Revealing the New Downtown Master Plan
June 15, 2017
Huntsville’s new downtown master plan proposes a five-year development strategy to provide a mix of residential, retail, office and entertainment uses. The plan further addresses greater pedestrian and cycling options, traffic calming, two-way streets, parking and public transit, streetscaping, size and scale of future development, connectivity with the Von Braun Center, and the location and concept for a new City Hall.
The plan is the result of a six-month intensive study on the downtown core by Urban Design Associates as an update to the 2006 downtown master plan. The process included numerous listening sessions with key stakeholders, residents, developers, meetings with city staff, open houses to review working drafts, and online engagement.
“You have a lot of things popping here. The first wave of new inhabitants coming downtown in the last few years are fundamentally different from what you have had in the past, and that creates a challenge for cities to manage the expectation of new uses.”
The Huntsville City Council got their first comprehensive look at the proposed update to the downtown plan during a June 13 work session. Public presentations before and after the work session were also held. The draft plan is available online for any final citizen comments.
“We started this process by listening and understanding the issues important to Huntsville,” said Rob Robinson, Principal with UDA. “We don’t live here, and we wanted to understand what is possible and what your community valued and desired. We use those conversations as a springboard for testing ideas. Listen first, understand context, and then draw through ideas and work toward place.”
Robinson says this micro plan fits within the context of Huntsville’s BIG Picture comprehensive master plan. Unlike a typical 20-year view, UDA was tasked with addressing short-term needs in the downtown core, which is experiencing dramatic rebirth and placing new demands on the City. Mayor Tommy Battle calls it Huntsville’s “Living Room,” and he wants City leaders to “do it right.”
“You have a lot of things popping here,” said Robinson. “The first wave of new inhabitants coming downtown in the last few years are fundamentally different from what you have had in the past, and that creates a challenge for cities to manage the expectation of new uses. How do we build on that momentum and begin to complement and build upon what you have? What is possible here and now? What should we be thinking about and what would help reinforce investments that have been made? What can we do to enhance and improve it? This is about starting to set up that next wave.”
The proposed downtown master plan will be presented for final approval to the Planning Commission and City Council next week.
For more information on the Downtown Master Planning process visit The BIG Picture.