City Centre

at Big Spring

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.