When the new Grissom opens in the Fall of 2017, it will leave behind a campus off Bailey Cove, in the heart of South Huntsville. In anticipation for that time, multiple departments in the City of Huntsville (Planning, Parks and Recreation, and General Services among them), in cooperation with Huntsville City Schools, the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, and the Arts Council, took a long look at how the campus might be re-purposed. The motivation behind this was that a new approach could create something more than just a collection of city and county services; it could create a new “town center” for South Huntsville.
Click on the image below to view a PDF of the conceptual master plan:
The campus’s extensive athletic complex would remain mostly unchanged with all the various courts and fields remaining as they currently exist. The City does desire to improve the traffic flow and convenience parking immediately around the fields. The outdoor areas have and will remain two soccer/lacrosse fields, a baseball field, a softball field, and tennis courts. An identified need within the athletic complex is a playground, so the master planning process focused on how to provide a driveway through the athletic field complex, additional parking along that driveway, and where to best locate a playground. Some of the small storage buildings scattered around that area will be removed to make way for these improvements.
The number of parking spaces will be roughly the same, but the lots would be shifted to the rear of the site, where possible. This would allow in part for the creation of a “Great Lawn”, but it would also put significantly more parking near the recreation fields, where there is high demand. In cases of larger events, the City would work to accommodate overflow parking in the shopping center across the street, with police officers to maintain traffic.
The main (front) part of the campus will see the most dramatic change as a large portion of the existing academic building will be demolished to make way for a new library branch and open space for passive recreation and small outdoor events. The existing theater and gymnasium facilities are expected to remain intact and continue to be used by the Arts community and Parks & Recreation Department, respectively. The planning focus in this area of the campus is on where to best position the library, driveways and parking areas; façade and entryway needs for the theater and gyms; and streetscape/greenspace improvements along the Bailey Cove frontage.
Locating the police precinct building on the campus was part of the early discussions and site renderings. As we have continued to plan the site, we now believe it is best to exclude the police facility. That compromise allows for more open space that can be used for passive recreation or small outdoor events. As we continue in the process, putting the precinct back into the plan is an option but we also have other options off this site to accommodate the precinct. Uses that are NOT being considered are residential (of any sort) or private commercial activities other than examples like a coffee bar inside the library or concessions supporting sports or arts events.
Designing a better pedestrian experience along and across Bailey Cove is part of the planning process as we see this site and the commercial spaces across the street better-connecting in order to create an active, community node within that part of the City. This look at the pedestrian experience is also considering how residents in the surrounding neighborhoods can reach the site on foot. One of the key features of this approach is the creation of a new Great Lawn. This greenspace has been designed to serve not only as a passive park for the area, but also to host neighborhood events like arts festivals or outdoor movie nights.
This repurposing of the existing campus is very much in response to what the BIG Picture has heard from community members during public engagement. This approach to planning and public investment would not only improve the quality of life of the nearby community, but can also help catalyze reinvestment in the commercial properties and residential neighborhoods that surround it. With good design and public support, Huntsville can leverage community projects into more investment and stronger neighborhoods.
Around 100 people attended the open house. Most attendees came from the 35802 and 35803 ZIP codes in South Huntsville. A few attendees came from central and east Huntsville.