Construction Begins on 8,000-Seat Huntsville Amphitheater

Construction has begun on the long awaited state-of-the-art, 8,000-seat Huntsville Amphitheater at MidCity and the new West Huntsville Park. It also marks a 15-month countdown to an April 2022 opening.

The city’s amphitheater will soon rise from this red clay in Huntsville’s MidCity District. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The City of Huntsville and Venue Group, founded by Ben Lovett of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Mumford & Sons, made the announcement.

The project brings to life Huntsville’s long-time vision for an iconic major music venue that will serve the community and bring top music talent to the region. It is also a major contributor in the city’s Music Initiative to build a music and cultural-based economy throughout the region.

Huntsville Venue Group, a joint venture partnership led by Ryan Murphy, former CEO of the St. Augustine (Fla.) Amphitheater, will be operating the venue on behalf of the city. He will be assisted by leadership from the global Venue Group team including Lovett and his brother Greg, Graham Brown, and Jesse Mann, in partnership with industry veterans Mike Luba, Don Sullivan, Jeff Kicklighter and Al Santos.

According to Dennis Madsen, the city’s manager of Urban & Long Range Planning, who also oversees the Music Initiative, Lovett’s involvement is extraordinary because artists have a lot to say about the venues in which they perform.

“Artists themselves like to play in some venues because of the atmosphere and environment,” said Madsen. “I believe Ben Lovett’s motivation in starting Venue Group was driven by wanting to create more of those types of venues.”

Mayor Tommy Battle said the city has wanted to build more than an amphitheater. They want a facility that will help grow Huntsville’s music and culture economy.

“It will allow us to become a community of curators, where we can develop our own creative content that is unique to Huntsville that we can share globally,” said Battle. “In addition to arts festivals, markets, and world-famous musicians, we’ll be able to incubate our own talent, showing that our next great entrepreneurs don’t all have to be in space and missile defense.”

Murphy believes the main reason Venue Group won the contract for the Huntsville Amphitheater was because they had a shared vision of a year-round operation and of making it a community asset.

“When I saw Huntsville doing this Music Initiative, I was so impressed. They are putting the road map together. They understand the economics of it and the importance of it,” he said. “I have to say they stepped up to understand that music is not just a quality-of-life issue that adds to the culture and arts in a city.

“Huntsville understands music is an economic driver and that it creates jobs.”

He said having worked in local government for 15 years, it is often hard for local government to understand the benefits of a music and culture economy because there is not a lot of long-term vision.

“We are creating something that is not just your run-of-the-mill amphitheater stage and lawn,” Murphy said. “The uniqueness of the architecture and the uniqueness of how it will be operated makes it much more of a community asset.”

Part of that uniqueness will be the Amphitheater’s integration into the new West Huntsville Park. The city will be preserving much of the natural trees and wooded areas and will be creating nature and hiking trails throughout the surrounding area.

There has been some early criticism that so elaborate a venue may well bring in 20 major concerts a year, but what about the remaining 345 days a year?

“That would be the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars, even if 20 big names a year was an economic driver, brought more quality of life to the residents, and provided jobs,” said Murphy. “What we’re going to create is a community asset. The Huntsville Amphitheater will be an extension of the new West Huntsville Park so that on any given day there may be multiple stages set up with multiple areas of engagement, much of it free.”

From a gospel Sunday brunch with barbecue and great gospel groups, to local Saturday afternoon music showcases, Murphy said the aim is to create a venue the community will get behind because they know on any given day year-round, they will find something really cool going on there.

“It will attract major concerts that have never been seen in North Alabama, but it will also be scaled appropriately with plenty of flexible space and will be affordable for nonprofits and local events to lease space to fit any occasion from farmer’s markets and graduation ceremonies to small arts festivals,” he said.

Another unique aspect of the Huntsville Amphitheater is the result of Lovett’s vision to build a new era of world class music venues combined with significant community growth and amenities. Among those amenities is food – good food.

Huntsville Venue Group is in talks with regional chefs and local food vendors to bring to life its prized food village that will operate year-round. The village will provide food and beverage options to patrons of the Amphitheatre and also serve as an additional amenity and social space for MidCity.

“One of the biggest trends in the past 10 years has been an elevation of the quality and variety of food offerings, especially around music,” said Lovett. “We believe there is a huge amount of opportunity in the hospitality side of entertainment to deliver food and drinks of such excellence that they stand on their own two feet as an offering not simply as a way to ‘tide you over,’ quench the thirst, or satiate the hunger temporarily.

“We have to aspire for higher standards than that. One of the reasons that Huntsville is so appealing to me and the team is it feels like going the extra mile is in the DNA of this city and we intend to go the extra mile when it comes to not just the concert experience, but the restaurants and bars that lay adjacent and that will serve customers year-round.”

Murphy also said Huntsville Venue Group is going to be involved in the entire community.

“Whether they are festivals downtown or smaller venues in town struggling to get back on their feet after COVID, we are going to help them, too,” he said. “The Huntsville Amphitheater will not open in isolation. We are watching the recommendation coming from the Initiative’s music audit, and we are going to help every step of the way.”

 

Huntsville Music Initiative: A Duet in Economy and Song

In 2019, the city of Huntsville played a duet in economy and song.

The Huntsville Music Initiative was launched, accompanied by a citywide music audit to celebrate the music industry’s significant impact on the city, with the understanding that impact could be significantly more.

One of the initial recommendations coming from the music audit was the need for a board of professionals and people in the local music industry, to help guide the city in implementing a strategy.

A jam session at Mad Malts Brewing is typical of Huntsville’s diverse music scene.

In January 2020, the Huntsville Music Board (huntsvillemusic.org) was established. Its members are chairman Brett Tannehill of WLRH radio; Celese Sanders, founder and executive director of Encore Opera Huntsville; local singer and songwriter Chuck Rutenberg as vicechair; Codie Gopher, founder of the Huntsville Hip Hop Tech Conference; Cricket Hoffman, founding member of Hip Hop Live and CodeName Underground; alternative pop artist Deqn Sue; Judy Allison, CEO/director of Purple19; Mario Maitland, founder of Huntsville’s Maitland Conservatory; and Mark Torstenson, co-owner and manager of The Fret Shop.

According to Dennis Madsen, the city’s manager of Urban & Long-Range Planning who also oversees the Music Initiative, Huntsville has always been creative in its approach to economic development.

Redstone Arsenal is No. 1 when it comes to Huntsville’s economic driver, but there are other means the rest of the city can support it by diversifying. Similar to the diversity of businesses in Cummings Research Park and the burgeoning automotive manufacturing industry in Limestone County, Madsen said there is a huge driving music industry opportunity in Huntsville that if nurtured, could really grow.

“A growing music industry will do great things for our quality of life and create a whole other job and economic sector in Huntsville,” said Madsen. “That was the big motivation behind doing the music audit and creating the Board.”

Madsen uses the city’s Industrial Development Board as an example.

“When we talk about recruiting industry, that board is filled with folks who really understand industrial development and they partner with the City to help drive industrial development,” he said.

“For years, Huntsville has people immersed in the music industry or related industries like communications and public relations and they are the people who can help guide Huntsville in making policies and in supporting development to grow the music industry here.”

One might think COVID stopped the concerto right in the middle of the third movement, but instead, the board took its meetings virtual the rest of 2020 and the list of accomplishments built a base to work on in 2021.

First, a Spotify playlist was established which shared local music from a variety of genres; and they also shared their own playlists as a great way to get more exposure for their own work.

The Board created a charter and a webpage and developed a resource guide for artists negatively impacted by COVID-19, currently on the City’s website, to share ways in which they can reach out and get help.

They also formed committees on things like marketing; education, looking at strategies for engaging in schools with low-cost instrument rentals; and they formed an events committee to create a calendar, that hasn’t been implemented yet, but will be a one-stop-shop and central clearinghouse for people wanting to know about local and regional music events.

Music Board member Mario Maitland, founder of the Maitland Conservatory in Huntsville, is on the education committee. He started his music school to offer students ages 2 to 76, a modern application of music and the arts.

“We focus on the careers that can be created from the arts. A lot of time, the arts get stuck in this box of, ‘It’s cute to take piano lessons or violin lessons’ and maybe one day you can play in church,” he said. “But we don’t really talk about, nor do we really expose people to, how to take traditional arts school training and apply it to modern careers in music production, film scoring, deejaying, video editing, even vlogging and podcasting.”

As a Music Board member, he said the ultimate goal is to get people thinking about music as a sustainable economic engine. And, once it gets going, music creates jobs and residual income in businesses connected to it.

“Everyone loves entertainment, everyone loves music, and they want to go out and enjoy it, but they are not really used to paying for it,” said Maitland. “We’re trying to promote this culture of paying for your music so that we can really push the whole idea of a music economy.

“We don’t want these individual music venues to exist as silos. We want them interwoven. That is how we help to cultivate the music scene. But then we want to take it a step further: How can we interconnect all of those things to really create a cohesive music economy?”

The board also met to establish a music policy handbook.

Among the most important policies is initial research into noise ordinances and how they impact artists planning musical events. It lays out a plan for how the board can work with the city to clarify those ordinances, and make it easier for artists, venues, businesses and residents to comply to those policies.

“Noise ordinances and policies are important because you will be faced with conflicts between venues and nearby businesses and residences,” said Madsen. “The Music Board will set a policy to mediate these things that says essentially, whoever was there first has the right to do what they were doing. Whoever comes in afterwards, has to take that into account and is responsible for attenuating the noise.”

Madsen said the city has been talking about an amphitheater in Huntsville for a long time. The idea of the MidCity Amphitheater dovetailed with the opening of the VBC Mars Music Hall.

“The Mars Music Hall has been incredibly well received not just by audiences but by artists who say it is a great place to play,” said Madsen. “We recognize the need for something along the lines of an 8,000-seat outdoor venue that can attract a certain level of artists who are on the national circuit.

“What came out of the music audit was an affirmation of that. This market is big enough for something like that, but it is also big enough for meeting a broader variety of event venues.”

The Music Initiative also seeks to partner with the unique independent music culture and history of places such as Florence and Muscle Shoals, and to share artists from there and Huntsville to encourage a cross-cultural exchange.

“But we are even looking beyond that,” said Madsen. “We are adjacent to what is known as the Americana Music Triangle that incorporates the major music cities in the Southeast. We will never be Nashville, but how can Huntsville become part of that broad music culture exchange so young and aspiring artists can cut their teeth in the regional music ecosystem and go on to hit the bigger stages.”

Another issue to come out of the audit was the need for more public events.

Impossible last year due to COVID, there are now discussions about restarting Big Spring Jam or, once we are on the backside of COVID, to create a signature Huntsville Music and Arts Festival.

Board member Codie Gopher has several ideas about this.

By day, Gopher designs attack helicopters on Redstone Arsenal, but his true love is music, and he is fully committed to developing and supporting local talent.

He founded the Huntsville Hip Hop Tech Conference more than five years ago, bringing in music leaders from around the globe, and has consistently focused on subjects such as hip hop tech production development, teaching music technology in Huntsville/Madison County schools, the global influence of hip hop, and the future of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).

“Codie G. is a very influential member of the hip hop community here and he has been promoting the idea of 256 Day,” said Madsen. “256 is the local area code, but the 256th day of the year falls in mid-September, the happy zone for outdoor public events.

“It is the beginning of the private music industry starting to shape a new fall music festival, or maybe other festivals on a variety of scales, over the course of a year.”

Madsen points out that Huntsville already has a diversity of music ranging from the chamber music festival Twickenham Fest to the Hip Hop Tech Conference to the Huntsville Orchestra to the city’s robust blues, country and rock music scene.

With the city’s amphitheater coming to MidCity and an amphitheater planned for Home Place Park in Madison, as well as venues such as Toyota Field, Big Spring Park, the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall and others, the Huntsville Music Initiative seems to be hitting the high notes when it comes to musical and economic harmony.

HSV Awarding Airline Tickets to Front Line Heroes, Register Today at Noon

Everyone agrees we need to “Give ‘em a Break” after what will most likely go down in history as the most stressful and exhausting year in any health care worker or first responder’s career. 

Huntsville International Airport and Frontier Airlines are “giving ’em a break” with free tickets to Orlando. The first 50 qualified COVID-19 workers to register at noon today will have a shot at winning this special 100 Frontier Airline ticket giveaway.

The airport urges front line workers to visit www.FlyHuntsville.com and register for this big “thank you” from HSV. Registration opens at FlyHuntsville.com at noon.

The airport will select the first 50 qualified registrants and reward each person with two round-trip airline tickets to be used to book a Frontier Airlines flight to Orlando.

The winners will be announced on the airport Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/HuntsvilleInternationalAirport/ after 1 p.m.  Winners will be contacted, for booking purposes, using the e-mail provided on their registration. 

The airport will consider a front line worker as any health care worker, paid and unpaid, serving in a health care setting and who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or the coronavirus infection. It will also include first responders, active-duty law enforcement officers, and firefighters.

Registrants will be asked to identify their employer and job title as a part of the registration process to determine eligibility. Participants can only register once and must be at least 18 years old. 

Eligible travel dates for the contest are Feb. 25-March 25 and there are no exceptions, so participants must be available to travel on those dates before entering the contest. 

“Frontier Airlines serves our market with flights to Orlando,” said Jana Steen, public relations manager at Huntsville International Airport. “They have continued this service through trying times, so we wanted to fill up some of those seats. 

“This promotion gives HSV a chance to reward not only the men and women who have been on the front lines battling COVID-19, but also to give business to our airline partner who has continued to show a commitment to Huntsville. 

“We believe it’s a win for everyone.”

The Sweet Sounds of Progress: The Singing River Trail Is On Its Way!

There has been nothing but beautiful music coming from the Singing River Trail project since Dr. John Kvach took over as its first executive director in July.

Unveiled last year by the Land Use Committee of Huntsville’s Launch 2035, the Singing River Trail is the committee’s most ambitious legacy project. It connects the North Alabama region to its rich history and preserving its pristine environment – originally consisting of 70 miles of walking, biking, and hiking trails and greenways.

However, the trail is kicking off 2021 with several significant accomplishments.

Kvach was on hand to announce the opening of four miles of the Hays Farm Greenway that includes an early intersection with the vast Singing River Trail network. The ribbon-cutting highlighted the partnership the trail has with south Huntsville, the city of Huntsville, Hays Farm, and South Huntsville Main Business Association, and stirred the interest of other potential corporate partners.

The Singing River Trail at Hays Farm merges the local greenway into the larger SRT footprint.

“The Singing River Trail is open for business along 2 1/2 miles of Haysland Road just south of the new Grissom High School,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out in 2021 is the new and much expanded trail map.

Originally planned as a 70-mile, three-county project, it has grown into a 150-mile, eight-county project under Kvach’s leadership, connecting North Alabama from Bridgeport/Scottsboro to Sheffield, bringing it within 16 miles of the Natchez Trace.

The Singing River Trail map shows it extending from near South Pittsburg, Tenn., to The Shoals. (Map courtesy The Singing River Trail)

Kvach has met with state legislators, mayors and city officials to increase awareness and possible funding sources. And he is working on a feasibility study for a section of the trail that will run from Scottsboro to Guntersville to Huntsville.

“We are now partnering with the National Park Service as we focus on the Deas-Whiteleay Trail of Tears Overland Route as the western expansion route,” he said. “And we can now call Athens State University a partner after it proactively reached out to to make sure the trail will be part of their campus.”

The National Park Service and Muscle Shoals Heritage Area are also in talks as the trail grows.

The trail has received funding from the state of Alabama, and the Community Foundation awarded a Compass Society grant for $11,000 for a new and more engaging website design promoting their “Get Outside Alabama” campaign. Kvach has also been working on a corporate-giving strategy and development packet that will allow the trail to pursue public and private money.

“We are currently working toward funding two design projects at the Huntsville International Airport, a trail route feasibility study in Athens, website work in collaboration in Decatur/Morgan County Tourism, and funding for a master plan from Bridgeport/Scottsboro to Huntsville and from Decatur to Sheffield/Florence,” Kvach said.

“Because the trail is a nonprofit tasked with raising its own operating expenses and funding, we will begin working with the state Legislature to pass a resolution of support on behalf of the Singing River Trail in 2021, and to find a line on the state budget for recreational, educational, and cultural/historical programing and to help with economic development along the trail.

Kvach said despite COVID-19 numbers rising in North Alabama going into the first of the year, he has seen an increase in interest about the trail.

“Outdoor recreation, hospitality, and engagement are becoming more commonly accepted and desired,” he said. “The trail has been working with two new partners in Huntsville who will rely on the trail as a source of alternative transportation, and as a way to highlight safe and fun outdoor activities and engagement.

“Taking a negative and making it a positive is working well with community partners.”

Huntsville Preparing for Possible Icy Conditions

The City of Huntsville is closely monitoring the threat of winter weather, which could impact travel and city services this week.

The National Weather Service in Huntsville has Madison and surrounding counties under a Winter Storm Warning through 6 a.m. Tuesday. The weather threat also prompted Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a State of Emergency for 28 counties, including Madison.

The main threat with the storm is wintry precipitation, including up to 3 inches of snowfall in some spots, along with ice accumulations of up to 0.3 inch.

The combination of precipitation and cold temperatures is expected to impact travel on roads in and around the City. Other potential impacts include power outages from downed trees and limbs.

Those who must travel should carefully monitor road conditions. Huntsville Police asks that drivers stay off the roads unless in case of an emergency.

Click here to sign up for City Alerts, which provides updates from Huntsville/Madison County Emergency Management Agency, traffic wreck reports from the Huntsville Police Department, as well as notifications from City departments and elected officials. Users can receive these notifications via text, email and/or voice calls.

Visit the City of Huntsville website’s Winter Weather Alert page for the most current information on municipal operations at HuntsvilleAL.gov/WinterWeather.

The Max Luther Center will open as a Community Warming Center from 3 p.m. Monday until 9 a.m. Wednesday.  Church of the Nativity and First Stop are coordinating operations.

In the event of a significant winter weather event citizens can:

Report a power outage by calling 256-535-4448 or 256-535-1200. Outages can also be reported online by clicking here. Huntsville Utilities outage map can be found here.

Check road conditions by visiting the ALGO Traffic website or Twitter page.

See school closings by visiting Huntsville City Schools’ News Center or monitor local media.

We Have Liftoff! Space & Rocket Center’s Iconic Space Shuttle Detached from Tank

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Pathfinder Restoration Project moved another step forward with the lifting of the Pathfinder shuttle orbiter off the external tank, where it has been on display for more than 30 years. After weeks of preparation, two cranes lifted the 127,000-pound shuttle test article to the ground in Shuttle Park. 

The Rocket Center received a Save America’s Treasures grant for $500,000 from the National Park Service in August, and matching donations from several sources gave the Center the money to begin the project.

The next step is for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to evaluate the interior structure of the orbiter. The full extent and timeline of the project are yet to be determined, but the Rocket Center expects the entire shuttle restoration will be a multi-year, multimillion-dollar project.

The Pathfinder shuttle stack was erected at the Rocket Center in 1988, and it has remained the only full-stack shuttle exhibit in the world.

The property of Marshall Space Flight Center, Pathfinder was originally used as a heavy-lift article to test handling, transportation and other procedures for the Space Transportation System, also known as the space shuttle. Pathfinder is a name NASA gives to articles used to test infrastructure and logistics for its programs.

In the early 1980s, the America-Japan Society paid to modify the structure with plywood and fiberglass to resemble a real orbiter and displayed it from 1983 to 1984 at an exposition in Tokyo. After the expo, Pathfinder returned to Huntsville and was mounted for the display at the Rocket Center.

Cheesecake Factory Coming to Bridge Street Town Centre

When officials with The Cheesecake Factory toured Bridge Street Town Centre in late 2019, they were sold on adding the state’s second location here.

All of what happened in 2020 didn’t change that decision, either.

“Our guests have been asking us to come to Huntsville for years, so we are very pleased to be opening a restaurant at Bridge Street Town Centre,” David Overton, founder, chairman and CEO of The Cheesecake Factory, said. “Bridge Street Town Centre is a wonderful property … and we look forward to opening  there.”

The Cheesecake Factory will move into the 7,350-square-foot corner location on the south side of the property that previously housed Cantina Laredo. It will be across from P.F. Chang’s and adjacent to Barnes & Noble. Opening is “Winter 2021,” with no specific date announced.

The Cheesecake Factory has been consistently named one of the Fortune magazine “Best 100 Companies to Work For.” It has garnered numerous awards for customer satisfaction, quality of atmosphere, food and presentation, workplace diversity, and menu options. Its large, diverse menu contains more than 250 items including more than 50 cheesecakes.

The company also has consistently been nominated and acclaimed for community service and development of employees. Its other Alabama location is at The Summit in Birmingham. The Cheesecake Factory owns and operates 294 restaurants in the United States and Canada under three brands. It also has a bakery division that provides items for its restaurants and third-party bakery customers.

Nikki Columbo, senior vice president of National Key Accounts for Bayer Properties, said the company is opening “very few stores” in the next 18 months due to the coronavirus impact. Bayer Properties, based in Birmingham, manages Bridge Street Town Centre. Myriad factors contributed to the decision to open here, including the drawing power of the shopping complex to a large demographic.

“The Cheesecake Factory’s philosophy, pre-pandemic, was to not go into markets that did not have a set demographic draw,” Columbo said. “I believe that was something like 500,000 in 10 miles, which Huntsville does not have. But after looking at this project, and we’re the dominant project in the entire market until you get to Birmingham, given the way Bridge Street Town Centre trades in the market and attracts visitors from 25 to 50 miles, and looking at the core customer coming to Bridge Street 25 or more times a year, they looked at it as being able to draw in a market in excess of half a million.

“Then it was a decision of which (location) to choose, and when they toured 15 months ago it was clear to them that Bridge Street was their only choice. They’ve been great partners.”

The company’s history dates to the 1940s in Detroit when Evelyn Overton used a newspaper recipe to create her “Original” cheesecake. She opened a small shop but closed it to raise her two children, Renee and David. She still made cheesecakes at home for local restaurants, building a strong reputation. In 1972, with the children grown, Evelyn and her husband moved to Los Angeles to chase their dream.

She began making cheesecakes and quickly established herself in Los Angeles. In 1978, the Cheesecake Factory opened its first restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif. Calling it “upscale casual dining” — today it’s known by influencers and others as “experiential dining” — the restaurant’s popularity took off. Its extensive menu covers a wide range designed for a variety of diners.

Columbo said other projects are in the works for Bridge Street. Dallas-based Main Event is opening in what was the Toys R Us/Babies R Us building on the corner of Governors Drive West and Eagle Drive Northwest. The 50,000-square-foot entertainment and restaurant complex will be the company’s first in Alabama.

Columbo said traffic and shopping patterns, demographics of outlying areas from Huntsville and Madison County, housing starts, known brands expressing interest and other factors are contributing to the flurry of projects here. Announcements about the FBI building a complex on Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville landing the Space Command headquarters also are impactful.

“We have a lot in the works, but obviously we don’t announce until things are signed, sealed and delivered,” she said. “But suffice to say we have a lot in the works. I like to say we cast a large net. It’s surprising that even in pandemic this (Huntsville) market is so strong. We’re seeing a lot of interest in this mini-economic boom the market is experiencing.”

 

 

Construction on Constellation, the City’s ‘Front Door,’ is Underway

After decades of planning and dreaming, Constellation Huntsville is finally under construction.

Constellation is a mixed-use development right at Huntsville’s “front door.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Located on about 11 acres sandwiched between Memorial Parkway, Clinton Avenue and the Von Braun Center, the mixed-use project has sparked numerous questions and much speculation over the years.

Developer Scott McLain never lost faith, although it may have been shaken a bit over the last 12 years after two recessions, a pandemic and other natural bumps in the road of developing such a large project.

On the site of the old Heart of Huntsville Mall, which was demolished in 2007, Constellation Huntsville will feature 219 apartments, about 25,000 square feet of retail space, about 20,000 square feet of small office space, multiple restaurants and a parking deck.

A 200,000 square-foot office tower could be the tallest in downtown, McLain said, and “only limited by physics and economics.” A hotel will join Springhill Suites on the site.

The project is being developed by Constellation LLC, which consists of Heartland Real Estate Services (Heartland Development Services LLC of Chicago) and Coldwell Banker Commercial McLain Real Estate.

The second hotel will be developed by Yedla Management Co. which owns the hotel site. Yedla lists 17 hotels in its portfolio including the Springhill Suites, AC Hotel, Aloft Hotel, Homewood Suites, TownePlace Suites, Hampton Inn, and DoubleTree Suites in Huntsville; as well as hotels in Florence, Decatur, Foley, Atmore, Charlotte and Lake Mary, Fla.

The site has the highest traffic count in the city, with Memorial Parkway, Clinton Avenue, Governors Drive and I-565 within a mile. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“Constellation is fully under construction at this point and we are excited,” McLain said. “Constellation is part of downtown Huntsville’s exciting, new mixed-use projects and is strategically located at what some say is the front door of downtown. I am exceedingly proud to see this project executed.

“The site is very important and demands a high-quality and exciting project. Being at the front door to downtown on Memorial Parkway is a responsibility to ensure that the property is fully utilized and developed to its fullest purpose to the benefit of our community.”

The site has the highest traffic count in the city, with Memorial Parkway, Clinton Avenue, Governors Drive and I-565 within a mile. The City of Huntsville has pledged $3 million for upgrades to the intersections near the site along with access to parking. Asked about potential changes to access roads on South Memorial Parkway, which are stressful at rush hours, McLain said none were planned and “it’s a U.S. highway, so the ramps are as they are.”

A 200,000 square-foot office tower is planned for this site along Memorial Parkway. Its height may be “only limited by physics and economics.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

The four-story apartment building will feature courtyards, a heated swimming pool, 1- to 3-bedroom apartments, gym facilities and meeting facilities along with other amenities. McLain said the apartments will not be completed until at least April 2022.

Retail and restaurant leasing “is in full swing, but they decide when they want to announce so we have no announcements at this juncture,” McLain said.

Total investment for Constellation will be close to $100 million, McLain said. His father, the late Gene McLain, purchased the site in the 1980s and demolished the one-story Heart of Huntsville mall in 2007. McLain died the day he and Scott were to meet with then-Mayor Loretta Spencer about the development.

A year later the worst recession since the Depression hit.

“It certainly is a highly complex project,” McLain said, “and between two recessions, two partnership deaths and the pandemic it has taken quite some time to get to this point.

“But we are extremely excited to be underway and fully under construction.”

 

 

Last Days to Vote! Boost HSV From No. 2 to No. 1 as USA Today’s Best Small Airport

According to the most recent leaderboard, Huntsville International Airport is in second place in USA Today’s Best Small Airport competition.

But, guess what. 

That is exactly where HSV stood last year in the last few days of the competition, and the community pulled together to vote and win. 

According to Public Relations Manager Jana Kuner, Huntsville can do it again but time is running out. The voting site – https://tinyurl.com/VoteFlyHSV – closes Monday, Feb. 1 at 11 p.m. CST. 

“Last year our community and North Alabama came together and voted so much in the final days that we moved into the No. 1 spot,” said Kuner. “All the credit goes to the people in our region who refuse to lose, and we know they will come together and vote in this same tremendous way again.” 

Huntsville International Airport hosts Delta, American, United, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines, offering nonstop service to 10 major destinations across the country.

For the second consecutive year, HSV has been nominated for the honor by a panel of travel experts with the 10 Best Reader’s Choice 2021. Fifteen small airports across the U.S. have been nominated this year with HSV as Alabama’s lone nominee.

All voting is digital, and you can vote once per day from each of your devices. Kuner also asks folks to share the link (https://tinyurl.com/VoteFlyHSV) on social media.

Kuner said 2020 was a hard year for the travel and tourism industry overall and HSV was impact as well but a No. 1 finish can make a difference.

“This contest could be a very positive thing for HSV as we enter into a new year and hopefully begin to get our passengers back to the skies,” she said.

Huntsville International hosts Delta, American, United, Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines, offering nonstop service to 10 major destinations across the country. 

The airport has an onsite hotel and a range of food and beverage options.

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.

Convention & Visitors Bureau Launches Annual #iHeartHsv ‘Digital Lovefest’

With February, comes Valentine’s Day, along with the candy, hearts, and flowers associated with it. What a perfect time to show the love for Huntsville and the hospitality industry! 

Judy Ryals: Hospitality workers “deserve to be celebrated for the outstanding job they continue to do for our city.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Despite the pandemic, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau is rolling out its eighth annual #iHeartHsv social media campaign. It runs Feb. 1-14.

Folks are invited to celebrate all things hospitality in the Rocket City by using #iHeartHsv on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As Huntsville’s biggest “digital lovefest,” #iHeartHsv offers participants an opportunity to share what they love about Huntsville and Madison County. The spotlight is on the “Heroes of Hospitality.” 

“Each year, this campaign, we do a little something different.” said Kristen Pepper, marketing director for the bureau. “This year we’re changing the focus, we’re showcasing the people who make the Rocket City so great. Those that work every day to provide the uniquely Huntsville experience to visitors to show them the hospitality that we’re known for and to keep them coming back time and time again.”

The bureau worked with videographer Austin Spencer to create a daily video series, highlighting the local “Heroes of Hospitality.” The goal of the series is to introduce the area’s hospitality and tourism employees and show the importance of hospitality for the local economy, culture, and quality of life.

“This year, after the challenges that the pandemic brought to our industry, we really want to focus on the people that make our city great,” said bureau President/CEO Judy Ryals. “Behind each experience, every impression we leave on our guests and visitors, is a hospitality worker who’s working hard to present Huntsville in the best light possible. They deserve to be celebrated for the outstanding job they continue to do for our city.”

Kristen Pepper: :We are hospitality, we’re still standing, and that’s just what we do. We keep on going.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Questions will be posted daily with a “Hospitality Hero” video spotlight. Those who respond with the hashtag #iHeartHsv have a chance to win prizes. 

Winners will be selected at 8 p.m. everyday. They will be selected based on the use of the #iHeartHsv, relevance to the daily prompts, and creativity.  The prize is $150 prize toward a locally owned or operated Huntsville-Madison County attraction, restaurant, or hotel stay of their choice.

A kickoff tweet at 4 p.m. Friday will begin the promotion with the official start at 8 a.m. Monday.

“This is going to be one of the best campaigns ever,” said Pepper. “We are hospitality, we’re still standing, and that’s just what we do. We keep on going.”

For more information, visit huntsville.org/iHeartHsv.