$70 Million Mixed Use Development Announced for Downtown Huntsville

(Huntsville, AL) – The City of Huntsville is pleased to announce a new $70 million mixed use development on Williams Avenue on the six-acre site formerly occupied by the Holiday Inn. The project has been awarded to the CRS Big Spring development team, which includes Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, SC, RCP Companies of Huntsville, and Strand Development Company of Myrtle Beach, SC.

“This project hits the mark on all of our desires and expectations for an urban lifestyle development that will include a hotel, restaurants, retail, residential and office space,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “The project will add to the growing vitality of our central business district, and it will generate millions of dollars for our tax base.”

CRS Big Spring was one of four project teams that responded to a Huntsville Request for Proposal (RFP) in May. Urban Development Director Shane Davis said all of the proposals were outstanding and indicate the strength of the downtown market. Demolition on the old Holiday Inn building is expected to begin in November with full construction under way by April 2015.

Curious about Big Spring Square in downtown Huntsville? Look at this California development for a preview

Lucy Berry
The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – If you’ve been curious about what the $70 million Big Spring Square project might be like in downtown Huntsville, you can look at a development Santana Row in San Jose, Calif. for a preview.

Max Grelier, executive vice president of RCP Companies in Huntsville, said the conceptually-similar, 650,000-square-foot property has a mixed-use urban layout developers are aiming for with Big Spring Square, which will replace the shuttered Holiday Inn site as early as 2016.

Santana Row, a $450 million, 42-acre mixed-use “village within a city” when it opened, is on a much grander scale with 70 shops, 20 restaurants, a boutique hotel and movie theater. It also features 615 luxury rental homes, 219 privately-owned condos and 65,000 square feet of Class A office space.

“It’s got some of the similar kinds of retailers we’ll be trying to attract in terms of food venues and boutiques,” Grelier said. “It’s a lot larger in scale, it’s in a bigger city, but I think it’s a decent example of the mix of uses and how they harmonize and fit into the fabric of the community.”

Mixed-use urban ‘experience’ center

The development, which offers more than 3,500 parking spaces, features Crate & Barrel, Gucci America, the Container Store, Urban Outfitters, Free People, Maggiano’s, Best Buy, Lululemon Athletica and dozens of other tenants, according to the Federal Realty Investment Trust website.

Grelier said other U.S. mixed-use projects with a similar feel are Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Fla., Avalon in Alpharetta, Ga., Jefferson @ Hollywood in Hollywood, Calif. And Glenridge Springs in Atlanta.

Phase one of Big Spring Square, which will break ground in April, will include a new-to-market boutique hotel with at least 100 rooms, 31,000 square feet of retail stores and restaurants, 53,000 square feet of office loft space and 200 multi-family apartments.

RCP is about 60 days from announcing the name of the hotel, which is a brand spokeswoman Lindsay Harper said “brings attention to detail, unique design philosophy and an outstanding operating platform.”

RCP, which is developing Big Spring Square with Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, S.C., and Strand Development of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is also actively working to recruit a combination of polished- and fast-casual restaurants that are new to the Huntsville area.

“From a food standpoint, we will probably have a restaurant that does breakfast and lunch, maybe a couple that do lunch and dinner and then maybe one or two that actually go into the night and provide entertainment,” Grelier said.

High-tech hub

Developers plan to position the loft office facility as a “high tech hub” with a possible business incubator that brings local technology and life-science leaders together to create an epicenter and a niche market for job growth in the Rocket City.

Phase one will also include a parking deck with 400 spaces. CMH Architects Executive Vice President Michael Tillman said the structure will serve the hotel, mixed-use food and retail buildings and residential units.

“It’s probably going to be four elevated levels,” he said. “That’s what we’re thinking right now. That first elevated level will extend in and become sort of a plaza level with a pool and outdoor spaces toward the multi-family. The multi-family will C-shape around it as it goes up.”

Like the Artisan at Twickenham Square apartments near Huntsville Hospital, the Big Spring Square residential component will offer a similar lifestyle, price structure and choice of amenities, Grelier said. Williams Avenue in front of the property will be narrowed to engage Big Spring Park and increase open space for outdoor concerts, art in the park and other family activities.

Harper said the area in front of the park will have shaded seating areas, public art, landscaping and hardscapes to boost interaction between guests, shoppers, employees and area residents.

Adding continuity

Central Realty will lease the six-acre site for 99 years, paying $144,000 per year. In addition to demolishing the Holiday Inn property and clearing the land, the city will do street-side landscaping. Brasfield & Gorrie will act as general contractor for the project.

“You have an old vacant Holiday Inn that’s doing nothing but being an eyesore,” said Bill Steed, a vice president and division manager at Brasfield & Gorrie. “It’ll help link the Von Braun Center, the Embassy Suites and what’s going on in the Twickenham area. I think it adds continuity from one side of town to the other.”

Phase two of the project will represent a $30 million investment with a 130-key urban hotel and 50,000 square feet of mixed-commercial and office loft space. Grelier said the timing of the second phase is subject to the city’s process.

“We believe once we’re finished opening the hotel here, that’s about the time we would get access to that site,” he said.

$70M Big Spring Square development in downtown Huntsville could include rooftop dining, office lofts for high-tech firms

by Steve Doyle
The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Restaurants with rooftop dining and office lofts for high-tech companies are strong possibilities at the new Big Spring Square development in downtown Huntsville.

RCP Companies of Huntsville released additional details Monday about the $70 million mixed-use project that promises to transform the old Holiday downtown Inn property at the corner of Williams Avenue and Monroe Street.

Max Grelier, RCP’s executive vice president, said the goal is to bring “round-the-clock activity and services” to the 6.8-acre site bordering Big Spring International Park and the Von Braun Center.

Grelier said RCP, which is currently building the Whole Foods-anchored Shops at Merchants Walk south of downtown, will have a key role in recruiting retail and office tenants to Big Spring Square.

The early returns are encouraging.

“We are receiving strong feedback from our initial contact with prospective tenants,” said Grelier, “and believe some announcements are forthcoming.”

Scheduled to break ground next April and open in 2016, Big Spring Square will include 200 apartments, a boutique hotel, 28,000 square feet of restaurants, shops and offices, and multi-level parking garage.

Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, S.C., and Strand Development of Myrtle Beach, S.C., are developing the project with RCP.

Central Realty Holdings has agreed to pay the City of Huntsville $144,000 per year to lease the Holiday Inn site. The company also has the first option to redevelop an adjacent city-owned parcel that includes the James A. Williams Aquatic Center and Scruggs Recreation Center.

Grelier said Big Spring Square will boast a blend of national and/or regional restaurants that are mostly new to Huntsville. Those eateries are likely to offer rooftop or alfresco dining overlooking the park, he said.

RCP also wants Big Spring Square to become the home of multiple high-tech firms.

“Leaders in the technology community are being recruited to help develop this as an epicenter which we hope will result in a niche for tech job growth,” said Grelier. “The format may include the creation of a business ‘accelerator,’ which will attract entrepreneurs, capital and talent, and drive new ventures for graduation to larger spaces in and around Huntsville.”

The city has agreed to cover the cost of demolishing the vacant Holiday Inn, which closed last December, and also spend about $1.5 million on “streetscape improvements” around Big Spring Square.

Those improvements could take the form of narrowing Williams Avenue, which spans five lanes in front of the Holiday Inn site. Big Spring Square patrons will have to walk across the road to get to the park, Huntsville Museum of Art and other parts of downtown.

Director of Urban Development Shane Davis said reducing Williams Avenue to two lanes in that area would slow traffic and also “pull the park” closer to Big Spring Square, the VBC and Embassy Suites.

“We’d really like to make that area much more pedestrian-friendly,” Davis told AL.com last week.

Businesses say $70 million Big Spring Square mixed-use project will only add to momentum in downtown Huntsville

Lucy Berry
The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Since announcing a major expansion at the old Stone Middle School in mid-August, Yellowhammer Brewery has experienced a noticeable uptick in downtown business.

When Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, S.C., launches a new $70 million mixed-use development in 2016 at the former Holiday Inn site, Yellowhammer General Manager Ethan Couch expects business will only continue to boom.

“I think it promotes even more synergy for the downtown area,” he told AL.com Tuesday. “And I think everybody benefits from having more choices.”

The city of Huntsville held a news conference Monday afternoon to announce “Big Spring Square,” which will include a boutique-style hotel, offices, restaurants, shops and a residential component. Demolition of the Holiday Inn building is expected to begin next month with construction starting in April.

Solid Earth Chief Executive Officer and President Matt Fowler opened his real estate technology business in downtown Huntsville 16 years ago. Since then, he said there has been “a slow but discernible increase in activity” in downtown.

Giving credit to Belk Hudson Lofts and Downtown Huntsville, Inc. for bringing new life to the center city, Fowler said developments like Twickenham, Constellation and now Big Spring Square “will only add to that momentum.”

“Eventually, there will be a critical mass in downtown and a new community ecosystem will have been created,” he said. “This is great news for the pioneers since our ‘homesteads’ are worth quite a bit more now. The best part though is the new energy that exists. It’s a better place to live and work with more and different kinds of people in the space.”
“The plan of making this a more walkable and downtown-friendly city seems to be well on its way and we look forward to a bright future here.”

Curse, a gaming information company that moved its headquarters from San Francisco to downtown Huntsville last year, is also looking forward to more restaurant, residential and retail options at Big Spring Square. Vice President of Marketing Donovan Duncan said his firm regularly recruits employees from across the U.S.

“We love having close shopping and exciting living spaces for our employees,” he said. “The plan of making this a more walkable and downtown-friendly city seems to be well on its way and we look forward to a bright future here.”

Under the terms of the deal, Central Realty will lease the six-acre site for 99 years, paying $144,000 per year. Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Vice President Charles Winters said the development, once complete, will increase the overall number of hotel rooms near the Von Braun Center for conferences, meetings, concerts, trade shows and other events.

“The development will offer visitors and residents alike new dining, shopping and accommodation options in downtown Huntsville,” he said. ” … According to the latest estimates from the Alabama Tourism Department, the economic impact of the travel industry in Madison County is nearly $1 billion.”

Maynard Cooper & Gale broke ground Tuesday morning on its latest expansion in downtown Huntsville. The full-service business law firm is building an 18,000-square-foot new structure, as well as an elevated walkway to connect the addition with its current facility.

Pointing to the success of downtown Chattanooga and Nashville, Maynard Cooper & Gale managing shareholder Daniel Wilson said “anytime you get more people downtown – that’s a good thing.”

“Anything that gets people here living here, gets people here staying here, gets people here dining here, shopping here, is a good thing,” he said. “In my opinion, it will only bring more of that type of growth.”

Redevelopment plans unveiled for old Holiday Inn site


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAAY) – City officials announced Monday that the old Holiday Inn site in downtown Huntsville will be redeveloped into a $70 million site with a hotel, offices, restaurants and apartments.

The city awarded the development to CRS Big Spring, which is made up of Central Realty Holdings in Greeneville, S.C., RCP Companies in Huntsville and Strand Development Company in Myrtle Beach.

City officials said the development will include a hotel, 28,000 square feet of space for offices, restaurants and retail shops, 200 residential units and a parking deck.

The old Holiday Inn building is scheduled to be torn down starting in November. Construction on the new development would begin by April 2015 with a projected finish date in summer 2016.

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