Category Archives: Explore Madison County

Groundbreaking on new Grissom High School to be held next week

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A new Grissom High School will be one step closer to reality next week when school officials break ground on the new $60 million campus.

The groundbreaking will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the site of the new school, located behind Sam’s Club on National Boulevard. National is just off of Memorial Parkway below Weatherly Road.

The event will be broadcast live on ETV, located on Comcast Channel 17, WOW Channel 3 or on the web at HuntsvilleCitySchools.org.

The school board last week approved a $2.3 million construction contract with Decatur-based Baggette Construction to perform the site work prior to the school’s construction. Chapman Sisson Architects of Huntsville is designing the school.

Other work to prepare for the new school is already underway, with Weatherly Road being extended west of Memorial Parkway to new 61-acre campus. School board member Jennie Robinson confirmed last week, however, that work on the new school had been delayed, putting its August 2016 opening in jeopardy.

School officials are looking at the possibility of a mid-year opening, with students moving into the facility in early January 2017.

The current Grissom campus on Bailey Cove Road will be turned into a public library, police substation, recreation center and community theater.

via Groundbreaking on new Grissom High School to be held next week | AL.com.

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Alabama residential median sales price continues to improve in August

Click here to view or print the entire August report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

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View full size Alabama home sales in August slipped 2.1 percent compared to last August. YTD sales up 1.2%. August sales are now up 38% from its August bottom in 2010. Infograph courtesy of ACRE. All rights reserved.

Alabama residential sales totaled 4,139 units in August, a decrease in sales growth of 2.1 percent from the same period a year earlier and 210 units shy of our monthly forecast. Nationally, sales were off 5.3 percent in August from the prior year. See more details of how Alabama compares to the broader US market here.

The YTD Alabama sales forecast through August projected 31,414 closed transactions while the actual sales were 30,212 units, a 3.8 percent cumulative variance. YTD sales through August have been sluggish in most markets across the State but remain 1.3 percent above the 2013. Sales were up 2.3 percent in the second quarter compared to 2013.

Across Alabama, 64 percent of local markets reported positive sales growth compared to last August. It was 48 percent in July. This figure also remains at 64 percent when taking into account total YTD sales compared to 2013.

Pricing: The lead story in 2014 relates to pricing. The Center shared in earlier reports that pricing represents the primary indicator that still had the greatest upside in the future. At least through August, this has come to fruition as prices are up in 16 of 25 or 64 percent of local markets. While this is good news for the market, as prices increase, sales (the typical lead story) attributable to investors bargain hunting will diminish the ability of this “buyer profile” to push the sales growth needle in the future. Distressed sales continue to significantly diminish as a percentage of total sales across the US, a trend most market watchers content will continue in the future.

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View full size Alabama median home sales price in August 2014 improved 12.8% from prior year and now up 21% from the month of August price bottom in 2004. Infoigraph courtesy of ACRE. All rights reserved.

The median sales price improved by approximately 12.8 percent over last August and 6.3 percent when comparing the year-to-date (Jan-August) average for a broader perspective. Still, Alabama remains below the nation’s recent pace of appreciation but the Center prefers gradual increases in pricing over spikes seen in many parts of the country (typically in markets hardest hit by the recession). Keep in mind that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month due to sampling size of data and seasonal buying patterns. The median price increased 1.7 percent from the prior month. This direction contrast with historical data (09-13) that reflects that the August sales price traditionally decrease from the month of July by 1.1 percent.

Supply: The statewide housing inventory in August was 33,561 units, a decrease of .6 percent from August 2013 and 20.4 percent below the month of August peak in 2007 (42,149 units). There was 8.1 months of housing supply (7 months considered equilibrium during month of August) in August 2014 versus 8.0 months of supply in August 2013, a 1.5 percent unfavorable increase. August inventory also decreased by 1.5 percent from the prior month. This direction contrast with historical data that indicates August inventory on average (09-13) traditionally increases from the month of July by 4.5 percent.

Demand: As anticipated, August statewide residential sales declined 5.4 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with seasonal trends & recent historical data that indicates August sales, on average (09-13), decrease from the month of July by 1.1 percent.

The fact that there are fewer distressed properties (attracting bargain hunting investors – typically cash buyers) changing hands when compared to last year has also narrowed the favorable percentage change associated with sales growth.

Seeking Balance: Six or 24 percent of local markets are considered near or in balance where buyer and seller enjoy equal bargaining power. More markets are inching closer so this is encouraging news.

In contrast to reports of lack of inventory at the national level, Alabama still has above the needed levels of supply in most local markets (13 of 25 markets or 52 percent still have 10+ months of supply) but the supply of “quality” inventory is limiting sales according to local professionals with boots on the ground. Only 12 of 25 or 48 percent of local markets have single-digit months of housing supply so this is an area where more reduction would be welcome news. Last month this figure stood at 44 percent. With that offered, metro markets representing 70 percent of statewide transactions, are edging closer and closer to equilibrium with 7.2 months of supply.

Industry Perspective: “The August National Housing Survey results lend support to our forecast that 2015 will likely not be a breakout year for housing,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The deterioration in consumer attitudes about the current home buying environment reflects a shift away from record home purchase affordability without enough momentum in consumer personal financial sentiment to compensate for it. To date, this year’s labor market strength has not translated into sufficient income gains to inspire confidence among consumers to purchase a home, even in the current favorable interest rate environment. Our third quarter Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey results, to be released later this month, are expected to show whether mortgage demand from the lender perspective is in line with consumer housing sentiment.” For full report, go HERE.

This monthly report is provided compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet. 

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New Madison swimming pool, recreation center a step closer to reality

The Madison school board and city council have entered into a memorandum of understanding together as they plan a new recreation center, including a new swimming pool, to be built on Celtic Drive. The plans tentatively call for a 50-meter, indoor pool, like the one in this photo taken at the Huntsville Natatorium. (Bob Gathany/bgathany@al.com)

The Madison school board and city council have entered into a memorandum of understanding together as they plan a new recreation center, including a new swimming pool, to be built on Celtic Drive. The plans tentatively call for a 50-meter, indoor pool, like the one in this photo taken at the Huntsville Natatorium. (Bob Gathany/bgathany@al.com)

Swim team members at Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools – and competitive swimmers across the Madison community – may soon have more elbow room in the swimming pool.

The Madison school board on Tuesday approved a memorandum of intent with the City of Madison for a proposed recreational facility that would include a new pool. Superintendent Dee Fowler assured the board that the memorandum brings with it no contractual obligation, but moves the district closer to one.

The Madison City Council approved a similar measure last month, along with a memo of understanding with Fieldhouse LLC, the Nashville-based firm chosen to build and help manage the recreation center.

[Related story: Divided Madison City Council agrees to partner with schools, private firm to pursue recreation campus]

The target date for a binding agreement between the board and the city is Oct. 1.

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The Madison Parks and Recreation master plan approved by the city council in May gives a concept of the layout of a proposed recreation center, along with hotels, restaurants and other retailers on adjacent property. (Provided by City of Madison)

View full size The Madison Parks and Recreation master plan approved by the city council in May gives a concept of the layout of a proposed recreation center, along with hotels, restaurants and other retailers on adjacent property. (Provided by City of Madison)

The plan is for the two entities to develop an agreement for the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of the facility, which, besides an indoor pool, would also include multiple basketball and volleyball courts and a number of outdoor sports fields. The facility would be built next to the Madison football stadium on Celtic Drive.

The school district currently owns that property, Fowler said, but would convey the property to the city for the project upon execution of a construction contract between the city and the builders. The district would also put up $3 million, a portion of the BRAC funding it received last summer, to help build the facility.

“We were given three years to use the BRAC funds, and one year is up,” Fowler said. “We have two years left to spend that money.”

According to the memorandum, the $3 million covers what it would cost the school district to build a natatorium, or indoor swim facility, of its own.

“The board will take the lead in the design of the interior portion of the natatorium within the recreational building, and the facilities within the recreational building such as locker rooms directly supporting the function of the natatorium,” the memo states.

The city will collaborate with the board on the overall design and look of the entire facility.

During the high school swim season, the Bob Jones and James Clemens teams would have priority scheduling for their practices and competitions over the city recreational teams.

The new pool is a long time coming for the school and recreational swim teams, who have been sharing the pool at Dublin Park. Parents aired their frustrations at a city council meeting last month, saying they were tired of waiting for a new pool.

[Related story: Madison pool parents boiling over delay; demand a 25-yard facility now instead of 50-meters in future]

At Tuesday’s meeting, several swim parents thanked the board for its work.

“I appreciate all of the efforts by the board, and the swim community is out there to support it,” said Laurie Messer, a parent and referee with the Madison Swimming Association.

New Madison swimming pool, recreation center a step closer to reality | AL.com.

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Huntsville ranks among top last-minute summer getaways

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Thousands come out for food trucks on Church Street by Big Spring International Park in Huntsville, AL on Thursday July 17, 2014. (Bob Gathany/bgathany@AL.com)

A new list of last-minute vacation hotspots by Florida-based Global Vacation Ventures might make you consider taking a “staycation” in the Rocket City.

Huntsville was among four cities included in GVV’s best U.S. summer getaway destination list released Friday afternoon. The country club concierge travel agency in West Palm Beach touted Huntsville’s craft beer scene and “quality family entertainment.”

“Those who are intrigued by the nation’s space program will find Huntsville to be the perfect vacation spot,” GVV said. “That’s not all this southern town has to offer, though. There are festivals, shopping spots and unique dining experiences to enjoy.”

Here is the full list from GVV:

  1. Asheville, N.C.
  2. Deadwood, S.D.
  3. Huntsville
  4. Portland, Ore.

Click here to check out the ranking.

Considering a ‘staycation’? Huntsville ranks among top last-minute summer getaways | AL.com.

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Officials expect economic boom with Stone Middle project featuring 2 breweries, outdoor venue near downtown Huntsville

Since the late 1980’s when Sharp Communication moved from Jordan Lane to Governors Drive, the two-way radio company has watched downtown revitalization pick up momentum “like an airplane running down the runway.”

With the announcement that the nearby Stone Middle School will soon be home to two well-known Huntsville breweries and an outdoor concert amphitheater, Sharp CEO Trey Sharp believes downtown growth has taken off.

“Between this and the rumors surrounding the Coca-Cola bottling property, it’s becoming much more clear how cool the whole downtown area could soon become,” he said. “I would just say ‘great job’ to the area leaders behind this move.”

Officials gathered this afternoon in the old Stone Middle gymnasium to officially announce the redevelopment project, which includes a 40,000-square-foot brewery and taproom for Straight to Ale, a new 6,000-square-foot facility, bier garten and tasting room for Yellowhammer and a large amphitheater for concerts and outdoor events.

[Related: With Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer expanding, Huntsville poised to become 'the Napa Valley of craft beer]

Chad Emerson, CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc., said the development will be a game-changer for downtown and the state of Alabama when it opens in 12 to 18 months. He believes it will bring young, creative professionals from competing cities and provide a major tourism boost to North Alabama.

“This will cement us – the city of Huntsville and Madison County – as the largest destination for breweries in the state of Alabama – the absolute largest – and one of the largest per capita in the entire Southeast, so it is a significant manufacturing and economic development project,” he said.

Straight to Ale, which operates in a 10,000-square-foot brewhouse on Leeman Ferry Road, made the jump into the Atlanta market in May after doubling its fermentation capacity last year.

“This will cement us – the city and Madison County – as the largest destination for breweries in the state of Alabama.”

Founder Dan Perry said the Stone Middle property will allow him to grow his workforce from 14 employees to 40 or 50 in the next 1 ½ years.

“This area needed some life put into it, and I think this project is the start of that happening,” Perry said. “We’re big fans of old buildings and revitalizing stuff. We tried to do it when we first started at Lincoln Mill. It didn’t work out over there so now we’re really excited to be able to get back to what we wanted to do when we first started up.”

[Related: Market crash, longterm vacancy caused Stone Middle School property value to plummet from $5.8 million to $1.1 million]

Yellowhammer will double its workforce and increase its output significantly at the larger space on the Stone Middle campus, which was originally home to Butler High School. Head brewer Keith Yager also hopes to reach craft beer markets in Tennessee and Georgia once Yellowhammer is operating on the corner of Governors Drive and Clinton Avenue.

By beautifying the area and making it attractive for visitors, Yager believes more restaurants will move into west Huntsville because of the breweries and the public draw.

“I think Huntsville is doing something really special here,” he said. “It’s going to be a big draw to people all over the state and Southeast. I think you’ll get people to come here to Huntsville just because of the craft beer scene we have.”

Lucia Cape, director of workforce development for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, said the project does nothing but “magnetize” the city. Flucy Lucy Antique Market employee Kathy Clark, who works across the street from the campus, agrees.

The customers and surrounding businesses near Flucy Lucy and Bandito Burrito have also expressed excitement about the development since the news came to light late last week after a Huntsville school board meeting.

“I think it will really do good for the area and maybe for Flucy Lucy’s,” she said. “I think it will really help our business and maybe everyone else’s around here, too.”

Officials expect economic boom with Stone Middle project featuring 2 breweries, outdoor venue near downtown Huntsville | AL.com.

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Huntsville ready to roll with $383M in road upgrades over next 5 years

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Orange construction cones may replace the Saturn V as Huntsville’s unofficial mascot over the next five years.

Mayor Tommy Battle called a Wednesday news conference to update drivers on 27 road construction projects around the city that are recently under way or expected to break ground in the coming months.

The $383 million in planned road work is touching almost every major street in town, including Memorial Parkway, U.S. 72 East and West, Martin Road, Research Park Boulevard, Old Madison Pike and Zierdt Road.

Improving traffic flow is vital to Huntsville maintaining its status as an employment hub for all of North Alabama, said Battle. Currently, an estimated 110,000 workers commute into the city from surrounding areas.

“It is inconvenient having to divert traffic and move people around through construction zones,” said Battle. “But we’re a regional employment center. Our workforce comes from a 14-county area. We have to have the capabilities of getting those people … into the city of Huntsville to work each day.”

The road upgrades are a mix of 15 locally-funded projects and 12 being done in concert with the Alabama Department of Transportation. Huntsville and the state are splitting the estimated $221.5 million cost of new Parkway overpasses at Mastin Lake, Lily Flagg and Byrd Spring roads, widening U.S. 72 East and West, and building the next leg of the Northern Bypass.

Last December, the Huntsville City Council voted to raise sales taxes from 8 percent to 9 percent to finance the city’s share of the road construction partnership.

Here’s an update from Battle and City Engineer Kathy Martin on some key road projects:

New Memorial Parkway overpasses at Byrd Spring and Lily Flagg roads:Design is 90 percent finished; state expected to seek construction bids in March 2015; work on access roads should start mid-2015. Huntsville wants the contractor to move quickly, said Martin, and may offer cash incentives for finishing ahead of schedule. Part of the work will be done at night to try to minimize impact on businesses in that stretch, she said.

New Memorial Parkway overpass at Mastin Lake Road: Design is 30 percent finished; construction scheduled to start late 2016.

Third westbound lane over Chapman Mountain on U.S. 72 East: Reed Contracting has been hired and should start work in October; the job is expected to be finished in April 2016.

Six-laning U.S. 72 West from Providence Main Street to Limestone County line: Concept drawings being reviewed; public involvement meeting planned for later this month; on track for mid-2016 start.

Build Northern Bypass between Pulaski Pike and Memorial Parkway: Design 60 percent finished; next step is acquiring needed right-of-way; on track for mid-2017 start.

Holmes Avenue bridge replacement: Construction is 70 percent complete and should wrap up in January.

Four-laning Zierdt Road between Madison Boulevard and Martin Road:Clearing and Redstone Arsenal fence relocation complete; construction of new northbound lanes on track to start late this year and finish in mid-2016.

Five-laning Martin Road from Zierdt Road to near Huntsville International Airport: First phase from Zierdt to Old Jim Williams Road expected to start early 2016.

Five-laning Winchester Road between Dominion Circle and Naugher Road:Design is 90 percent complete; next step is purchasing needed right-of-way; on track for early 2016 construction start.

Widening Old Madison Pike west of Cummings Research Park: Construction is 70 percent complete and should wrap up in April 2015.

Weatherly Road extension to future Grissom High School site: Construction is 20 percent complete and should be finished by July 2015.

New five-lane section of Church Street between Oakwood and Pratt avenues: Construction is 80 percent complete and on track to wrap up in October.

Huntsville ready to roll with $383M in road upgrades over next 5 years, including 3 new Parkway overpasses | AL.com.

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Bob Jones, James Clemens among nation’s best high schools

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Students at Bob Jones High School in Madison wait for class to begin on the first day of the 2014-2015 school year. The school was named to The Daily Beast’s 2014 list of top high schools in the U.S. (File photo)

Madison’s two high schools, along with seven others across Alabama, were ranked among the best in the nation this week by The Daily Beast.

Bob Jones High School ranked at No. 292 and James Clemens High, in just its third year of existence, ranked at No. 697 out of the 735 schools named to the list.

“We used six indicators culled from school surveys to compare public high schools in the U.S., with graduation and college acceptance rates weighed most heavily,” The Daily Beast reported. “Other criteria included: college-level courses and exams, percentage of students with free or reduced lunch as well as SAT and ACT scores – another mark of how well a school prepares students for college.”

Madison was the only school district in Alabama to have more than one school make it into the rankings, said John Peck, public relations manager for Madison City Schools. Peck said the latest ranking was made more impressive by the fact that it included magnet schools, charter schools and schools that allow enrollment by lottery or application.

“I’m so proud of the Bob Jones kids and teachers,” said Robby Parker, principal of Bob Jones. “I admit I’m biased, but they are the best in the nation. I’ve always said that, but data backs it up.”

James Clemens High School opening day

James Clemens High School students go through a class change on the first day of school in August 2012. The school, now in its third year of existence, was named to The Daily Beast’s 2014 list of top high schools in the U.S. (File photo)

James Clemens High School students go through a class change on the first day of school in August 2012. The school, now in its third year of existence, was named to The Daily Beast’s 2014 list of top high schools in the U.S. (File photo)

James Clemens principal Brian Clayton said he is also pleased the school made the list, particularly since it is such a young school.

“It’s a result of our great faculty and staff and our elementary and middle schools that send them here,” Clayton said. “We look forward to remaining on the list and ranking even higher.”

The Daily Beast ranks Bob Jones, James Clemens among nation’s best high schools | AL.com.

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