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Huntsville City Council approves agreement to develop former Coca Cola bottling site

Published on June 10, 2021

A rendering showing how multipurpose buildings and open areas would look. There are people walking in a common area, trees, streetlamps and a sign that says "Clinton Commons"

Plans to develop a new urban center on 13 acres in the heart of downtown Huntsville advanced Thursday night after the City Council unanimously approved three project agreement resolutions.

The resolutions represent the first step in a partnership between the City and New York City-based Rocket Development Partners LLC to develop the site of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 514 Clinton St.

The project investment is estimated to be $325 million. The City will contribute $18 million toward the project, but not until the developer has started and/or completed its commitments.

In a presentation to Council, Shane Davis, Huntsville’s Director of Urban & Economic Development, estimated the City’s return on investment would be $25.4 million over a 10-year period.

Available space

Known officially as Big Springs Bottling, the plant closed in 2012 and was demolished two years later. The property, which was listed for sale in 2016, has been identified as a “key site” in the City’s Downtown Master Plan. Davis referred to it as the “gateway to downtown.”

The empty parcel is the largest downtown property available for redevelopment. It also spans two blocks and fronts three public streets – Monroe Street and Clinton and Holmes avenues.

“This is a great opportunity to turn vacant property into new and unique places for people to eat, shop, stay the night and live,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “It’s an exciting project that will attract citizens and visitors alike, which will benefit Huntsville for years to come.”

Development details

Davis explained the project would be a mixed-use development completed in multiple phases. The overall design of the first phase is expected to wrap up this summer.

An aerial view showing the outline of a new downtown development project. The area to be developed is outlined in a red dotted line.
This aerial view shows where the proposed downtown development would be located.

The first phase would include 26,000 square feet of retail space, 40,000 square feet of office space, a 100-room hotel and multifamily housing. Also included is an 800-space, multilevel parking garage that would support both anticipated growth at the Von Braun Center and increasing numbers of downtown visitors. There will also be a public mews, or open space, and a surface parking lot.

General site work would be completed by July 2022, followed by the start of construction on the multifamily buildings, retail space, mews and surface parking lot. Hotel construction is anticipated to wrap up in June 2025, while office spaces and the parking garage would be completed by September 2025.

As part of the development agreement, Rocket Development Partners would be responsible for all construction and donate property to the City for right-of-way and easements as well as public mews. It would also provide a 50-year lease agreement to Huntsville for 400 spaces within the 800-space garage. The developer would also be responsible for all upkeep and maintenance of the garage.

For its part, the City would be responsible for completing downtown streetscape improvements along Clinton and Monroe streets and Holmes Avenue. It would also vacate the existing Pollard Street right of way that bisects the property.

Huntsville would be required to build a new road connecting Clinton and Holmes avenues that would parallel Pinhook Creek and a proposed downtown Riverwalk project. The City would also construct the public mews.

A quality project

The City began working the project in late 2019. Because of the size and scope of the development, Davis said, it took time to put it together in a correct format that would provide long-term quality to the Central Business District.

He added it has been “critically important” to ensure the redevelopment of the property compliments the adjacent public venues and is built to a quality standard.

“I believe being able to keep the project moving forward and the committed private investment says a lot about the strength of the Huntsville economy,” Davis said. “Creating of thousands of new jobs and our commitment on infrastructure investments continue to pay dividends in new private investments. We are confident this trend will continue in downtown and across all parts of Huntsville.”