With all the business announcements and new developments, Madison County is growing at a quick pace in many areas.
A Madison County Services Center will open in 2020 and have a large parking lot with free spaces to help with congestion at the downtown courthouse, county officials say. The center will house the county’s probate office, license department, tax assessor, tax collector and sales tax department.
There also has been approval for a new $110 million federal courthouse in downtown Huntsville, set to open in about four years. The current courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and could be used for future federal offices.
One of the largest school systems in the state with nearly 20,000 students, Madison County schools offer extensive career tech programs. And Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced a third state magnet school will be located in the city, the School of Cyber and Engineering.
In the city of Huntsville, the No. 1 most-visited paid attraction in the state, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center partnered with Intuitive Research and Technology Corp. to open the new Intuitive Planetarium.
More than 3.1 million people visit the county each year, with an economic impact of $1.3 billion.
There are many projects in the works, all of which are intended to create a great place to live, work and play for people of all ages. With the number of jobs in Huntsville increasing substantially, the city continues to create opportunities for the influx of people moving in, along with quality of life and infrastructure, says Mayor Tommy Battle.
“We are growing in a way that makes people want to be here,” Battle says. “We don’t need to be the biggest, but we want to be the best.”
Some of the major projects either in the works or recently completed in and around Huntsville include:
- Bridge Street Town Centre in the heart of Cummings Research Park, a mixed-use lifestyle center with 80 shops and restaurants, two hotels, a movie theater, lake, carousel, train ride, walking trail and live weekend music.
- MidCity Huntsville, a 100-acre mixed use community in the center of the city that will include retail, high-tech office space, dining, a boutique hotel and 560 residential units.
- CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million mixed-use development that includes an AC Hotel by Marriott, upscale apartments, retail and office space and an artisanal food hall.
- The Von Braun Center is undergoing a $44 million expansion with a new venue, restaurant area and rooftop bar, a large convention center expansion and more.
- The Shops at Merchants Walk, a downtown development with upscale retailers and more.
- Times Plaza, a retail/office center anchored by a Whole Foods Market. Times Plaza is adjacent to Huntsville High School.
- New sections being built at Village of Providence, a single-family and apartment/townhomes residential development.
- Constellation Huntsville, a mixed-use redevelopment of the former Huntsville Mall.
- Twickenham Square, a downtown live-work-and-play development.
- Campus 805, a mixed-use development in west Huntsville with a former school building transformed into an event center, near loft residences and several different tenants, including craft breweries, restaurants, retail and more.
- Lowe Mill, an arts and entertainment development that includes artist spaces, classes, workshops and more.
Huntsville City Schools offer nearly four dozen high school career academies and career tech education programs, plus dual enrollment with Drake State Technical College and Calhoun Community College. Industry partnerships include companies such as Huntsville Hospital System, Brown Precision Inc. and SAIC Inc.
The system is the first K-12 school district in the nation to partner with Auburn University’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence alongside the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Command. The partnership will directly benefit students by providing real-world engineering experiences that will carry from high school through graduate-level training.
The system offers several magnet schools.
City of Madison
The city continues to boom with economic growth, as well as quality of life projects.
The Town Madison project is progressing off I-565, and a full interstate interchange close to Zierdt Road will impact the future growth of the district. Town Madison, which will offer living, shopping, working, dining and entertainment, should be open by year’s end.
Anchoring Town Madison is a 7,000-seat multi-use venue that will house the Rocket City Trash Pandas, a minor league baseball team, corporate gatherings, movies in the park, concerts and more. The 150-room Margaritaville Resort, just adjacent to the ballpark, will allow patrons to soak in the lazy river just beyond the outfield. Other recent announcements in the area include Duluth Trading Co., an Avid Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn. A 12-field travel baseball complex called Pro Player Park also is planned, along with new restaurants.
Other mixed-use developments underway include the 500-acre Clift Farm, which will include a grocery, apartments and more.
In historic downtown Madison, the Avenues of Madison, a project led by Charlie and Sasha Sealy, is underway with living spaces, shopping and dining. Homeplace Park will get a major facelift with added landscaping, seating, a performance stage and walking paths adjacent to the Madison city schools stadium. The Publix center and commercial space off Hughes Road is near completion, and Phase 3 Fitness is coming.
“As mayor and council, we worked hard at the start of our term to get the ball rolling on these major quality of life and economic development projects,” says Mayor Paul Finley. “Those projects are now taking physical shape, supported by our strong bond ratings at AA+ from S&P and AA2 from Moody’s.” The tax revenue from the major developments will help infrastructure improvements and support Madison city schools.
Madison City Schools’ enrollment is now about 11,300, which is about 500 more than last year. The school district just completed additions and renovations primarily at both middle schools to accommodate the shift of 6th grade into the middle schools. This includes a new two-story wing to Liberty Middle along with gym and lunchroom expansion and improvements, and the addition of special education classrooms at Discovery Middle along with lunchroom expansion and gym renovations.
To address growth, Superintendent Robby Parker revealed proposed site locations for a third middle school and a new elementary school, and 500-student expansion of each high school, contingent on voter passage of a 12-mill property tax increase for education. West Madison Elementary would be repurposed into a PreK-only school. Officials are asking for the public referendum by fall 2019 so construction can start in time to open the schools in 2021 or 2022 if passed. A 12-mill increase would cost homeowners the equivalent of $120 annually per $100,000 value of the home.
Other highlights include:
- For the second consecutive year, Madison City Schools received an “A” on its state report card as a district and every single school earning an “A.’’ Only six school systems out of 137 statewide earned A’s at every single school.
- Madison produced more National Merit scholars this year than any other school system in Alabama.
- The national education study organization NICHE ranked Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools in the top 5 high schools statewide. NICHE ranked Liberty and Discovery Middle in the top 5 of middle schools in Alabama. All seven elementary schools in Madison City were ranked in the top 20.
- The system just launched a Bi-literacy Seal initiation, allowing graduates to demonstrate proficiency in a second language. The district also rolled out new Accelerated Math offerings for fifth graders and hopes to expand that into lower grades as well.
- The district continues to expand its partnerships for career tech offerings.