Work Underway for Mixed-Use Development on Governors Drive

Work has begun on the demolition of the former Brooks motel and business offices on Governors Drive.

A mixed-use development, including a 100-room hotel, is planned for the site near the I-565 interchange.

The property, some 13 acres of land on Governors Drive near the intersections with 13th and 14th streets, will be developed by The Beach Company, a Charleston, S.C.-based development company.

The development will feature multiple buildings totaling approximately 26,000 square feet of office, retail and dining space in addition to 260 multifamily units, 14 townhomes and a 100-key hotel.

The planned project will complement the nearby Stovehouse development and will feature pedestrian walkways between them.

“This community addition will help continue the momentum of growth along Governors Drive through increased walkability and connectivity,” said Ned Miller, development manager with The Beach Company. “The project was thoughtfully designed to enhance the experience of the growing number of residents and businesses expanding to Huntsville’s flourishing Westside.”

Booz Allen Bringing 21st Century Innovation Center to Historic Stovehouse

One hundred years ago, Rome and Martin Stoves were innovators of the kitchen stove. Today, Booz, Allen, Hamilton is bringing 21st century innovation to the repurposed historical Stovehouse complex.

Positioned in the center of the revitalized property with a view  into the large grassy courtyard, the new Booz Allen Innovation Center opening this winter will showcase Booz Allen engineering expertise in a customer and community collaborative environment. Highlighting technical talent from Booz Allen in Huntsville, the 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art center will have a reconfigurable layout based on client work and technology requirements, including additive manufacturing and 3D printing capabilities.

Convenient to restaurants less than 100 yards away and The Shed on the east side, the center seals BAH’s commitment to Huntsville and the firm’s ability to grow to meet customer needs.

“Booz Allen is dedicated to our customers and their missions in Huntsville,” said Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president at Booz Allen and leader of the Huntsville office. “The Innovation Center is the next step in our continued investment in the city. We’re growing together, and we want to further enable our engineers to be key drivers of that growth. They’re building extraordinary solutions and making a difference.”

Booz Allen opened offices in Huntsville in 2003 and employs more than 200 people locally. The Innovation Center is its second Huntsville location.

The center will host a number of current and future solutions that demonstrate Booz Allen’s expertise. The reconfigurable space is designed to support engineering teams and demonstrations, customer meetings and employee gatherings, with a goal of fostering innovation and interest among Huntsville’s future technology talent.

“We’re thrilled that Booz Allen chose to bring its new Innovation Center to Stovehouse,” said Danny Yancey, founder and CEO of Stovehouse. “The space they’re moving into was used for innovations in stove and furnace heating technologies beginning in the 1920s, so it’s only fitting that it will be alive again with creative engineers, this time pushing the limits of technology solutions in the defense industry,

“The fact that they will showcase their work in the space as well fits right in with this campus, where it’s all about discovering something new around every corner.”

Booz Allen supports a number of Army customers in Huntsville, including the Systems Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, the Prototype Integration Facility and PEO Aviation, in addition to work with the Missile Defense Agency, the Department of Justice’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, and NASA.

The Huntsville Innovation Center is slated to open this winter.

 

Residential Sales Increase from April to May

Huntsville residential sales increased nearly 8 percent from April to May, according to the latest data from the Alabama Center for Real Estate.

The monthly report showed 719 units (485 existing family homes, 226 new construction and 8 condos) were sold in May, compared to 667 units in April, an increase of 7.8 percent.

“Historical data indicates that May residential sales on average (‘15-‘19) increase from April by 10.2 percent,” the ACRE report said. “(May’s) sales increased 7.8 percent from the prior month.”

However, the number is a decrease of 43 transactions when compared to the 762 units that were sold in May 2019, a drop of 5.6 percent.

In April, the average selling price was an all-time high of  $279,833. In May, the average sales price in Huntsville for May was $271,954, a 2.8 percent drop from April but a 5.5 percent increase from one year ago.

“Historical data indicates that May average sales prices on average (‘15-‘19) increase by 4.6 percent from April,” the report said. “The current month’s average price decreased 2.8 percent from the prior month.”

The homes are on the market just 29 days, compared to 33 days in April and 54 in May 2019, and the local inventory of units available is 1,106 in May, compared to 1,186 in April. Huntsville residential units listed for sale in May decreased by 167 units when compared to the same period last year.

“Historical data indicates that May inventory on average (‘15-‘19) decreases 5.1 percent from April,” the report said. “The current month’s inventory decreased 7.1 percent from last month’s total of 1,186 homes.”

Ben Porter Realty is now Redstone Family Realty

Ben Porter Realty, a long-standing real estate agency, has been purchased by a subsidiary of Redstone Federal Credit Union and is now Redstone Family Realty.

Redstone Family Realty joins RFCU’s network of real estate services: Redstone Family Realty, Redstone Mortgage Services and Redstone Title Services LLC.

“Selling or buying a home is one of the most important financial decisions that we make in our lifetimes,’’ said Joe Newberry, RFCU’s President and CEO. “We are already helping members with mortgages and with their title services, this new business unit makes sure they have the best experience possible from start to finish,’’ he said.

Redstone membership is required to secure a home loan; but not to utilize the services of the title company or the real estate agency.

Ben Porter’s Realtors and agents are now with Redstone Family Realty and continue to operate offices in Huntsville, Madison and Decatur. The newly formed agency provides agents, buyers and sellers with the latest technology and techniques through its affiliation with ERA.

Todd Howard, president of Redstone Family Realty and Redstone Title Services, said it’s exciting to think about all the benefits and savings people will enjoy when they use these services together.

“It’s an absolute game-changer for the Tennessee Valley in regards to real estate,’’ Howard said. “It’s a solid business model that is built on the reputation and integrity of two time-tested organizations: Redstone Federal Credit Union and Ben Porter Realty.’’

 

Huntsville Housing Sales Up Nearly 15% Over Year Ago

Though the number of house available for sale is the lowest in years, Huntsville residential sales for the first quarter of this year was nearly 15 percent higher than the first quarter of 2019.

The sales, according to the quarterly report from the Alabama Center for Real Estate, for the first quarter totaled 1,801 units, representing an increase of 14.9 percent when compared to 1,567 units sold in the first quarter of 2019.

“Compared to historical data, first quarter sales are 20.1 percent above the three-year quarterly average and 31.1 percent above the five-year quarterly average,” the report said.

The number of houses available for sale in the first quarter was 845 – a 32.5 percent decrease compared to the first quarter of 2019, when 1,252 houses were available.

And, not only did sales increase, so did the median and average prices – thanks to the low inventory.

The median selling price in Huntsville for the first quarter of 2020 was $233,688, a 12.2 percent increase from the first quarter of 2019’s median selling price of $208,333. The average sales price for the first quarter was $261,455, an 11 percent increase from the first quarter of 2019’s average sales price of $235,610.

“Compared to historical data, the fourth quarter median sales price is 21.1 percent above the three-year quarterly average and 28.3 percent above the five-year quarterly average,” the report said. “The fourth quarter average sales price is 20 percent above the three-year quarterly average and 26.4 percent above the five-year quarterly average.”

The houses that were available, weren’t on the market long, either. The average number of days on the market in the first quarter of 2020 was 40, representing an improvement of 15 days from one year ago.

Redstone Arsenal Showing Resilience in the Time of COVID-19

Last Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced a new “Safer at Home” order to replace her March “Stay at Home” order. The new edict relaxed some of the restrictions put into place to help flatten the curve of infection caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey Smith

It allowed more businesses to open Monday, as long as they adhere to policies put forth by the CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health and federal guidelines to ensure the wellness and safety of their customers.

Redstone Arsenal has stood in solidarity with the cities of Huntsville and Madison, and the dozens of communities from which they draw their 40,000-plud daily workforce. They began synchronizing their COVID-19-related policies to mirror those of the communities surrounding them. From six feet apart social distancing to closing all nonessential businesses and activities and enforcing the wearing of face masks when out in public; the arsenal garrison has also kept a watchful eye on hospital treatment capabilities in Huntsville, Athens, and Florence.

Key to their commitment to the people of Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal relies as much on bed space, personal protection equipment, and other mission essential capabilities as the communities that support them.

Redstone Arsenal has about 7.8 million square feet of administrative or office space and the workforce shares common-use space.

What has life been like on Redstone Arsenal, and how will it look beginning May 19 going forward?

“Some of the steps we’ve taken are very similar to what businesses around the community are doing, as well as what the governor has suggested,” said Redstone Arsenal Garrison Commander Col. Kelsey A. Smith. “We did occupational health assessments of our buildings with the intent of spacing people out and creating that six-foot physical distance between people.

“We have gone through with our contracting partners to clean all that workspace and disinfect those areas, and we put up signs that designate when that cubicle or those offices were last cleaned. The idea being to allay workforce concern as they come into work.”

Smith said their intent has been to minimize the workforce’s opportunity to gather in large groups, leading to the closing of all dining facilities except for take-out. MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Benefits) runs the cafeterias, sports facilities and activities, the Pagano Gym, Redstone Arsenal Links at Redstone golf course, as well as the Automotive Skills Center.

The garrison closed the Auto Skills Center and golf course to minimize their interactions. Golf, Smith said, is a socially distancing sport but, for every person that comes onto the course, there are still 20 people at work who are exposed.

“For me to move workforce out of harm’s way, we minimized the workforce and reduced both ancillary and amenity benefits and trimmed ourselves down to mission essentials,” he said.

“I would tell you that like any businessman or woman, I would certainly like to open up my revenue-generating organizations. But my first job is to protect the health, safety, security and welfare of the population, no matter how much we want to get out and play golf or go bowling.

“Until we see this virus isn’t virulently spreading, and we can actually bring people together in groups of greater than 10 without that happening, I will be reticent to opening up any MWR on the installation.”

He said for essential face-to-face customer service benefits where a customer and an employee come into direct contact and can’t keep a 6-foot distance, they have installed plexiglass shields.

As some restrictions were lifted Monday, Smith said they will begin a conditions-based but methodical four-phase plan to reopening.

“We will provide some goal-setting of increasing to 25 to 35 percent of the population; 40 to 45 percent in phase two; then 60 to 75 percent,” he said. “We may begin restoring ancillary benefits that support our mission-essential functions, but that will depend on our constant monitoring how the virus performs within the entire community.”

He said they are providing some goals for tenants to attain if they need to. Included in those are teleworkers.

“Telework has become much more effectual, especially since we brought some systems onboard for the Army that allow as to be more cooperative at a distance” Smith said. “We may not see the same growth we might have seen before because we can still get the outputs we’re looking for with a more reduced footprint.

“I’m not saying those jobs disappear, but we may be able to see multiple days of telework for an employee versus five days a week on the arsenal.

“What we have laid out is a template for all the tenants based on what the installation can provide, so we’re looking forward to tenants providing us with their growth template. That will allow me to look at the demand so we can produce the capacity to do that.

“We know our workforce is going to go home at night. They are going to go to Lowe’s. They are going to go eat at a restaurant. They may even come onto contact with the virus, so we need to monitor what we consider the enemy – COVID-19 – and make sure we don’t expose too much of the population too quickly.”

Smith said despite Ivey’s most recent statement, he doesn’t expect to see significant growth.

“I wouldn’t expect to see significant growth until we hit phase two and then we may see a 25 percent growth in the number of personnel, we bring on the Arsenal,” he said. “We bring on about 10,000 people now and by phase two, we may see as many as 20,000 individuals trying to come in, but we will work out capacity ahead of time to be able to deal with that throughput.”

He also likes the idea of wearing the masks because it reminds others, they are doing something for a reason.

Cloth face masks will be required at some places, even after reopening, especially to enter the commissary, PX or any of the public facilities, but each entity will have their own restrictions.

“I caution our tenants that all the custodians don’t walk around with every organization’s specific limitations so different buildings may have different restrictions.” he said. “You may require a face mask at our facilities but not at another. On some installations I’ve seen screening stations at the entrances of the installation, in front of the PX and the commissary, et cetera; but we found that to be ineffectual unless it is controlled or administered by a health official, so that would really just cost us additional people.

“If an organization wants to do it, I support it, but we’re not going to provide them the manpower to do it. Our custodians have to be able to get into your building to clean so as long as your organization is in compliance, we are unified on that.”

Meanwhile, construction on the arsenal has continued to soldier on.

“We have (construction) schedules we have to maintain to bring capabilities into play in the future. That means what we do affects a contractor and their ability to come to work,” Smith said.

Construction continues on the FBI facility at Redstone Arsenal.

“The FBI and Redstone projects have not had a slowdown. Contractors are coming onto the installation, they are doing a very good job of screening their own folks, using much the same policies we have: if you are sick, stay at home. Don’t come to work if you think you might have encountered someone infected.”

All the job sites are up and running and you can see it at Redstone Gateway where buildings are continuing to sprout up.

On the secure side, once you enter through Gate 9 on the left, work is continuing. Also, at Gate 9 headed south on the right as drivers gain access to I-565, there is a lot of prep work for more construction activity, and they will be working the last week of May to get it repaved.

He said in many cases, the traffic slowdown has allowed them to take advantage of opportunities to pave roads such as Patton Roade.

“We have closed Gate 3 in the vicinity of Redstone Road to Hays Farm because we didn’t need that access,” Smith said. “That closure has allowed us to do quite a bit of the paving out there, and it looks like the demand doesn’t require us to get back in Gate 3 until mid-May or late May when we’ll be able to complete that.

“I’d like to say the Zierdt Road project has moved forward a lot, but the reduction in traffic has certainly allowed it to continue moving steadily forward.”

Smith said they are tracking the number of COVID-19 cases on the arsenal, but DoD doesn’t allow him to share those numbers because they are reported with the city’s numbers through the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“I can tell you that all but about one-eighth of those we are tracking have recovered, and the remainder of them remain in quarantine,” he said. “None have been hospitalized.

“Something gets lost when you follow the daily ticker tape of the overall numbers. I would like to be able to see alongside those numbers, the recovery rate because that would be helpful and maybe provide some encouragement to the population. We are tracking very closely, the local case rate. If we report today, we have 14 cases, but yesterday we had 20 and tomorrow we only have 10, that signifies what we’re doing is working well.”

Freedom Real Estate, Torch Technologies, Invariant Break Ground on Mixed-Use Facility

Freedom Real Estate & Capital, Torch Technologies and Invariant Corp. have announced they will be breaking ground on a mixed-use facility in South Huntsville, with a targeted completion date in summer 2021.

The groundbreaking ceremony, cancelled due to COVID-19, was set to take place at the end of April. This new development follows the 2019 completion of Torch’s Technology Integration and Prototyping Center.

Freedom, a real estate investment company, will develop the facility at 4040 Chris Drive, and has leased the first two spaces to Torch and Invariant, with opportunity for an additional tenant. The multi-tenant building will house up to 92,000 square feet and will feature a mix of office, research and development labs, light manufacturing, assembly and integration space along with a high bay.

Torch, a 100 percent employee-owned services and solutions defense contractor founded in 2002 in Huntsville, has shown its continued commitment to the redevelopment of and investment in South Huntsville through the rapid growth of its Huntsville headquarters. Torch’s campus consisted of two buildings in 2015 and, just five years later, the company is breaking ground on its sixth building.

Rendering shows the Freedom-Torch-Invariant facility from the south parking lot.

“We are proud to work alongside the city and state in our continued efforts to improve the standard of living in our South Huntsville community,” said John Watson, president and CEO of Torch.

Invariant, a Huntsville-based engineering services and software development company founded in 2001, is expanding into the facility to support its continued growth.

“We are excited to grow and expand into this new facility that will provide our employees the resources needed to ensure quality services and products are delivered to our customers, and we are proud to be a part of Huntsville’s continuing success,” said David Anderson, president of Invariant.

The project is part of a continued effort to redevelop South Huntsville.

The city has been working to reclaim, modernize and upgrade the area along South Memorial Parkway to encourage investment and redevelopment in the area, and is seeing progress with the announcements of new projects, including Hays Farm.

“Torch has been a catalyst for South Huntsville’s revitalization since the very beginning,” said Bekah Schmidt, CEO of South Huntsville Business Main Association. “The new facility at 4040 Chris Drive is a mixed-use facility with a state-of-the-art laboratory and premier manufacturing space.

“We look forward to seeing this project completed next year and appreciate Torch’s continued investment in South Huntsville.”

Bill Roark, co-founder of Torch Technologies and CEO of Freedom Real Estate & Capital, said, “We are proud to be able to contribute to economic development and growth in South Huntsville. This community is our home, and we look forward to watching it grow and thrive for years to come.”

South Huntsville Business Opportunities Revealed on Possibilities Tour

Dale Carnegie once said, “We all have possibilities we don’t know about.”

The South Huntsville Main Business Association hosted a bus tour for business owners interested in business in the southern end of town. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The South Huntsville Main Business Association showed off its potential this week with a “Possibilities Tour” of the upcoming Hays Farm development.

The organization welcomed business owners and potential business owners who may be looking to start a business or open a location on the busy south end of town.

In spite of the rain, a couple dozen people ranging from those interested in doctor’s offices to restaurants, retail stores and, even, office space took the tour.

At the post-tour luncheon, SHMBA Executive Director Bekah Schmidt laid out everything that is happening on the 850-acre Hays Farm development. Included in that is the former Haysland Square, renamed The Market at Hays Farm, and the Huntington shopping area.

“A lot of people know the daily traffic counts along the Parkway in that area are anywhere from 52,000 to 75,000 cars a day, making it very appealing,” said Schmidt. “But we wanted to show people there is much more coming, and there are additional benefits to opening a business on this end of town that people don’t know about.”

SHMBA Executive Director Bekah Schmidt said there are “additional benefits to opening a business on this end of town that people don’t know about.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

She said there will be retail, restaurant and office space surrounding the $3.6 million City Centre Park off the Parkway; and there are also outparcels of land available for purchasing and building.

At the Market at Hays Farm, there will be 1,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet of space available, some with kitchen space already set up for restaurants.

“We also want people to know that while downtown Huntsville is a hot spot right now for retail, that space may run you $30 per square-foot and up,” Schmidt said. “You can get the same amount of space in South Huntsville for $12 to $25 per square foot.

“And when you get in on the ground floor of a growing development like this, we can tailor the space to your specific needs, while later on, you will not have as many customizable options.”

The Market at Hays Farm is scheduled to open in late summer or early fall 2021.

Ready for Prime Time – Extreme Makeover: Hughes Plaza Edition

MADISON — As the area continues to grow by leaps and bounds, it’s hard to miss the unmistakable red clay and construction cones on any given road, on any given day.

Madison and Huntsville are on the fast track of redefining our communities, one slab of cement at a time.

Along with a host of brand-spanking new construction, there also has been significant redevelopment and extensive renovation on many existing structures. One property in particular is Hughes Plaza.

Hughes Plaza, across Hughes Road from Madison City Hall, was once a well-known retail destination. Over the years, the 59,071 square foot mixed-use property has fallen into disrepair and low occupancy.

Thanks to local physicians Jon and Alicia Krichev, the shopping center will soon be getting a makeover, complete with a newly upgraded façade and enhanced landscaping.

A business opportunity led the Krichevs to Hughes Plaza.

The Krichevs, along with Jon’s sister Jessica and her husband Chris Leven own Bicycle Cove in Hampton Cove. Last year, when Madison Cycles closed at Hughes Plaza, the Krichevs saw this as an opportunity to expand their business and set up shop in the same location in the Plaza.

However, the Krichevs were not happy with the plaza’s condition.

So, after a series of connections with mutual friends and business partners, the Krichevs became owners of the building and are fully dedicated to returning Hughes Plaza to its former glory.

Build it and they will come.

The revived Hughes Plaza “has the potential to become a beautiful and exciting development where people meet for bike rides, runs, lunches, and shopping trips.” (Rendering courtesy of Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

Currently, Bicycle Cove is the only tenant. Once renovations are complete, the Krichevs anticipate other health, wellness, and fitness retail concepts will follow along with perhaps, a restaurant and brew pub.

One exciting new tenant will be Fleet Feet, the running/walking specialty store.

Slated to open this summer, the 6,200-square-foot retail space will include an indoor running track. Fleet Feet has more than 180 stores in the United States with three Alabama locations — Montgomery, Birmingham, and Huntsville – making the Hughes Plaza location the fourth in the state.

Suzanne and Dink Taylor, owners of the Huntsville store in Jones Valley, are thrilled about opening a store in Madison.

“Our Huntsville location has been up and running for 16 years and we’ve loved every minute of it,” said Suzanne. “We’ve wanted to open a second location in Madison for a long time and everything finally came together.

“The location, timing, and means all worked out and we can’t wait to create a home for our Madison-based clientele.”

Hughes Plaza is less than a mile from downtown Madison and the up-and-coming Avenue Madison mixed-use development.

The closest major intersections are Mill Road and Old Madison Pike. Madison Boulevard and I-565 are within easy access of the Plaza. Major grocery chains Publix and Kroger, along with Walmart are all in close proximity.

Krichev believes that the redevelopment of Hughes Plaza will benefit the Madison community by creating an exciting new hub for shopping, dining, and wellness.

“We want to renew what was once a vibrant focus of commerce for the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Krichev. “This center has the potential to become a beautiful and exciting development where people meet for bike rides, runs, lunches, and shopping trips.”

 

 

 

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.