.S. government and its defense contractors.
The company designs, builds and operates specialized office and data center facilities that provide technically sophisticated, mission critical environments. Maryland-based COPT often chooses locations adjacent to government agencies and prime contractors.
After 22 years, the 911 Call Center is getting a new home.
During the past two decades, not only has the Huntsville-Madison County area outgrown its own infrastructure, the call center has been bursting at the seams.
Along with the Huntsville-Madison County 911 Call Center, there are seven other agencies that house their communication activities within the building. Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Fire Department, Huntsville Police Department, Huntsville Fire and Rescue, City of Madison Police Department, City of Madison Fire Department, and Huntsville Emergency Medical Services all have a presence at the 911 Call Center.
A key advantage is seamless efficiency in communication and response. And Huntsville-Madison County 911 was one of the first agencies to embrace this multi-agency model.
To this end, the new 911 Call Center will be twice the size of the original.
Complete with larger conference and training rooms, all with state-of-the-art technology. A dedicated IT lab that has raised tables and lab benches.
There’s a ton of rebar and lots of concrete in the mix, too. The main call center area is built underground with steel reinforced concrete and will be able to withstand an F5 tornado.
“It’s been ‘a minute’ since the groundbreaking on that freezing day in December 2017. Sometime in mid-spring the dream will become reality. We’re looking at April or May 2020, May being the latest timeframe,” said Ernie Blair, CEO of the center. “Then, we’ll need three months to move, once we get certificate of occupancy.
“We’re using this opportunity to upgrade our technology. Technology is changing so fast; we’re running to catch up. The ways that people communicate has changed – 85 percent of 911 calls are now made by cell phone.”
The area’s explosive growth and development has impacted the center’s completion timeline.
“We’re still under budget and were ahead of schedule until three to four months ago,” said Blair. “All the resources are stretched; general contractors are having a hard time keeping the subs on the jobs.”
As far a deadline for being out of the existing facility, there isn’t one.
“We don’t have a deadline,” said Blair. “There are two groups looking to buy the old building: the City of Huntsville and Huntsville Utilities. The latest I’ve heard is that they’re working together.”
Blair, though, has confidence in the center and the personnel.
“Nobody does 911 better than we do. We are the largest center in the state and one of the few combined centers,” said Blair. “We’re important to the quality of life and public safety, everyone is saving a life every day.
“It’s the coolest job anyone could have.”
Native Americans called it the “River that Sings” and many tribes were said to use the Tennessee River to “sing” their dead into the afterlife.
Two hundred years was not that long ago in the grand scheme of history and, in 1819, Creek and Cherokee tribes lived up and down the river leaving behind a rich legacy in places where rockets and genomics, missiles and cyber security now dominate.
The past and the future are coming together in a historical and high-tech way as the Land Use Committee of Huntsville’s Launch 2035 debuts the first quarter-mile of North Alabama’s 70-mile-long Singing River Trail along Governors House Drive in Huntsville.
In what is one of the most ambitious legacy projects Launch 2035 has undertaken, the Singing River Trail project hit a major milestone last month debuting a $225,000 master plan funded by municipal and county governments, regional businesses, and congressional officers. The plan by Alta Planning + Design lays out a 70-mile bike-hike-walk trail that will physically connect Huntsville to Madison, Athens, and Decatur.
Fully embracing the Native American heritage, the plan reveals a route starting at Bob Wallace Avenue in Huntsville. It will follow Madison Boulevard and bear south at Zierdt Road to Triana, crossing over County Line Road to Mooresville. Another leg will bear north off Madison Boulevard toward Belle Mina, and dip south to the river at County Road 6 crossing into Decatur. On the Decatur leg, it will turn north along U.S. 31 toward Athens.
Although it is expected to shift in some places, especially along U.S. 31, the master plan reveals a trail that will offer estimated economic benefits of $10,890,000; transportation benefits of $866,000, and health benefits of $1.4 million.
It will also offer $23,631,000 in indirect economic spending; $7,079,000 in earnings from direct economic spending; and provide approximately 900 temporary and 100 permanent jobs per year.
“We see the master plan as the first milestone in this legacy project,” said John Allen, CEO of Huntsville’s Committee of 100, the backbone of the Launch 2035 effort to forge a coalition between city and business leaders in Madison, Morgan and Limestone counties. Their purpose is to build an economy that is inclusive of communities across the entire region that benefits the entire region.
“Land-use planning is one of the three legs of the stool on which Launch 2035 has its focus. If you look at Huntsville regionally, the Tennessee River passes through all three counties and four major cities.”
Joe Campbell, legal counsel for Huntsville Hospital, is on the Launch 2035 Land Use Committee. He had been working on a connectivity idea for the Huntsville and Decatur campuses of Calhoun Community College.
They had discussed a trail or bike system that would connect the two campuses, making him the perfect person to spearhead an expansion of that concept to include the bike-hike-walk trail that connects the entire three-county region.
“I have been amazed at the response,” said Campbell. “Everyone we talk to says ‘Yes’.”
One of those yeses is the Smithsonian Institute.
“One of our law partners came to our firm from having worked for the Smithsonian institute,” Campbell said. “Upon talking to her, she put John and I in touch with Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“She mentioned they have a storehouse of American Indian artifacts and said if we were to do a Native American museum along the trail, there was a chance the Smithsonian would be interested in loaning us all sorts of exhibits for it.
“John and I were stunned to be honest, when we met with him, thinking we needed to convince him that what we wanted to do would be beneficial to the museum. But instead, his response was that this may be the kind of venture the Smithsonian had been looking for. They have been wanting to take the Smithsonian outside of the four walls of their building and take it to the people!”
Campbell said Gover brought up possibly incorporating the Trail of Tears into the project.
“He suggested we set it up as a smart trail. Pinpoint sites that were part of the Trail of Tears, that were heavily populated villages along the way, or that held historical significance,” Campbell said. “If we do that, the Smithsonian would provide exhibits and facts from those events.”
Campbell said he and Allen came away excited about the possibilities, able to envision a technologically advanced digitally-enabled walking and biking trail where people are listening on their headphones to historical recordings that tell the story of the area at different locations, along with signage and exhibits where they can stop and take in what occurred there.
Another consideration is to have sensors and other technology that warns walkers and riders. For example, because of recent rains, a specific route through the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge was too wet. It would then recommend a different route. This would be helpful to people planning out a 20- or 50-mile route.
Allen agrees that in terms of funding, nearly everyone they talk to loves the idea and they already have sponsors in all aspects of business from Huntsville Hospital to the TVA and Rotary, banks, colleges, and more.
“The trail also has health benefits that are part of our workforce retention programs,” he said. “It’s not just something our community has to have as an amenity to keep workers here, it’s something to do that’s cool, attractive and a magnet for our talent pool.”
The city was about to authorize the building of a new car bridge and Campbell said they stepped in and negotiated putting in a bike lane.
“They did it and will consider it for any future roads as well,” Campbell said.
“When you look at the economic impact, you realize how it will change the dynamics of communities along the route,” he said. “For instance, I pitched the idea at a quality of life panel at a chamber leadership meeting and afterward, a commercial developer on an economic development panel wanted to talk to me about the restaurants they’re trying to bring in. He wants to discuss where the trail will run because for some clients, it may be more feasible to locate on an off-road location you can access by bike or walking than along a five-lane high traffic area in town.
“I did a presentation to the Rotary Club about it and they have taken us on as their five-year project.”
Allen said the question became, ‘How are we going to manage that from a municipal perspective?”
They started with looking at other successful trails as a baseline for what the Singing River Trail could be.
One of those is the 62-mile Silver Comet Trail that runs from Smyrna, Ga., outside Atlanta, to the Alabama state line where it connects to the Chief Ladiga Trail, winding for 33 miles through the countryside to Anniston.
They have also studied the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 38-mile off-road shared-use trail in northwest Arkansas; and the Wolf River Greenway Trail from Memphis to Germantown, Tenn., which is a little over seven miles.
Decisions about the trail’s width, whether to pave it or use crushed gravel, who will maintain it, and providing security are all still in the planning stages.
“We’ve had the National Park Service at the table talking about these things,” said Campbell. “But you know different parts of it will be under different jurisdictions so each community will be responsible and will have to step up.
“Right now, our target is to get it on the ground.”
While Madison County continues to outpace the national residential real estate market, the inventory of available houses remains a concern, according to a recently released study.
The Huntsville Area Association of Realtors, in partnership with the University of Alabama-Huntsville College of Business, released its real estate economics report, which compares the local housing market in Madison County to its national counterpart.
“Huntsville and Madison County appear on so many Top 10 lists for several good reasons: great job opportunities, low cost of living, a diverse economy and entertainment culture, and responsible management by our elected officials,” said HAAR President Cindi Peters-Tanner. “As a result, our real estate market has out-performed national trends and it continues to be the best place in the nation to buy or sell a home.”
As a result of the local market’s success, inventory remains a concern.
According to the reports, Madison County held 6.4 months of housing supply at the end of 2015. Since then, that number has dropped to 1.8 months while, nationally, inventory has risen from 5.1 months to 5.9 months.
The report said local new construction will need to grow considerably to meet future demand.
Additional findings of the HAAR / UAH report include:
- Home prices are rising locally and national at the same rate of 4.5 percent.
- Heightened labor force participation and median household income have increased the number of local residents with the ability to afford a house.
- Local population growth continues to outpace national growth.
- New construction accounts for roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of all home sales, beating the national average of 21 percent.
- Since 2015, the Madison County residential real estate market has led the national average in new home sales percentage and population growth rate.
HAAR has partnered with the UAH College of Business to produce quarterly real estate economic reports to provide Realtors, their clients, public officials, community stakeholders, and the general public an up-to-date snapshot on the local housing market. This information helps our community anticipate positive or negative changes as we look ahead to new growth and the challenges it brings.
For information, visit HAAR.realtor/real-estate-economics-reports.
It’s all about turning out the vote – not for elected office, but for choosing Huntsville International Airport as the Best Small Airport in the United States.
Historically popular with business travelers and more recently with vacation travelers because it is small and easy to navigate, Huntsville International Airport has been nominated by USA Today as one of its 10 Best Reader’s Choice 2020 Small Airports in the U.S.
Through Jan. 13, visit https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-small-airport/huntsville-international-airport-huntsville-ala/ to cast your vote.
Twenty small airports across the U.S. have been nominated by a panel of travel experts, including editors at USA Today. HSV is the only airport from Alabama nominated. The top 10 will be announced Jan. 17.
The voting is digital at USA Today’s standalone travel website, 10Best.com. Voters can vote daily and are encouraged to share the voting link via social media as often and with as many people as you wish.
“We want to show the rest of the country that there is a great airport in North Alabama, and we want to draw attention to our region as a whole,” said Jana Kuner, public relations manager at Huntsville International Airport. “HSV is proud to be a part of this community. We serve the best of the best in the country with folks flying in and out every day … Our community continuing to be nominated for honors like this proves that we have something very special here.”
The airport has an onsite hotel and a range of food and beverage options.
“Huntsville International Airport has typically been known as primarily a business airport connecting our region to the world,” said Katie Martz, the airport’s business development specialist. “With the addition of ultra, low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines starting non-stop service to Orlando and Denver last year, leisure travel from Huntsville has become more affordable and has been growing as well.
“HSV has seen 22 consecutive months of passenger growth, with 19 of those boasting double-digit increases. This has also resulted in fares that are much more competitive. We are grateful for our community’s support and attribute our recent success to them,” she said.
USA Today’s 10Best.com averages 5 million visitors per month and provides a variety of travel content, top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for the top destinations in the U.S. and around the world.