Decatur Development Blog

Expansion and Development in the Greater Decatur area

Posts Tagged ‘Huntsville’

6th and Beltline

Posted by alalto on July 31, 2011


I apologize for how long it’s taken me to post about this.  Either way, here’s my take on the new development at 6th and Beltline.

Below is an excerpt from the Decatur Development Map, which you should take a look at 😉

Pay attention to the numbers and colors, they’ll help you figure out what’s going on.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Red means “Expected; awaiting construction”
Blue means “Completed”
Purple means “Proposed”

1) Shopping center, supposedly anchored by Kohl’s (they haven’t released the anchor yet, but it’s generally believed to be Kohl’s). 80,000 to 110,000 sqft.

2) Olive Garden: Currently occupied by Lynn Layton Cadillac. Lynn Layton Cadillac will move across 6th Ave (US 31) (the large road that runs north south). After Cadillac moves across 6th Ave, three takes place.

3) Lynn Layton Nissan and Cadillac move in together. Nissan will be remodeled once Cadillac moves over.

4) Kroger intends to build a fuel center in front of its building. At this moment, we don’t know where on that property it will be built.

5) New tenants have been announced for the Crossings of Decatur (anchored by Target) as:
– Moe’s Southwest Grill
– Gigi’s Cupcakes
– Shoe Show
– The Children’s’ Place

6) Bender’s Gym: A 33,000 sqft, $3.5 Million facility.

There’s also another development that I neglected to label on the map. The orange box immediately to the right of #2 (Olive Garden) is a Verizon Store that is currently under construction.

7) This is some proposed development spot. They didn’t really say anything about anyone looking at, simply that it was “prime real estate.”

Here’s the deal.

Most of this I expect to happen.  The city will benefit through increased tax revenue, substantially.  However, traffic is going to get bad.  The city plans improvements to the Beltline/Veterans Dr intersection, and there will be a light placed in front of the Kohl’s shopping center.

Eventually something is gonna have to give, and I don’t think we can expect anything to happen until the widening of the Beltline on the SE end.  Even with that widening, you still have the problems on 6th Ave and AL 67 east of US 31.  What we consider moderate traffic during the day (non rush hour times), can/will quickly grow into heavy.  It seems quite short-sighted of the city to only consider slight intersection improvements.

What else can we expect?  Sales tax produce is going to increase.  I don’t mean from the stores that are planned for construction, I’m talking about all over town.  Folks in Lawrence, Morgan, and northern Cullman Counties will have less of a reason to drive to Huntsville now, since Decatur is closer and will be more able to satisfy their shopping needs.  So, look for more traffic ALL OVER town.

As for when all of this will be completed, there’s no telling.  If I had to guess, I’d say mid 2013 would be the latest.  But, we all know how things progress in this city…

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Driving Decatur to the Future – Keys to Success: Transportation

Posted by alalto on January 21, 2011


Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook!

BTW, I’m trying something new.  I’ve included lots and lots of links to various pictures and pages that might help you to better understand these topics.  I hope you enjoy, and maybe laugh a little along the way.  Thanx!

Transportation

Transportation is absolutely ESSENTIAL to the vitality of our regions as we grow into the future.  As our population continues to grow, our industries continue to expand, and our tourism attributes continue to grow in popularity our infrastructure MUST be able to cope.  This is not one of those “I’d like to have it,” details, it’s a “MUST HAVE.”

Why Gorgonn Will Always Be Wrong About This

We all acknowledge the level of stupidity that Gorgonn possesses.  By the way, if you don’t know who “Gorgonn” is, please refer to the post I published on January 16th, 2011.  We constantly hear Gorgonn whining that transportation expansion only leads to pollution, traffic, and commutes.  I think we can all agree that in some ways, Gorgonn could be correct, after all someone had to come up with the tangled web of roads in suburban Atlanta

Anyways, if done incorrectly and not planned properly, YES, roads can lead to even more congestion, pollution, and longer commutes.  This is all something that people hate about an expanding city.  The good thing is, there are ways to accomplish the improvement of our infrastructure with out causing massive Gorgonnathon in the form of congestion.

There are certain things that need to be accomplished, and I am certain will do nothing but improve traffic.  Here’s my list:

  1. Designate US ALT 72/AL 20 controlled access on the Northside (the northern reaches of the city limits in Limestone County).
  2. Begin to examine the construction of overpasses on Beltline Road.
  3. Examine safety concerns along 6th Avenue.
  4. Adopt a “Complete Streets” initiative.
  5. Find ways to improve mass transit.

Each of these 5 points has the potential to improve traffic and reduce headaches.  Gorgonn will deny that any of these would work, I do not lie.

Designation of US ALT 72/AL 20 (Northside) as Controlled Access

This is something that the planning commission is currently considering.  I believe they will eventually adopt this and the long process of completely remaking the road network on the Northside will begin.

This is one of the more trans-formative initiatives.  With this, there is the potential for massive economic investment and population growth.   The fact that we haven’t yet seen some type of development on the Northside is something that still amazes me.  If Bass Pro eventually sets up shop over there, which they still seem intent on doing, I think you can count on a ridiculous amount of growth following it’s construction.

How does this help traffic?  I think we all know that.  Gorgonn would say that it doesn’t, but I seriously doubt that Gorgonn has sat through rush hour traffic on that route.  Declaring this route controlled access basically streamlines the process of getting to the bridges after work on weekdays.  Will it help you get through that darn traffic light once you cross the river?  No, but it will help you get there more quickly, which still means that you cut valuable time out of your commute.

Decatur Planning Commission has approved this plan, but the city council still has to approve it as an ordinance before it can have any effect.  I’m sure the council will approve it, not too worried.  But, this could take some time to implement.

Begin to examine the construction of overpasses on Beltline Road

I’m not talking about an all out Memorial Parkway-ing of the Beltline, no.  I’m speaking about adding overpasses and service roads (like the ones on Memorial Parkway) at certain points along the road where high traffic occurs.  So, basically one, two, maybe three intersections. 

Which intersections?  I say Danville Road, US ALT 72/AL 20, and Spring Avenue.  I leave out 6th Avenue because I think it would cost way too much due to all of the businesses and stuff that would have to be relocated to accomplish this.  Basically, it’d be a huge pain in the butt.  It’d be kinda like trying to build a massive world-class hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea… 

Examine Safety Concerns Along 6th Avenue

What do I mean by this?  Have you ever noticed that all too often the road itself it higher than the curb that is meant to contain it?  No the road didn’t decide it wanted to get bigger, nor did we just feed it too much and it got fat.  This has been caused by magnificent human ingenuity!

Anyways, what does this mean, this odd road level, relative to the curbs?  Well, it means basically that our sidewalks are functionally obsolete.  Why, we all know that Gorgonn is asking why does this matter?  Who needs sidewalks?  Well, in order to assure that our roads aren’t overrun with cars that are simply driving down the street to McDonalds or other small trips we need them.  Plus, has anyone noticed that the USA has an obesity problem?  Problem is, our city doesn’t facilitate pedestrian movement.

Really though, it all needs to be fixed.  This problem, as simple as it may be, causes problems ranging from sanitation, disease, drainage, safety, to functionality.

In addition, we need more crosswalks.  More crosswalks means more foot traffic for parks and businesses.  At the moment, it is truly dangerous to cross the road in Decatur.  There are only about 4 or 5 crosswalks with signals on 6th Avenue and that needs to change.

Adopt A “Complete Streets” Initiative

This is something that I doubt anyone who’s reading this has heard of.  You can see an adequate example of it along Modaus Road between the Beltline and Danville Road.

Complete Streets insures that all forms of traffic (at least those using feet and tires) are able to utilize a street.  This includes sidewalks, bike lanes, and the usual street features.  This isn’t something that is done in one sweeping project, but rather something that is phased in.  Each time a road is repaved, or maybe repainted, it is redone with Complete Streets in mind.  Usually a city will start out just phasing in the bike lanes and get to the sidewalks later since they’re so much more expensive.

This initiative reduces the need for cars and also increases that foot traffic that I was talking about earlier.

What about Gorgonn?!  Right now, Gorgonn is grumbling in his/her lair about how we don’t need sidewalks or bike lanes, because no one will use them!  The fact is that no one uses the ones we have because we don’t have any!  The ones we do have are inadequate and don’t connect to a larger network that allows them to be functional. A part of these kinds of problems is that people do not connect the dots.  It’s just like your internet, (think of your feet as a wifi receiver on your laptop and sidewalks as the internet), it doesn’t matter if you have a wifi receiver if there’s no internet to connect to.

Find Ways To Improve Mass Transit

This is a biggie.  Many people don’t like transit, and there are valid reasons, but I tend to believe that benefits outweigh costs.

Now, I’m typically someone who doesn’t agree with government providing freebies or running programs that in turn run deficits, but I’m a fan of mass transit.  Why?  Not only because Gorgonn detests mass transit but because it increases mobility, allowing people to get into town and spend money that they normally wouldn’t.  Also, it brings more people into downtown areas, increasing the likelihood that these redevelopments will succeed.  MT also encourages a city to be a regional center for commerce, bringing in people from surrounding areas.

An even more important part of mass transit is the regional aspect.  I’m not talking of Hartselle to Decatur, or Priceville to Decatur, but the larger region.  I’m speaking of connecting the larger regional centers of the Tennessee Valley.  I suggested the idea of creating inter-city bus routes between Decatur and Huntsville once to a city councilman and he simply couldn’t believe that I would support the idea of a program that would encourage Decatur citizens to leave the city and spend all of their cash in Huntsville.  Please…

Has anyone ever heard of the city of Fort Worth?  They face this same issue with Dallas…  yet… they have miles and miles of rail and bus routes connecting the two cities.  I think it’s safe to say that the leaders in Fort Worth are more worried about the relationship and interconnection that the two cities of Dallas and Fort Worth have than immature sales tax jealousy.  BTW, it wasn’t a city councilman that is currently in office.

What I’m trying to say is that citizens in Fort Worth are going to go to Dallas no matter what if Fort Worth doesn’t have what they want.  The same goes for Decatur and Huntsville…  Decatur citizens are going to head to Huntsville no matter what if Decatur doesn’t have what they need.  The question is, are we going to take advantage of this relationship and build on it?  Or are we going to continue pretending that the 20 miles that separate our downtowns might as well be the distance of the Pacific Ocean?

Just pretend for a second that Decatur is Los Angeles, and Huntsville is Tokyo...

Next Topic: Industrial Recruitment and Tourism

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My Idea for 2nd Ave

Posted by alalto on October 22, 2009


When you look at downtown, what do you see? A lot of cement, asphalt, and stone. Most of it, amazingly white and hot. It almost make it seem too hot to even get out of your car right? While there is a big streetscape project going on right now, but I feel that A LOT more could be done.

A big detriment to Decatur’s downtown is the fact that it isn’t truly centered around a body of water. If you look at the most successful and enjoyable downtowns in the country, they’re all on water, and they embrace it. New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, Nashville, Memphis, and the list goes on. In Alabama, Mobile, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Florence, etc… all do pretty good jobs of using the river to their advantage.

While we can’t move downtown physically and place it right next to river, there are some other things we can do. Think of the pocket park, or the fountain at Delano, or any other park that utilizes a water feature, they’re all big attractions that attract people and make a downtown area seem more enjoyable and not so “hot” and oppressive.

So here is my idea. We’re fortunate enough to have a good street grid in downtown. 2nd avenue is pretty heavily traveled, BUT, the streets that parallel 2nd are very underused and under traveled. Keeping that in mind, this is what I propose.

Tear up the road on 2nd avenue. Construct an artificial creek where the road used to be. A good example of what this entire thing might look like is centennial Olympic park in Atlanta:

Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

Here is a map of what I propose:

2nd Avenue Decatur

Now, the above seems like it would disrupt all the efforts that the city is putting into the area, but that is simply not true. The streetscaping that they are doing mostly lies in the form of the sidewalks, which would be used, and expanded in this proposal.

Starting at Johnston Street, the road would be torn up and replaced with a creek-bed. Paralleling the creek would be a sidewalk on either side. I would propose a large waterfall somewhere down the road, maybe in front of Emiron Music or maybe next to the pocket park, to enhance the stream and turning it into more of a magnet. People like to see nature in downtown areas, and this is a great way to do it. Plus, this would create a cool spot to sit around on summer shopping trips in downtown for people to get away from all the heat.

At the foot of the creek, there would be a main plaza with a pond where the creek ends. I would propose putting in a grand fountain in the middle. This would act as a central location for downtown, or a true “square” something that Decatur probably hasn’t had since the mid 1800s.

This type of development would look like Bridge Street Towne center in Huntsville, except I’d think it would be better looking. It would make downtown look much much better, attract more people downtown, and would attract those boutique retail stores that cities all over the country are attempting to bring to town.

Would this be expensive? Yes, it would, but in my opinion, this is a sure fire way to bring people downtown.

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2008 City Census Estimates Released

Posted by alalto on July 2, 2009


The 2008 Census Estimates for cities were released yesterday. In Alabama, the city that gained the most numerically was Huntsville, growing by about 5,000 people. Since 2000, Huntsville has grown by about 16,700 people. After Huntsville came Tuscaloosa with about 12,000. In terms of percentage growth, Calera (a Birmingham suburb) was tops with 211% since 2000, growing by about 7,000 people to around 10,000. After Calera came Vance (a Tuscaloosa suburb).

Other cities our region:

Decatur: A slow grower, Decatur has gained about 2,000 people since 2000, last year gaining about 500.  The growth rate has begun to increase slightly, so we’ll see where that takes us.  Sadly, Auburn surpassed Decatur to take the number 8 spot among the largest cities in the state.  Decatur now sits at # 9 with 56,068 people.

Athens: The third largest city in Huntsville’s metro area, Athens has been growing a good pace.  The city has grown by about 5,000 people since 2000, and about 1,000 in the past year.  The growth rate has definitely increased as the East Limestone region of the Valley has started to influence growth on the suburban parts of Athens.

Madison: Among the fastest growing cities in the state, it has gained nearly 10,000 people in the past 8 years.  It now stands at 38,714.

Somerville: Since 2000 Somerville has lost about 200 people.  Lately, however, the town has begun to gain again.  A good sign.  Current estimates show the population at 505.

Hartselle: The second largest city in Morgan County and the Decatur Metropolitan Area has continued with its steady growth.  A very slow grower for the first half of the decade, the city has slowly started to grow a little faster.  The city now stands at 13,888.

Eva: The second smallest city in Morgan County has continued its very slow growth.  It now stands at 587.

Falkville: Until 2005, the city was losing people.  However, the population has turned around.  The population has lost people since 2000, however, the city has gained 1 person in the past year.

Trinity: A fast grower for a city its size, it now stands at 1,976.

Moulton: A city with VERY spastic growth, Moulton has gained just 7 net citizens since 2000.  But, growth is growth, the city has gained about 10 in the past year.

Priceville: Priceville is still one of the fastest growing cities in the state. Since 2000, Priceville’s population has increased by about 1,100 people, or 70%.

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Beltline back on track

Posted by alalto on June 13, 2009


Well, I didn’t know that it was off track, but anywho. Apparently, it’s on the track that no one know it was off of…?

OK, well, construction is expected to start soon, and should move pretty quickly since it’s only like a mile long.

Unforunately, Phase III beginning will probably be delayed because talk about the proposed tunnel under the beltline for Central Parkway is being brought up again. Of course, I like the idea, it reduces traffic confusion, but I don’t like the fact that it might delay the beginning of Phase III. Oh well, we’ll see.

In other news, the Huntsville area was rated as a region for quick recovery from the recession by Forbes. It was joined on the list by cities like Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Fayetteville, AR.

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Academy plat approved!

Posted by alalto on October 22, 2008


The Decatur Planning Commission approved the plat for the Academy Sports and Outdoors store adjacent to Home Depot along the Beltline. The city council still has to approve the utility vacations, but those are expected to pass easily.

A marketing director for Academy cited the strong/stable economy in Decatur as a big reason that the sports retail giant decided to expand into Decatur. This store will not only be one of the few in Alabama, but it will also be the first in the Huntsville-Decatur Area.

Also, the commission recomended that a large amount of acreage be annexed into the city of Decatur. This comes as a result of the city’s new sewage expansion fund that aids in the extension of sewer lines in order to annex more land into the city. The land being consider is located near Woodall Road along Alabama 20. McDonad’s was the first business to be attracted using the fund.

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Ready for a rebound?

Posted by alalto on October 15, 2008


Is Decatur ready for a rebound in this horrid economy?
(btw, if you only wanna read about Decatur’s economy, just scroll down to the bottom)

I’m thinkin it is. Take a look at the Decatur Daily… If you take out all the stories about what’s happening nationally and you focus on what’s happening in the state, it appears that the economy in Alabama is just business as usual. That’s not to say that there isn’t a problem going on that we just can’t see. There is, we know it. National stock declines have an effect on all publically (sp?) traded companies, and there are a lot of those in Alabama.

First of all, we have been very fortunate. The bank that holds the largest amount of the banking market in Alabama (Regions Financial) has been effected by the economic slump. Forunately for our state, the Southeaster United States isn’t in as bad a shape as the rest of the country. The economic conditions going on will only magnify the Northern cities that are experience a mass exodus of their population. Which cities are these? Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo. These were the major manufacturing centers of the 20th Century and they’ve been going through a rough time in the past few decades.

Let’s compare these northern cities to some southern ones. New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile and to some extent Jackson. Detroit and New Orleans, major manufacturing cities, shipping ports and a hub of culture and money. That isn’t so anymore. Pittsburgh and Birmingham. THERE is where you’ll find a HUGE contrast. Read below:

Pittsburgh and Birmingham:

Here’s how I look at it, enormous manufacturing cities all go through I process that I like to call “eating/digesting themselves”. Both Pitt and Bham were huge steel producing cities, so they’re easy to compare. Birmingham has done a fantastic job and the city is in it’s last leg of the digestion process. These cities have to nearly collapse and fail before they can be reborn and turn into regions burgeoning with economic prosperity. Pittsburgh has just begun their journey down the throat. Birmingham was fortunate that when the steel industry in the U.S. began to shrink, the mills went to Pittsburgh. Why was that good? The city had to find a place to create jobs, which is where UAB came in. UAB, the largest employer in the state and a university that has a multi-billion dollar impact on the state’s economy. Yes, Pitt has some great schools, but they have not been the focus of job creation to replace the aging steel industry.

To stop comparing cities, let’s focus on why Alabama is more primed for a rebound than other states. Two main reason, IMO, slow growth (stable economy) and prime developable land.

Take a look at this map:

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Doing business in Decatur, and 6th Avenue renovations

Posted by alalto on July 29, 2008


I was reading the Insider in the Birmingham News today. The article put the spotlite on the Alabama metros that ranked in a list of cities to do business. In the entire state, Auburn-Opelika ranked 5th, Huntsville was ranked 32nd, Tuscaloosa was ranked 90th, and Decatur was 100th. You can look at the link for the full list.

Birmingham News: Insider

The owner of the small shopping center at the corner of 6th Avenue and 11th Street SE is spending $65,000 on renovating the property. If you’re not familiar with where this is, it’s the center that Mando’s used to call home. I miss Mando’s 😦 Anyway, YAY! finally. This place has been look awful for the longest time, so it’s about time this place got a facelift.

Daily Article

In other news, the Chili’s that is being constructed at the corner of the Beltline and Modaus Rd SW is nearly finished.

The city of Priceville is asking the people that own the Morgan County Fairgrounds (they plan to move the fairgrounds to an area in Priceville) to drop the plan to move there. Which I do not agree with. Priceville needs some more development.

And the town of Trinity is petitioning MCATS (Morgan County Area Transit Service) to provide the town service. That should have already been done, considering that MCATS already services Eva and Lacey’s Spring.

BTW, here’s the Daily article about the city council approving the Sweetwater contract.

Daily article

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