City Centre

at Big Spring

$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 last week.