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Huntsville’s Magic Number for Downtown Hotel Rooms is 1,000

The newest edition to Huntsville’s skyline is only one of many new hotels planned for downtown.

City planners don’t plan to stop until they reach 1,000. Not the number of hotels, obviously, but the number of hotel rooms available in the center of the city for highly-attended events.

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, a Marriott property, is open for business and joins the Embassy Suites as two hotels overlooking Big Spring Park. AC Hotel is on the corner of Williams Avenue and Monroe Street and will anchor the mixed-use City Centre development.

The six-story building, which has 120 rooms, will eventually be joined by other hotels as part of the vast growth of business in the downtown area.

“It’s been a goal to get to 1,000 rooms,” Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson said. “It’s not necessarily about the number of hotels but the number of rooms.”

Construction will begin in the fall for a seven-floor Hampton Inn and Suites at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street. The site is next to the garage that serves the Von Braun Center and is used for event parking.

One more hotel is in the planning stages and, like the Embassy Suites, AC Hotel and Hampton Inn and Suites, will be within a one-mile radius of the VBC. Curio by Hilton is slated for Jefferson Street near the Courthouse Square and an Autograph Collection boutique hotel by Marriott adjacent to Big Spring Park and PNC bank is planned.

And city planners aren’t stopping with the addition of these hotels.

“There have been three new hotels announced,” Emerson said, “and there are some that have not been announced.”

As the makeover of downtown Huntsville continues and expands, two new franchises are getting ready to open.

The Poppy is a traditional English pub on the North Side Square and held its grand opening Monday.

The Mercantile, in space formerly occupied by Crossroads Music Hall at 115 Clinton Avenue, is an entertainment and private party venue. The Mercantile will host its first musical acts July 3 with local rockers Rob Aldridge and the Proponents opening.

“We’re actively engaged in in the booking process,’’ co-owner David Clarke said of The Mercantile. “We’ve got quite a few bands booked.’’

Clarke said he and his partners at PBG Holdings want to provide a unique experience with the two new sites. They’re also bringing Arsenal Coffee food truck to the exploding downtown scene.

“We’re paying attention to details and trying to create a destination at The Mercantile,’’ Clarke said. “We want the people of Huntsville to come but also have people coming from Nashville, Birmingham.’’

Emerson is confident the new businesses will attract visitors.

“The Mercantile and The Poppy will bring unique new retail options to downtown Huntsville,’’ he said. “Both add another interesting and creative destination to our city center.’’

The AC Hotel by Marriott recently opened as part of the CityCentre development in downtown Huntsville. It’s the first of its kind in Alabama by Marriott and features 120 rooms and six levels. The hotel is one of two planned for CityCentre and another two have been proposed within the vicinity of the Von Braun Center.

The Poppy and The Mercantile: Pub, Music Venue Add to Downtown Vibe

Imagine if one could travel back in time to post-World War I Great Britain. What would it be like to sit at the bar in one of those cozy neighborhood pubs? PBD Holdings principals, Paul Daigle, Brian Peoples, and David Clarke think it would be something like their newest venture, The Poppy, which is slated for opening this month.

When it came to project support, “Things literally fell into place,” said Clarke.

With a few introductions made on PBD’s behalf, it didn’t take long before community influencers such as Chris Russell at Cadence Bank, Chad Emerson at Downtown Huntsville, Margaret Anne Goldsmith, and several others came on board.

“It was very well-received,” said Clarke. “Huntsville is very business friendly. We were the first to admit that we needed to build a team, one with good business acumen.

“People we could trust, and we listened. So many people have helped get to this venture going, they’ve been incredible.”

The pub’s name was inspired by the John McCrae’s 1915 poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

“We didn’t want it to be cliché or cheesy to the point that it would alienate non-veterans, but we wanted to honor the ‘Great War’ – World War I,” Clarke said.

When it came to develop the pub theme, Shane Brown, PBD program manager, stepped in to help. He was so impressed with the venture, he invested as a minority owner. A native of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, Shane is a true subject matter expert on pub authenticity.

Inspired by Old No. 7, Brown’s hometown pub in Barnsley, the interior is 1,400 square feet of history recreated.

“We wanted to maintain a conversational atmosphere with a laid back, neighborhood pub vibe,” Clarke said. “A place where folks can indulge in really good beers, English beers, cask beers, a niche that’s been overlooked.” In addition to English beers, there will also be English ciders.

With a 40-foot bar, said Clarke, “We’re really excited about the bar layout, taps on either end, beer engines in the center, it’s a very traditional set-up.”

For those unfamiliar with a beer engine, Clarke said, “There’s a different texture of beer with a beer engine, flavor profiles are easier to discern, smoother.”

The décor will be red oak, stained black, dark red leather, cast brass footrails, and stamped tin ceilings.

Pieces from artist Jacqueline Hurley’s “War Poppy” collection will also adorn the walls.

By the time The Poppy is up and running, The Mercantile will follow suit in late June. Destined to be a space conducive to larger music acts, and hosting special events, such as wedding receptions, The Mercantile promises to be that stop along the way between Birmingham and Nashville, where a national touring act can stop for the night; play gig, grab a meal, do some laundry, and get a decent night’s rest.

The designated music “consigliere,” Jake Peters, Quantaphonics guitarist, said, “Huntsville doesn’t have a venue quite like this. The Mercantile is the perfect space to comfortably accommodate 700-750 people.”

Like spokes on a wheel, Huntsville is geographically central to Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham, those bigger cities that are usually on a band’s touring itinerary. The plan isn’t to reinvent Crossroads, that’s not the objective.

“The idea is to create a space that puts Huntsville on the map for major events,” said Clarke.

As a venue “Built by Musicians for Musicians,” there will be significant investment in state-of-the-art sound, light, and stage, to encourage national acts into making a stop in Huntsville, on their way to their next big gig.

For special events, there will be a catering kitchen with lots of electrical capacity. When securing a venue for the October fundraiser, “Chili for Charity,” event co-chair Pam Bouska said, “The Mercantile is the one event space in town that can safely accommodate 35 crockpots of chili without blowing fuses.”

“We are giving back, working with local community foundations, and providing space to nonprofits for special events,” said Clarke. “We are building good long-term relationships and providing something that the community can have as their own.”