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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.”

Construction of Luxury Housing Continues as B’ham Developer Breaks Ground Near MidCity

As the worst of the COVID-19 crisis seems to be waning in North Alabama, new jobs, new construction, and plans for a new luxury living development pick up right where they left off in March.

Birmingham developers Capstone Communities broke ground on The Cottages at Old Monrovia, a 25-acre housing development near Old Monrovia Road and Oakwood Road, about a mile from Huntsville’s MidCity district. The rentals will feature a mixture of single-story attached homes, lofts and two-story townhomes.

“Our goal is to build a unique community and true sense of place at The Cottages,” said John Acken, executive vice president of development for Capstone Communities. “With plenty of sidewalks, pedestrian features and open green spaces, we want to create a safe and walkable community where residents can look forward to spending time outside enjoying cookouts, hosting community events and connecting with their neighbors.”

Capstone Communities estimates the project will bring 100 to 120 temporary and permanent jobs to the area in construction in management.

Convenient to Cummings Research Park and Redstone Arsenal, the low-density multifamily development consists of 275 cottage-style homes, expected to attract young professionals and their families, and empty-nesters looking to downsize.

Capstone Properties, the in-house management company for Capstone Communities, will begin leasing this fall. The first units are expected to be completed in March 2021 with the full completion slated for September 2021.

Architect’s rendition of the loft-style home at The Cottages.

Designed by Nequette Architecture & Design, also headquartered in Birmingham, The Cottages at Old Monrovia will offer a variety of upscale amenities such as nine to 12-foot ceilings, granite countertops, wood-grain flooring, in-unit washers and dryers, a smart home technology package, state-of-the-art fitness center, resort-style pool, centralized clubhouse, dog park, electric car charging stations, a car care center, a pet spa, 24/7 on-call maintenance and optional enclosed garage parking.

Capstone Communities (formerly Capstone Collegiate Communities) is a Birmingham-based commercial real estate firm specializing in the development, management and construction of student, multifamily and senior housing. They entered into a partnership with OG Capital, a private equity real estate investment firm specializing in the acquisition and re-positioning of existing multi-family properties throughout the South, to bring the development to Huntsville.

According to OG Capital principal David Oakley, the single-family style rentals have proven successful in other markets with a 50 percent faster lease-up period, and a 20 percent higher resident retention rate than traditional garden-style apartments.

“I first noticed this cottage concept out West a few years ago and grew to love it,” said Oakley. “Apartment living doesn’t have to mean stairs and elevators. The cottage style product meets the market by providing residents with the features they value most – private backyards, high ceilings and in-home tech packages – to name a few.”

It is Huntsville’s surge in innovation and economic growth that makes Huntsville the perfect location, said Shep Nolen, president of CBI Construction Services, Capstone Communities’ in-house general contractor for the project.

“We’re thrilled to enter such a promising market and support the city’s economic development efforts by creating additional jobs as Huntsville prepares for its next chapter of growth.”

Construction financing is being provided by Trustmark National Bank and Renasant Bank.

Ardent Preschool & Daycare Breaks Ground at Redstone Gateway

Ardent Preschool & Daycare recently broke ground for its facility at Redstone Gateway.

Redstone Gateway is a mixed-use office and technology park outside Redstone Arsenal‘s Gate 9. Redstone Arsenal is the nation’s preeminent center for logistics services, space operations and missile defense, intelligence and homeland defense, and R&D testing and development.

The school will serve community families and those commuting to the office park or the Arsenal. The 22,000-square-foot facility will be the seventh location opened by the “2019 Best of Birmingham — Preschool and Daycare” award recipient.

We are excited to work once again with TurnerBatson on the innovative new model for Ardent Preschool that will be built outside of Redstone Arsenal,” said Ardent CEO John LaBreche. “The two new locations recently built in the Hoover area have been well-received by parents seeking the highest quality of care for their children.

“Our goal is to offer parents in the Huntsville area a childcare experience that will be a delight for the entire family.”

The Redstone Gateway school will house 18 classrooms for children ages six weeks through kindergarten allowing teachers ample room to educate, lead Bible lessons, and plan arts and crafts activities. Classrooms will be equipped with interactive smart boards to encourage student involvement and allow teachers one-on-one training with their students.

The campus will provide secure entrances with high definition cameras and a state-of -the-art security system. Other amenities include a splash pad, four age-appropriate outdoor play areas with sunshades, and multicolored rubberized play surfaces.

The general contractor is Murray Building Company and TJ Lee with Leeland Ventures will be the local developer bringing more than 25 years of experience to the industry.

Reserve at Research Park Apartments Sold for Reported $81 Million

Symbolic of the growth in Huntsville and its anticipated growth, a nearly 35-year-old apartment community was recently purchased for a reported $81 million.

According to a news release from The Kirkland Company, a Nashville-based brokerage firm, the Reserve at Research Park was purchased by Covenant Capital Group from B&M Management. The acquisition is the largest transaction in the area’s history, according to the brokerage firm.

Eric Hardesty and Wade Lowry brokered the sale of the 736-unit multifamily community for Kirkland. The property, formerly known as Rime Village, was built in several phases from 1987-94.

“Huntsville is receiving national attention for its rapid growth, strong economy, and recent development,” said Hardesty. “It has been Alabama’s fastest-growing city over the last 15 years and will soon be the largest city in the state.”

B&M Management of Montgomery sold the property on Explorer Boulevard off University Drive to Covenant Capital Group, a Nashville-based value-add investment manager. Its focus is on the acquisition and renovation of apartment communities in major Southeastern and mid-Atlantic markets.

B&M Management has been in Alabama for more than 25 years with a portfolio of some 8,500 units and $1 billion in market value.

This is the sixth transaction brokered by Kirkland in the Huntsville area within the last nine months, representing 1,842 units and more than $103 million.

“Employers are investing big in Huntsville,” said Lowry. “Companies like Toyota, Boeing, GE … are infusing capital into the engineering and manufacturing industries.

“The FBI is investing $1 billion at Redstone Arsenal with plans to add 4,000 jobs, and tech companies like Facebook and Google are also developing a presence there.”

Nashville-based Kirkland specializes in selling apartment communities in nine states across the Southeast.

Madison County Moving to Meet Continued Growth

An elevator shaft stands tall as crews move dirt and erect structures over nearly eight acres of land at the corner of Oakwood Avenue and North Memorial Parkway, the latest project taking shape in the city landscape that is changing daily.

 This project — on the site that was housed grocery chain stores Albertson’s and Bruno’s and most recently a Halloween haunted house – will become the Madison County service center.

 The 60,000-square foot complex will house county offices of the tax assessor, tax collector, license director, voter registrar, sales tax and probate judge.

“This is scheduled to be open first quarter of 2021,’’ Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong said. “There will be right at 400 free parking spaces for Madison County residents to do their business.’’

Strong recently visited a major project — the new FBI campus in the center of Redstone Arsenal.

Strong said he was also briefed by Robert Hamilton, the FBI Senior Executive at Redstone Arsenal. Hamilton is leading the transition of multiple FBI offices there.

 “There is right at $700 million currently under construction and 500 employees working for the FBI,’’ Strong said. “They are anticipating for 2020 there will be 1,000 people who will be hired.

“We’re going from 500 to 1,500 by the end of 2020; so that’s really exciting.’’

The FBI has announced plans to bring as many as 4,000 job to the new site over the next eight to 10 years.

Strong also said there is $350 million worth of transportation projects either under construction, in design, or recently completed in the county.

“That’s the efforts of a lot of hard work not only here locally by mayors and county commissions, but also with our legislative body in Montgomery and also with our folks in (Washington) D.C.,’’ he said. “We’re looking in the next three years to have somewhere around 14,000 new jobs to be filled with a 1.8 percent multiplier, which leads you to about 25,000 jobs.

“Then, if you look at the retail commercial businesses like McDonald’s and Walmart, we probably are looking at a somewhere around 50,000 in the next three years in employment numbers.’’

Strong, who graduated from Sparkman High School, will deliver the annual State of the County address Jan. 28.

“These are exciting times,’’ he said. “This is the best economy my generation has ever seen.’’

Redstone Gateway Continues Growth as Government Contractors Seek Prime Office Space

Two more office buildings are on the rise at Redstone Gateway as government contractors warm to the office park’s amenity-rich environment and proximity to both Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park.

Rendering shows the 42,000 square-foot office building under construction at Redstone Gateway. It is expected to open by the end of the year.

Corporate Office Properties Trust, in partnership with Jim Wilson & Associates, developed the 4.6 million square-foot, mixed-use development as a Class-A office park near Gate 9 at I-565 and Redstone Road.

Redstone Gateway includes seven office buildings totaling 569,000 square feet; a full-service, 120-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotel; and The Shops at Redstone Gateway consisting of over 19,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants and a conference center.

The existing office buildings are 100 percent occupied.

“The growth of availability at Redstone Gateway continues to be an asset to government contractors locating close to their customer base on Redstone Arsenal,” said COPT Chief Operating Officer Paul Adkins. “This pre-lease, along with other recent leases, highlights the value proposition of Redstone Gateway.”

Currently, there are seven buildings under construction at Redstone Gateway, expected to add another 662,000 square feet to the development.

One of those buildings is a 100,000 square foot, four-story office building along Rideout Road. There will be 113,000 square-feet of office leasing space available upon completion end of the year.

The other is a soon-to-be 42,000 square-foot single-story office building located at 6000 Redstone Gateway at the corner of Redstone Gateway and Market Street, within the Redstone Gateway development.

It, too, should be complete by the end of 2020 but will just keep pace with the demand as it is already 75 percent pre-leased to a government contractor. Approximately 13,000 square feet will be available for lease upon completion.

Rendering shows 100,000 square-foot office building with construction expected to be complete by the end of the year.

James Lomax, director of Asset Management for COPT Huntsville, said the buildings support Redstone Arsenal, clearly an economic engine for North Alabama.

“We’re excited about the rapid development at Redstone Gateway as Huntsville’s modern office park,” said Lomax. “Redstone Gateway is the most forward-thinking office development in North Alabama, creating an amenity-rich environment and walkable environment focused on employee satisfaction and efficiency.

“We’re excited to continue this phase of development and are thankful for the support from the whole community in North Alabama.”

COPT, whose Huntsville office is at Bridge Street Town Centre, specializes in developing and operating office buildings in locations that support the U.S. government and its defense contractors.

The company designs, builds and operates specialized office and data center facilities that provide technically sophisticated, mission critical environments. Maryland-based COPT often chooses locations adjacent to government agencies and prime contractors.

Northrop Grumman Selected for Army Laser Initiative

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract for the U.S. Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) directed energy prototyping initiative. The program includes integrating a directed energy weapon system on a Stryker vehicle to help protect frontline combat units.

The M-SHORAD directed energy prototyping initiative is managed by the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office at Redstone Arsenal.

“Northrop Grumman is eager to leverage its portfolio of innovative, proven technologies and integration expertise to accelerate delivery of next-generation protection to our maneuver forces,” said Dan Verwiel, vice president and general manager, missile defense and protective systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our flexible, open systems approach offers an end-to-end solution for the Army’s growing and ever-changing mission requirements in today’s complex threat environment.”

Under the contract from the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and Huntsville-based Kord Technologies, Northrop Grumman will build and integrate advanced sensors; target acquisition and tracking; a 50-kilowatt class laser system; and battle-tested command-and-control on an Army Stryker combat vehicle. 

M-SHORAD includes laser weapon systems as a complement to kinetic capabilities in countering rockets, artillery and mortars; unmanned aircraft systems; and other aerial threats.

 

Turner Construction Renovating TMDE Lab

Turner Construction recently began renovating the Army’s TMDE Activity’s Primary Standards Lab at Redstone Arsenal. The 76,000 square-foot facility is used for primary-level calibration and repair of Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) that the Army uses for its vehicles, weapons and equipment.

“As the agency responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Army and its military systems, this renovation is crucial for us,” said George Condoyiannis, chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. “The renovation includes updating laboratory spaces to keep up with state-of-the-art, high-tech army equipment that have significant calibration needs.”

The $27,223,895 renovation takes place while the building remains occupied. Completion is slated for January 2021.

“This project is an extension of an incredibly valued partnership between the U.S. Army Corps and Turner, and we are proud to play a part in the incredible work they do for our community and our country,” said Turner’s Southeast Federal Account Manager Tyce Hudson.

FBI to expand presence on Redstone Arsenal

Pictured is the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School on Redstone Arsenal

 

Huntsville’s moniker as “the Federal City of the South” was further bolstered Thursday with the announcement of a planned FBI expansion.

The FBI, which has about 300 personnel stationed at Redstone Arsenal, will add another 1,350 employees, according to the agency’s senior executive at Redstone, Robert Hamilton. The personnel will come from the Washington area.

Hamilton made the announcement at the annual Redstone Update, hosted by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber.

“The FBI is extremely excited to announce today that we are moving forward with our first large-scale operations support building,” Hamilton said. “We expect that to be ready for occupancy in early 2021. This will move approximately 1,350 personnel and contractors from the national capital region.”
Hamilton said the personnel will include special agents and intelligence analysts.
“This is not a relocation of resources but rather a transformation of mission sets to one extremely powerful campus,” Hamilton said.

South Huntsville selected as Main Street Alabama Community

South Huntsville has been designated a Main Street Alabama community, according to a statement Friday from the nonprofit Main Street Alabama organization.

The area of Huntsville will join a statewide effort to build stronger communities through effective downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization.

Main Street Alabama uses a national model with a 40-year track record of success to designate the towns and neighborhoods after a rigorous application process.

According to State Coordinator Mary Helmer, Main Street Alabama will immediately provide intensive board development, goal-setting, work-planning, market study with implementable economic development strategies, targeted technical assistance, and quarterly training related to downtown development.

“When a community is ready for Main Street, as South Huntsville is, the time-tested Four Point Approach works,” Helmer said. “It brings jobs, dollars and people back to neighborhood commercial districts.”

Helmer said the interview panel was impressed by the presentation from the South Huntsville Business Association and civic leaders that demonstrated a love of their community, a vision for what they could be, and the drive to make it happen. She said South Huntsville demonstrated strong community partnerships, an impressive organizational structure with exceptional leadership, and ability to financially support a program, which made them stand out in the field of applicants.

Developed starting in the 1950s, the era of the atomic ranch house, mid-century modern architecture reigns supreme in this community and recalls its historic connection to the nearby Redstone Arsenal (and Marshall Space Flight Center) and the golden era of space exploration,” the Main Street Alabama announcement said. “As home to numerous scientists throughout its history, this community’s residents produced scientific advancements that were the envy of the world. Over the past decade, (Huntsville) has been Alabama’s growth engine, and this local commercial district has become the preferred daytime destination for 40,000 employees at the … arsenal.

“Local residents and business owners have done their research and discovered a formula to develop connectivity between its natural resources and business assets, with greenways, river access and a natural preserve. They are ready to apply our UrbanMain Street approach, and we welcome this group of innovators, otherwise known as the South Huntsville Business Association, to our program. We know you will take your community to new heights!”

Each designated community reports its success by tracking reinvestment statistics. Main Street Alabama’s Designated communities have reported 488 net new businesses; 1,932 net new job; $282,679,772 in private investment; $74,257,229 in public improvements; and 61,201 volunteer hours in their districts collectively since June 2014.

For towns interested in becoming a designated Main Street Alabama community, application workshops will be held in January. Until then, communities interested in downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama’s Network.

Visit mainstreetalabama.org for information.