Neighborhood Planning: Medical District

Neighborhood Planning: Medical District

The Medical District DRAFT Master Plan 

View DRAFT Master Plan PDF

Open House: January 27, 2016

Medical District Neighborhood Planning Workshop

Date: October 14, 2015

Presenter: Dennis Madsen, City of Huntsville

Location: Huntsville High School Freshman Academy

A map of the charrette planning area. (Source: City of Huntsville GIS)
A map of the workshop planning area. (Source: City of Huntsville GIS)

The Medical District Planning Workshop took place on October 14, 2015, and was the BIG Picture’s first neighborhood-level planning session.  More than 80 residents and interested citizens turned out for a short presentation, followed by a hands-on workshop.  The presentation began with a review of the current conditions within and around the District – housing costs, demographic changes, employment, etc. – and a look at trends and development that could impact the area in the near future.  Presentation (PDF)

Following that, the attendees broke into smaller groups to work through specific issues.  The exercises included:

  • Identifying areas/features/places that the community wished to preserve, as well as areas that should be targeted for change or redevelopment;

  • Making connections within and beyond the neighborhood, in terms of streets, bike connections, sidewalks, and even greenways;

  • Introducing new types and scales of housing and commercial development, and identifying where those new uses would best be placed;

  • Dreaming up a “big idea”, a project or effort or vision that would be a signature for the neighborhood.

After more than an hour of (sometimes intense) debate at the table, the community had developed a long list of ideas.  Some showed up in one form or fashion at multiple tables, and these most popular directives included:

  • Preserving the character and integrity of the residential streets and lots;

  • Greatly expanding the sidewalk network, within and beyond the District;

  • Developing Whitesburg over time into more of a neighborhood commercial street, with connected sidewalks and storefronts;

  • Implementing a greenway along the railroad line, connecting both north and south;

  • Calming traffic internally, and improving some of the surrounding intersections.

The BIG Picture team will take these ideas and develop a draft master plan for the area, dealing with connections, land use, and policies.  In Winter of 2016, we’ll come back to community to review this draft, and get thoughts and comments on it.  Nothing will be finalized without further community review.

Below is a more complete list of the major ideas (in no particular order) that came out of the effort.  We are very grateful to all those participants who spent an evening with the BIG Picture to talk about their vision for the Medical District.

  • Marsheutz Extension

                Extend the street past Harvard and across the railroad tracks, connecting with Vanderbilt. Potential connection to Bob Wallace/Whole Foods and/or Lowe Mill. Due to space restrictions, could be greenway connection.

  • Retail/Residential “Policy Line”- Zoning on Longwood

                Some residents expressed discomfort at the Residential Office zoning of Longwood, which allowed single-family residences to be converted into medical offices. Others stated that it was a good “transition zone” between the hospital and neighborhood, if it were cleaned up.

  • More Trees

                More street trees, preserve existing ones.

  • Bury Power Lines

                Being an older neighborhood, most power lines are above ground.

  • HMCRR Greenway

                A new greenway along the existing railroad right-of-way. This would provide a connection for the neighborhood to points of interest between Downtown and Ditto Landing.

  • Sidewalks

                Few streets in the neighborhood have sidewalks, making it uncomfortable to access the retail, restaurants, medical offices, etc. that would be otherwise within walking distance. Several groups suggested using the alleyways and/or utility easements for walking paths.

  • Pedestrian/Bike Crossings

                Crossing the major arterials that bound the neighborhood was seen as a struggle. Residents suggested more crosswalks, pedestrian-friendly intersections, and pedestrian bridges.

  • Neighborhood Retail on Whitesburg

                Nearly every group kept Whitesburg as a neighborhood retail district, with improved sidewalks and landscaping. “Walkable Whitesburg”

  • Neighborhood Park

                Several locations were identified as possible locations for a neighborhood park. The most popular site was the Huntsville City Schools annex, next to Huntsville High School.

  • Fix Auburn/Harvard/Marsheutz Intersection

                The awkward intersection was noted as a problem by several groups.

  • Transit

                Streetcars, light rail, and more bus service were mentioned by several groups.

  • UAB High-density development

                The large parking lots next to UAB’s building on Governors were mentioned as possible sites for high-density office and residential development.

  • Multimodal connection to Whole Foods, other retail

                Many groups mentioned connecting the neighborhood to the new Whole Foods development, either a street, a greenway, a sidewalk, or a mix of the three.

  • Huntsville Times site development

                Redevelop the site into a medium- to high-density mixed-use project; connect to neighborhood.

  • Redevelop HCS Annex site

                Currently used by Huntsville City Schools for maintenance and facilities uses, the site was considered an eyesore by many groups; some of them suggested a new park on the property.

  • Redevelop Monroe/Parkway triangle

                Another eyesore occupied by various retailers, some groups suggested repurposing this small slice of Parkway frontage.

  • Connection to Lowe Mill

                A greenway connection to the arts center, preferably via a bridge over the Parkway.

  • Harvard Gateway

                Several groups expressed concern about the future of the properties around the under construction Lowery Blvd. and Governors intersection. Potential C-6 rezoning?

Live/Work/Play Map (Click to enlarge)


Group Map Exercise (Nine maps with different ideas– Click each to enlarge)

MDMap9 MDMap8 MDMap7 MDMap6 MDMap5 MDMap4 MDMap3 MDMap2 MDMap1