Ivey Announces I-565 Widening Project

MONTGOMERY – Following through on a campaign promise, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday a widening project for heavily traveled I-565.

She also said a second project will expand the I-65 interchange at Tanner.

The two major transportation projects were selected by the Alabama Department of Transportation for the Rebuild Alabama Act First Year Plan 2020.

The first project includes resurfacing and revising lanes on Interstate 565 from Interstate 65 to County Line Road to provide an additional lane in each direction through the partial use of shoulders, making it a six-lane interstate. The second project will allow for the expansion of the interchange on I-65 at Tanner and widening Browns Ferry Road to be extended westward across to U.S. 31.

“While the Huntsville and surrounding areas are booming with continual economic growth, it was imperative we make enhancements to their infrastructure system for the nearly 60,000 vehicles traveling on I-565 daily. Both improvement projects will be significant strides for this area,” Ivey said. “This will improve the daily commute for several thousand drivers and provide access to the new Mazda-Toyota joint assembly plant. When we began on the road to Rebuild Alabama, I promised our state would see real results, real improvements and a promising future, and we’re certainly delivering on that.”

Both improvement projects will greatly increase access to the Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing plant development, relieve congestion on I-565 and will help pave the way for further economic growth.

“The state of Alabama and the city of Huntsville continue to be great partners to spur growth in this area, as well as across the state. We saw it when Alabama landed the coveted Mazda-Toyota joint assembly plant, and we’re seeing it today with the announcement of these two important infrastructure projects,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “Governor Ivey has been instrumental to our recent successes, and I was proud to support her in her efforts to Rebuild Alabama. Adding lanes to this critical corridor ensures our continued economic growth.”

Ivey signed the Rebuild Alabama Act into law March 12, after it received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Alabama Legislature. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole and Sen. Clyde Chambliss, gradually increases Alabama’s fuel tax over the next three years.

“I commend Governor Ivey’s leadership in passing Rebuild Alabama and her commitment to keep Alabama growing,” Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said. “Additional lanes on Interstate 565 will greatly reduce congestion and aid commerce in one of the fastest growing regions of our state. I, along with my colleagues, are pleased to see such quick returns from the Rebuild Alabama Act passing.”

Beginning in January, state, county, and municipal governments in Alabama will begin to see additional revenue from the fuel tax increase of six-cents which begins in September. In fact, once the 10-cent increase is fully implemented in 2021, Madison County will receive an additional $3.5 million dollars and Limestone County will receive $1.27 million, on top of what they already receive, to be used for various transportation infrastructure projects.

Safety is Paramount as Construction on Town Madison Stadium Reaches Significant Milestones

MADISON — The home for the Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball team is about one-quarter complete.

Concrete and steel have gone up and the underground plumbing and electricity is being laid.

Mud is moving, tractors are pulling, trucks are dumping, and walls are being erected.

The entire Town Madison development may have gotten off to a slow start, but word on the baseball stadium job site is that there will be significant progress in the coming weeks, in anticipation of the December completion date. In fact, the development will reach a point in which it will suddenly seem to go up all at once.

Hoar Construction, general contractor for the stadium, has 80 to 90 workers at the site on any given day. It is just one of many construction sites in full-build mode at Town Madison.

So, what is it like out there on a day-to-day basis? Is everybody staying safe?

Hoar Construction Safety Manager Amanda Black

“Some days there is a beehive of activity and it can get confusing with all the other construction going on around us,” said Bart Wilder, vice president of safety for Hoar Construction, “From a site perspective, it is nonstop all day. Building for us is not just about building on time, under budget, and to a high level of quality. It is about doing all of those things safely and seamlessly.”

Every trade has its own inherent risks associated with their type of work and for that reason, Wilder said they work diligently to get the right trade partners (subcontractors) on every project.

“We choose partners who understand that safety comes down to understanding what our risks are and having the processes in place to identify and mitigate them,” he said. “Hoar sets the culture and expectations for the project, but our partners represent various scopes of work like concrete and steel, utilities, plumbing, electrical. It takes all these trades to put together a project like the new stadium and most of the safety plan begins in preplanning when our safety representatives sit down with partner safety representatives to discuss what they see as hazards on the upcoming job.”

While the construction industry operates under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Primary Standards for Safety, there are other regulatory industries OSHA incorporates into its standards by reference. In fact, OSHA leans heavily on other building trades such as the National Fire Protection Association to write their own codes for fire extinguishers, fire suppression, or chemical exposure. The National Electrical Code also has its own safety protocol, incorporated into OSHA’s standards.

“Safety is not a burden because our partners share the safety responsibilities with us,” said Wilder. “Also, our obligations are not predicated on the minimum of OSHA standards. Our obligations are more along the lines of industry best practices, designed to be above and beyond OSHA.”

Hoar recommends every team start every shift by looking at specific tasks and asking each other – “Do we have the tools, equipment, manpower, and materials to do today’s tasks? Even more importantly – what are the hazards surrounding that task?” “Are there things that can hurt you in the process?”

Amanda Black, Hoar Construction’s safety manager at Town Madison, begins every morning with a field walk through the jobsite. She checks to see what the last shift left for the next day, and to assess whether site conditions require a superintendent or a team to clean it up. She also makes sure there is room to walk around and maneuver safely and room to operate their equipment.

“We preach two things all the time to the workforce,” said Black “‘Safety is everybody’s job’, and ‘If you see something, say something.’

“I’m out on the site most of the time making sure everyone is doing their job safely. We have safety meetings out here every Tuesday and free time safety analyses every day to keep the workers thinking about job safety and thinking about ways to prevent hazards from happening.”

She said as the general contractor, Hoar requires every team have safety meetings among their group, and Black confirms those meetings daily and any issues that arose from them, checking notes among supervisors to see if anyone spotted any safety hazards that need to be discussed.

“Amanda is in the field, boots on the ground, all day long,” said Wilder. “She is constantly observing not only potential unsafe conditions that can arise, but she knows how to approach an unsafe situation and talk about a way to fix it in a respectful, professional, an educated manner,” said Wilder. “Amanda is trained in safety rules and regulations, so she speaks with authority and people onsite respond to that.”

Construction safety also requires a great deal of foresight. Amanda spends a lot of time at the drawing table trying to safely predict any kind of hazard before it presents itself.

“We have all these great rules and regulations in our industry, but it is not about the regs with Hoar,” said Wilder. “We want you to go home safely. Whoever is waiting for you at home is more important than anyone at work.”

There is an economic message in that strategy as well.

“Part of our success is being able to create all these great construction jobs – jobs that in the process, send you home every day no worse for wear than however you were when you showed up.”

The number one injury on any construction jobsite is trips and falls.

“It seems that areas designated for storage tend to be where a plurality of these trip-and-fall injuries take place,” said Black. “We run to the problem, not away from it. We go back over the environment where they fell to see what caused it, and we check tools and equipment to make sure they were working properly.

“We call in our superintendents to engage quickly and work the problem until it gets resolved.”

“I believe the construction industry has gotten safer in relation to previous generations,” said Wilder. “OSHA always looks at incident rate as the total number of recordable injuries that occur in year, and the total number of incidents that result in someone getting hurt or put on restricted duty due to the severity of an incident.

“Those numbers are tabulated against the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the national industry averages. Hoar Construction has consistently ranked well below the industry average in jobsite injuries for more 10 years. We are very proud of that.”

Now, There are Two Days to Experience the Best of Madison Shopping, Food and Music

MADISON — Two of Madison’s most popular spring events will be on separate days this year to accommodate the participation of more restaurants, pubs and breweries, according to the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

The events – Madison Market and Bites & Brews Food & Beer Tasting – are known as Taste the Spirit of Madison and have been an all-day shopping experience followed by an evening of food, beverage and music.

This year, however, Madison Market will be this Saturday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Insanity Complex on Hughes Road.

Bites & Brews will be Tuesday, April 9, from 6-9 at Insanity.

“It is difficult for local restaurants to juggle staff and food preparation on one of their busiest nights of the week, Saturday, with a separate offsite event,” said Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “In order to increase participation, we decided to move the Bites & Brews event to Tuesday night.

“If the uptick in food and beverage participation this year is any indication, we expect it to be a successful change for everyone.”

Hosted by the Madison Chamber and sponsored by Madison Hospital, more than 60 local retail businesses will set up booths at Madison Market, offering shoppers a wide variety of goods and services from martial arts to custom teas.

Madison Market is free and will feature health and wellness screenings, compliments of Madison Hospital; discounts on skating, mini-golf, and climbing; and karate, dance and futbol demonstrations. A New Leash on Life will be onsite with shelter dogs looking for forever homes. The LifeSouth Bloodmobile will be available for blood donors.

And, of course, there will be plenty of food trucks offering choices from ice cream to barbecue.

On Tuesday night, more than 25 restaurants and breweries are on display at Bites & Brews, sponsored by Mangia Italian Restaurant.

Attendees can sample coffee and beignets to local craft beer and scrumptious desserts. There will be Greek, Italian, Asian, and pure Americana including popular New Orleans, Texan, urban, and good ol’ Southern cuisine.

Local band, Groove will provide music and there will also be a silent auction.

Tickets for Bites & Brews Food and Beer Tasting are $20 per person in advance and $25 at the door. You must be 21 years or older to sample the brews and an ID and wristband will be required.

“The Spirit of the Taste of Madison offers residents and visitors two days and two ways to experience our amazing City,” said Honeycutt. “We consider it a celebration of everything Madison!”

For tickets, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce or call Honeycutt at 256-325-8317 ext. 1; or email pam@madisonalchamber.com.

Neither rain, nor more rain, nor even more rain can slow the progress at MidCity Huntsville

While constant rain, some heavy enough to cause flooding, has been a seemingly daily companion to the Tennessee Valley community, the wet conditions haven’t slowed progress at MidCity Huntsville.

“We only had three good days in December,’’ said Nadia Niakossary, project coordinator for developer RCP Companies. “But we figured that into the time frame. We’re still on schedule.’’

The multi-use MidCity campus occupies the former Madison Square Mall property and surrounding area. Ground was broken in 2017, the first business on site opened in August and completion date is 2022.

Dave & Buster’s is nearing completion and scheduled to open this summer

Niakossary said work was proceeding on current projects despite weather delays.

“We are diligently working on the construction of the University Drive-facing retail blocks,’’ she said. “When visiting MidCity today, you’ll see five vertical buildings. Top Golf and The Camp with Alchemy Coffee are open for business.

“The Camp just reopened (in March) for springtime, with the food trucks and bar open Thursday through Sunday and the coffee shop open seven days a week. We have a diverse lineup of live music and unique events happening there every weekend.’’

High Point Climbing and Fitness is nearing completion in the center of the frontage and anticipates an opening this spring, Niakossary said. In front of High Point, REI Co-op’s foundation has been set and steel frames are going up.

The opening for REI Co-op, an outdoors store, will be the first for the company in Alabama.

Also, the Dave & Buster’s building is also nearing completion on the west side of MidCity, near Old Monrovia Road. Dave & Buster’s is on schedule to open this Summer.

Construction continues on the REI Co-op store, the first in Alabama

Meanwhile, Niakossary said Pies & Pints is under construction and the building that houses Wahlburgers and other commercial uses has site work complete in preparation for the foundation.

“We are in the design process for the $30 million Aloft Hotel, The Point and Jake’s Mews,’’ she said. “We are also in preliminary stages of the $75 million, 300-unit multi-family residential (complex) over the retail block in the center of the project. We’re also working on a $20 million mixed-use, office-over-retail building.’’

According to the MidCity website, when completed, the campus will include a total of 350,000 square feet of specialty retail, 150,000 of high-tech office space, a wide range of dining options, the 100-plis room hotel, and 560 amenity-rich residential units.

Botanical Garden CEO Paula Steigerwald to Retire

Paula Steigerwald, CEO of the Huntsville Botanical Garden, is retiring after 17 “marvelous” years.

Her retirement is effective Aug. 30, according to a statement from the Garden’s Board of Directors. She joined the Garden in 2002 and oversaw a strong period of transformation and growth at the facility.

Paula Steigerwald

“The past 17 years have been marvelous, and we have achieved great things at the Garden,” she said. “It is my hope that the things we have achieved will be just the beginning of great things yet to come for the garden.”

The Garden was named the Attraction of the Year for the State of Alabama (2008), the Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit of the Year (2008), and the No. 3 tourism attraction which charge admission in the state (2017 and 2018).

“Paula has done an amazing job as CEO of the garden. She provided the leadership, vision, enthusiasm, imagination, and diplomacy to transform this organization into one of the state’s top tourist attractions and a resource we are proud to have in our community,” said Huntsville Botanical Garden Board Chair Penny Billings. “I would like to thank Paula for her service and wish her nothing but the best as she moves into this new phase of life.”

A search committee has been named, and a national search will begin immediately to fill the role. Interested candidates can submit their resumes at hsvbgceosearch@gmail.com.

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown Open for Business

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, the first AC Hotels by Marriott in Alabama, is officially open to guests.

Adjacent to the Von Braun Center and across the street from Big Spring Park, the hotel includes six levels and 120 guest rooms, as well as co-working spaces, event space for up to 200 and multiple beverage and food experiences.

Combining elements of Huntsville’s historic past and contemporary European design to create a modern but comfortable look and feel, the hotel allows guests to co-work by day, and relax and socialize by night.

“We are delighted to introduce the AC Hotels brand to the Rocket City,” said Srinath Yedla, president and CEO of Yedla Management Co., which will manage the property. “AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown remains true to the brand’s philosophy and centers on a frictionless experience for on-the-go guests.”

Developed by Doradus Partners in partnership with RCP Cos., the hotel was the 10th U.S. location for AC Hotels, a global joint venture with Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan.

The hotel’s three flexible meeting rooms are named after the city’s historic mills — Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack. Combined, they make up The Gallery at Big Spring Park — an event space for up to 200 guests that overlooks the downtown park and is perfect for wedding receptions.

Attached to the event space is The Veranda — the hotel’s second-story terrace bar overlooking Big Spring Park. The Veranda is set to open this summer.

Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft was tapped to develop the hotel’s signature cocktail — “The Starry Night,” which is a nod to Huntsville’s integral role Huntsville in America’s space program as well as its burgeoning arts scene.

The AC Kitchen serves a European-inspired continental breakfast selection of flaky croissants, savory egg tarts and Nespresso coffee. A signature piece in all AC Hotels is the Berkel slicer, offering visitors hand-cut meats including prosciutto.

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown is the first tenant for CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million, mixed-use development. City Centre includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 277 upscale apartment units and an artisanal food hall.

Town Madison’s $12M Pro Player Park Brings Even More Baseball to Area

MADISON — Ever since Madison Mayor Paul Finley announced the building of a new concept at Town Madison called Pro Player Park, it provoked visions of a stylized Ernest Lawrence Thayer: Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell; It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell; It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat, For Finley, mighty Finley was advancing to the bat.

Now we know Finley’s statement, which came in January’s State of the City Address, will bring a much happier result for local residents than those of Mudville!

The $12 million Pro Player Park project is supported solely by private investment and consists of 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields – six championship size and the other six are configured so the fences can be pulled in to accommodate softball. The project also includes batting cages, a pro shop, a small café and vending area, and an indoor soccer field. Statistics show that Pro Player Park should generate about 300,000 visitors a year, which yields about 40,000 room nights per year.

Currently more than halfway through the design phase, the Breland Properties project is situated in Town Madison on the old Intergraph campus. They will break ground in late spring or early summer with expectations for opening about the same time as the Trash Pandas’ stadium next spring. The first year will be a soft opening year before shooting for home runs in 2021.

“Pro Player Park was not conceived alongside the acquisition of the Rocket City Trash Pandas or their new stadium,” said Joey Ceci, president of Breland Properties. “However, once that project was underway, one of our associates here at Breland, whose son is involved in tournament travel ball, complained that he was always having to drive somewhere else on weekends to watch his son play in these regional tournaments.

“He noted that he was spending his money in all these different locations that did not have any of the attractions and accommodations available in Huntsville. We saw an opportunity to fill that void.”

Ceci said Pro Player Park has undergone more than six months of rigorous due diligence, market feasibility studies, and they have had dozens of serious discussions among all the appropriate people including Mark McCarter, convention sales manager at the Huntsville/Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Huntsville Sports Commission Executive Director Ralph Stone. They are both excited about it because it opens up baseball and softball tournament opportunities the city of Huntsville has never had the facilities to support.

Furthermore, they consulted with one of their partners, Tim Dulin, who has built similar facilities to Pro Player Park and has contacts with travel ball teams as a coach and a mentor. He is already working with McCarter to start pitching Huntsville for these types of tournaments, and to get on their schedules for when the park opens.

“Both travel baseball and softball are increasing in popularity, but there has always been a hole in this region for having the facilities to support them,” said Ceci. “The traveling tournament teams we are looking at are primarily regional or at least within driving distance, but some of the championship series could bring in people from Puerto Rico and Latin America where baseball is a very popular sport, as well as all over the U.S. at some point.

“Because the fields are synthetic – that is, the dirt and the grass are synthetic – they are more or less plug-and-play and can even be configured to support lacrosse,” Ceci said. “These teams can’t really afford rainouts so, with synthetic fields, when the rain is over, you don’t have a soggy field or muddy infield to worry about because they drain quickly, and therefore play can resume relatively quickly.”

Ceci said the closest similar facilities are in Southaven, Miss.; Memphis and Atlanta.

“Nashville gets some teams, but they don’t have a single facility where they play the entire week,” said Ceci. “They use a variety of high school fields, some which are not very high quality, and they are spread out all over Nashville. For instance, they may play a game in Gallatin one day, a game in Brentwood the next day, and a third game in downtown Nashville. The logistics are difficult.”

He said these teams really come with the intent of playing high-caliber, competitive ball and they like to play in places where there are likely to be major league and college scouts on-hand to see their kids play. 

“There is nowhere where the logistics make sense for pro and college scouts who may want to watch a potential catcher play in Smyrna while another player they are interested in is playing across town at the same time in downtown Nashville,” he said.

“The way Pro Player Park will be designed, we will be able to situate scout towers adjacent to four fields at a time, so they can watch players on all four fields from a single location.”

There are hundreds of travel teams who begin the season in late February/early March and run through October. During school, they play these tournaments mostly on weekends but, when school lets out, they may play for three to five days.

“It’s a great generator for us from a business point of view and as a developer, it’s another great project,” Ceci said. “For several days at a time, you will have visitors spending money shopping at Town Madison or Bridge Street; dining; renting hotel rooms; attending ballgames; and visiting our attractions like the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. That is quite the attractive package.”

American Airlines Increases Service at Huntsville International

Beginning in June, American Airlines will offer more early morning and evening flight options for passengers traveling direct from Huntsville to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Customers in Huntsville will have the opportunity to make one stop in Dallas/Fort Worth to travel to places such as Dublin and Munich, where American is launching seasonal service for the first time in June.

“We are very excited that American made the decision to add service to the Huntsville market and we know that our customers will appreciate more options and will utilize this service,” said airport Board Chairman Dr. Carl J. Gessler Jr.

While airport officials recognize the benefits of the added service, they are quick to point out that continued growth will require the support of the community.

“These additions are another step to provide all of the citizens of the Tennessee Valley more air travel options and phenomenal savings,” said airport Executive Director Rick Tucker. “American sees potential in Huntsville’s market, and we are glad they chose to expand their presence (here).

“This is great news and if the business community and our residents support our local airport we will all enjoy more air travel options with guaranteed lower fares.”

For more information or to make reservations, visit aa.com. Reservations can also be made at no additional charge using the Huntsville Hot Ticket Hot Line service by calling 256-258-1944, Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

‘Tis Time for the Wearin’ o’ the Green and the Spendin’ of It …

If all you know about St. Patrick’s Day is shamrocks, leprechauns, and Lucky Charms breakfast cereal, you might be surprised to learn there is an economic message wrapped up in all that ádh mór coming your way March 17.

This year, the 42nd annual Ellen McAnelly Memorial St. Patrick’s Day Parade will draw 1,500 participants and more than 40,000 onlookers along the downtown Huntsville route, bringing a lot of “green” to merchants in its path!

May your pockets be heavy, and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night – Irish Proverb

Luck is an integral part of life and prosperity in the Irish tradition but the phrase “Luck of the Irish” is an American expression and not an Irish one.

According to Edward T. O’Donnell, an author and professor of history at Holy Cross College, the phrase took hold during the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th century when many of the most successful and famous gold and silver miners were of Irish and American Irish descent.

There is little doubt that at least a little bit of luck has been involved in growing St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Huntsville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade into one of the city’s most popular holiday celebrations over the years.

Ellen McAnelly moved to Huntsville in 1977 from Galway, Ireland. Wanting to introduce authentic Irish tradition, culture, food, and hospitality to North Alabama, she opened Huntsville’s first Irish restaurant – Finnegan’s Pub – at 3310 South Memorial Parkway and the following year, she started what was known for many years as the Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The short route followed a southerly path along the west side frontage road of Memorial Parkway, ending at Finnegan’s.

McAnelly died in 2009 and, shortly thereafter, the parade moved to downtown where it was renamed in her honor.

“The Huntsville community really lost a landmark when Finnegan’s closed in 2013,” said Anya Douglas, president of the Irish Society of North Alabama and the parade director. “A lot of people met their spouses there, accepted marriage proposals, and conceived children after a night of fun at Finnegan’s.

“The original patrons recall many special occasions and events occurring at the original Finnegan’s Pub.”

May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be always at your back Irish Blessing

“That first year, there were 18 people in the parade and almost no audience,” said Sonnie Hereford, one of the first and only remaining parade coordinators from 1978. “There are only 17 people in the picture taken for the newspaper that day because one of the participants had skipped work and he was afraid if he showed up in a picture in the paper, he would get fired!

 “The funny thing about the history of the parade is that it grew in popularity and size almost exclusively because it had been mocked as the smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade ever.”

The parade took another big hit just days before the 1997 event when then-Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer denied the group a permit because of a series of fender benders in 1996 allegedly caused by drivers on the Parkway gazing down on the parade marching along the frontage road.

At the last minute, they received an invitation to move the parade to downtown Madison where it had its largest participation and audience yet. For that one year, it was called the Madison County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day Anonymous Irish Saying

“The parade is community inclusive even if you are not Irish,” said Douglas. “It is free to participate and free to attend but it brings a tremendous amount of business to the downtown area including shopping, dining, and entertainment.”

The most anticipated parade event is the Blessing of the Flags at St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church on Jefferson Street. 

“When Father Bill (William M. Kelly, S.D.S.) performs the blessing ceremony over the Irish and American flags, it really has special meaning for the American Irish community and leaves everyone, Irish or not, with a ‘Wow’ feeling,” said Douglas.

Another popular attraction at the parade is the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ float.

Father Jeremiah F. Trecy moved to Huntsville in 1860 because of health problems and established a parish here. The church was built of native stone from Monte Sano Mountain, but construction was halted during the Civil War while the Hibernians prepared hospital facilities and tended to the wounded on both sides of the conflict.

‘Tis better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!Anonymous

Since it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day without some libation and food, many pubs and shops along the parade route will be offering St. Patrick’s Day specials.

The parade’s main sponsor Straight to Ale, Keegan’s Public House (who bought Finnegan’s and moved it downtown), and the Jefferson Street Pub are all opening at 6 a.m. serving an authentic Kegs & Eggs Irish Breakfast prior to the parade, which starts at 11:30. Green Bluff’s Brewery, Pints & Pixels, and The Marini Bar & Bistro will offer all-day live Irish music and $1 green beer along the parade route.

While you’re there, be sure and lift a glass in a famous Irish toast: Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold pint and another one!

A Brand New Time in South Huntsville or, Rather, a New Brand

In the next couple of months, south Huntsville will enter a new era. In fact, a “brand’ new era.

South Huntsville business owners, community members and government officials are coming together to create a vibrant and thriving district.

Extending from, essentially, Martin Road south to the Tennessee River, South Huntsville Main Street will be a corridor reflecting a diverse lifestyle of work and play.

Just imagine, driving south on the parkway through the Martin Road “tunnel.” On the “ceiling” and the sides are row upon row of colored lights.

Talk about a grand entrance!

And as you exit the “tunnel,” laid out in front of you are banners on the light poles welcoming visitors.

There are local businesses along the road, each touting their wares and inviting customers inside.

The South Huntsville Business Association, with Executive Director Bekah Schmidt and President Jerry Cargile, has been the impetus to improving this part of the city.

A major step was being accepted into Main Street Alabama, a nonprofit organization that uses a national model with a 40-year track record of revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods.

The process concentrates in four areas: organization, design, promotion and economic vitality. Each one is guided by Main Street’s transformation strategy to remain focused on a specific market-based outcome.

With a solid and active SHBA, the organization stage is answered. The design aspect concerns itself with aesthetics and function, such as the tunnel lights, improved landscaping and redesigned parking areas.

Promotion will incorporate some of the design aspects as well as sharing information and marketing the district. Economic vitality is key in that there must be room and desire for businesses to grow and prosper.

To help in the process, SHBA has launched a South Huntsville Community Survey. It is anonymous and the feedback will help provide direction for businesses to grow in South Huntsville. The findings will be shared with the public at a community meeting June 6. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sohunt. For information, visit http://shba.biz/

Also at the meeting, the Main Street Alabama officials will revisit south Huntsville to launch a branding presentation, which includes a logo for the district and several variations of it; a marketing strategy; and other information to help south Huntsville soar to new heights.

(Bud McLaughlin is editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. He can be heard every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. with Fred Holland on WTKI-FM 105.3 and 1450 AM.)