Category Archives: Explore Madison County

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

Bob Jones High first day of class 2014

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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Huntsville awarded Wall Street’s top credit rating

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Wall Street continues to hold the City of Huntsville in high regard when it comes to financial management.

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s both awarded Huntsville their best-possible triple-A credit rating last week – the sixth straight year the Rocket City has held that distinction.

A city’s credit ranking is based on a variety of factors including past financial management, current debt and economic strength. Cities rated triple-A tend to have a reasonable amount of debt and significant cash reserves to help weather economic downturns.

A stellar credit rating allows Huntsville to borrow money at the most favorable interest rates.

Tommy Battle Will Not Run For GovernorHuntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. (Eric Schultz / eschultz@al.com)

“We have worked hard to remain fiscally responsible in a time of shrinking resources,” Mayor Tommy Battle said in a news release. “We have put our dollars into our most critical needs – public safety, education, infrastructure and economic development – and we are being rewarded with an influx of new industries and expanding businesses that desire a secure, healthy community.”

The positive credit ratings are also a result of strong teamwork between Battle’s administration and the Huntsville City Council, he said.

The Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings were issued ahead of a city plan to refinance about $60 million in old debt at today’s lower interest rates. Finance Director Randy Taylor estimates the refinancing will save taxpayers about $4 million.

Moody’s said Huntsville’s strengths include a stable financial position, above-average wealth levels, below-average unemployment and a large, regionally important tax base with significant government presence.

Updated at 10:32 a.m. to add that this is the sixth straight year Huntsville has been rated triple-A

Huntsville awarded Wall Street’s top credit rating ahead of $60M refinancing | AL.com.

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Madison planners OK layout of Villages of Oakland Springs; first Traditional Neighborhood District

Developers for the new neighborhood center project anticipate earth grading for the 349-lot subdivision to begin in two to three months after getting their layout plat approved by the Madison Planning Commission on Thursday.

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At this point, the focus is on working out the technical details of the project’s infrastructure and then following up with getting the single-family homes built, said Ron Roberts, one of the partners developing 157 acres on Huntsville Browns Ferry Road into what’s being called Villages of Oakland Springs.

About 15 acres of that property is dedicated for commercial use, which will be constructed in the same manner as Village of Providence in Northwest Huntsville.

There’s nothing to announce yet on what’s coming on the commercial side of the project because those designs are still being planned, he said.

Roberts’ partner, Todd Slyman, said it could take years to fully develop the retail and office aspect of Oakland Springs, because ultimately, it will be determined by the growth of eastern Limestone County.

“You have to have the population growth in order to get some of those things that happened over in Providence, he said. “But sure, the goal is to have another neighborhood center. The goal is to end up with a similar product.

“Now, is it going to have all the same elements, I don’t know yet. Depends on how things develop out there and how things go. Demand will determine what the retail becomes. As that area grows, we’ll have a better idea of what to bring in there and make that work,” Slyman said.

Asked whether he learned any valuable lessons from developing Providence that might benefit Oakland Springs, Slyman said he couldn’t pinpoint anything specific other than learning the right ways to execute plans, because for the most part, Providence played out as planned.

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“We really haven’t varied from the original plans from the way we originally designed it,” he said. “It’s come together really well. It’s kind of the vision we had from the beginning.”

One popular element of Providence that is already incorporated into layout plat for Oakland Springs is a park-like “common area” in the middle of the subdivision. Providence has used its common area for outdoor concerts and movies. Plans for the common area in Oakland Springs call for green space next to a small lake.

The location is in the middle of cotton fields along an old farm to market road, and it’s about a 1.5 miles from the closest residential subdivision. Still, the location is prime for growth, Slyman said, because it’s minutes away from what families need, such as James Clemens High School, Madison Hospital and Publix.

One of the access points into the subdivision is directly across from where Holladay Road ends at Huntsville Browns Ferry Road

“Holladay Road is a great addition,” Slyman said of the five-lane roadway that begins at U.S. 72. “It’s basically coming right into the project. It’s a five-lane driveway.”

Oakland Springs also is less than two miles from County Line Road to the east and a straight 6.5 miles from the interchange at Interstate 65 to the west.

The planning commission discussed the challenge ahead of providing sufficient roadways for the rapidly growing area of western Madison. The existing county roads are not built for high volume of daily commuters. As part of the Oakland Springs project, the city is asking for 120 feet of right of way for the future widening of Huntsville Browns Ferry Road.

Madison planners OK layout of Villages of Oakland Springs; first Traditional Neighborhood District months away from construction | AL.com.

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Fall Home & Garden Show – Huntsville, Alabama

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Fall Home & Garden Show? – Huntsville, Alabama.

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Madison City Council OKs rezoning for new midtown shopping center

A new shopping center is coming to Wall Triana Highway and Browns Ferry Road after the City Council rezoned about 22 acres of empty fields.

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View full sizeThe Madison City Council on Monday rezoned about 22 acres on the northeast corner of Wall Triana Highway and Browns Ferry Road. The rezoning will allow for a new shopping center.

That didn’t sit well with more than two dozen residents from the surrounding neighborhoods who said convenient shopping is not an acceptable trade-off for the peacefulness they will lose with increased traffic.

“Shopping’s not everyone’s quality of life,” said Lois Brown, a Madison Trace resident, who said she will lose her quiet evenings sitting outside once a shopping center opens. “Please, please help us keep that quality of life. That’s why we moved from Huntsville to Madison. Please don’t make us move to Harvest or Monrovia to get back that quality of life.”

Eleven residents pleaded with the council to reject The Sembler Company’s request to rezone the property from R-2 medium density residential to B-2 community commercial district. This will allow grocery stores and small retail businesses to locate a few blocks west of Kroger on Hughes Road.

Shopping’s not everyone’s quality of life.” – Lois Brown, Madison Trace resident

Josh Beyer, vice president of development for Sembler, said he couldn’t divulge which particular stores they seek for the shopping center, but he said neighborhood service shopping centers typically have a grocery store and smaller retail outlets, such as the Publix on County Line Road.

“This would be a lot smaller,” he said, compared to the Publix on County Line Road. He added it would not include a big box home improvement type store.

The residents opposed to the rezoning said the property has been zoned residential for 20 years and some specifically made sure it wasn’t going to be commercial before they bought their houses. They told the council it should stick with what’s on the books. Some also argued that a new shopping center won’t really add much because it will take away business from existing stores, ultimately creating more empty storefronts.

Toby Stauch said there are enough empty storefronts in Madison already to accommodate retail growth.

Before the vote, which passed 6-1, with Councilman Tim Holcombe the lone dissenter, Council President Tommy Overcash said some residents behind where Publix had the same concerns but their fears were not realized.

Councilman Mike Potter said he researched the 11 homes within two blocks of Publix that sold since it opened, which showed two decreased in value by 1 percent, four increased 10 to 15 percent and five increased from 20 and 45 percent.

“Did Publix cause that, I can’t say, but you can say a development like Publix did not decrease it.”

Councilman Gerald Clark, who represents the area where the new shopping center will be, said growing up on a farm where they went grocery shopping once a week, he learned the value of stores being within walking distance.

“You don’t know what convenience is until you don’t have it,” he said.

Clark said he’s optimistic the city can find money to eventually four-lane Wall Triana all the way to U.S. 72, but it will take lots of money, which the new shopping center can help provide. He reminded them his main campaign platform was to increase the city’s tax base.

Former Councilman Tim Cowles, who once represented the area in question, said he favored the proposal for several reasons: one, if residential had been the best use, the property would not have remained vacant for 20 years; two, development will bring traffic improvements to the intersection; and three, the property owner ought to be able to determine its best use.

“I for one would like to see additional services there,” he said.

Mayor Troy Trulock said after the meeting that he didn’t feel the residents who spoke against the rezoning represented the sentiment of most of the 23,000 residents who live within two miles of the shopping center site or more residents would have attended.

There were 32 people there to here to speak for or against the rezoning, and 11 spoke against and two spoke were for it, Trulock said.

Councilman Steve Smith encouraged the residents to stay involved in the process because the development still has several steps through City Hall before it can begin construction.

“So don’t feel like you have lost your voice,” he said.

via Despite residents’ fears, Madison City Council OKs rezoning for new midtown shopping center | AL.com.

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Huntsville Only Alabama city to make ConventionSouth’s 2014 list of the best ‘Southern Hospitality Cities’

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Only one Alabama city made ConventionSouth magazine’s new 2014 list of the best “Southern Hospitality Cities.”

Huntsville, known for its technology, space and defense industries, was one of 16 cities in the U.S. South handpicked by ConventionSouth’s editors using reader, fan and follower nominations. The magazine also looked at cities that offer a:

• attractive, clean, safe and welcoming community
• charming, authentic and unique attractions, restaurants, shopping and recreation
• community-wide service standards with polite hospitality workers
• helpful Convention and Visitors Bureau with group travel and event planning services

For a city to make the list, ConventionSouth Editor/Associate Publisher Marlane Bundock said the “community as a whole must possess several defining qualities that collectively present an all-around welcoming spirit toward visitors.”

“These qualities include a genuinely cordial state-of-mind of the residents that cooperatively becomes a community-wide state-of-being,” she said. “This is further enhanced by a charming appearance and unique attractions such as one-of-a-kind restaurants—whether they are fine-dining establishments or greasy spoons. Meeting planners from across the country require destinations that meet these standards and therefore, look to the South over other regions in order hold more successful, memorable events.”

Other cities to make the list include Amarillo, Texas; Dalton, Ga.; Gaithersburg, Md.; Greensboro, N.C.; Hampton, Va.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lafayette, La.; Lexington, K.Y.; Norman, Okla.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; St. Augustine, Fla.; Springfield, Mo.; and Summersville, W.Va.

Click here to check out the list.

Only 1 Alabama city makes ConventionSouth’s 2014 list of the best ‘Southern Hospitality Cities’ | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential median sales price in June improves 10% from prior year

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

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales in June slipped 1.7 percent from the same period a year earlier. Year-to-date sales are virtually the same as 2013 (-1.0%) through the month of June. Total sales of 507 units were 15 units or 2.7 percent shy of our monthly forecast.

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View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales slip 1.7% from last June. Inventory has decreased 2.2% from the month of June peak in 2010. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,259 units, an increase of 142 units from last June and 5.3 percent above the 5-year June average of 3,095 units. New home inventory is down 9.1 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 6.9 percent. The inventory-to-sales ratio in June was 6.4 months of housing supply (3.9 months for new construction – down from 4.2 months in May 2013). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 6 months during June. Huntsville remains one of Alabama’s most balanced markets in 2014. June inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a 2.5 percent (79 units) increase when compared to the prior month. This movement contrast with seasonal & historical data trends that indicate June inventory on average (€™09-€™13) remained unchanged from the month of May.

Demand: New home sales improved 5.3 percent from last June after a weak May but a strong sales surge in April. New home sales spur economic growth and job creation so this is encouraging news. Existing single family home sales accounted for 73 percent (down from 74% in June’13) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 14 percent (up from 12% in June’13) while condos were 3 percent of sales (down from 4% in June’13).

Residential sales in June improved 10.7 percent from the prior month. Real estate sales volume is seasonal and historical Huntsville data reflects that June sales, on average (€™09-€™13), increase from the month of May by 6.1 percent.

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View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential median sales prices rises 10% from last June. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in June was $184,900, an increase of 10.1 percent from June 2013 and 10.7 percent from the prior month. Historical data (09-13) indicates that the June median selling price traditionally increases from the month of May by 3.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: According to Fannie Mae’s June National Housing Survey: Americans’ Attitudes Toward the Housing Market Reflect Steady but Slow Recovery, “Normal” Housing Levels Still a Ways Off. Click HERE for report.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential median sales price in June improves 10% from prior year | AL.com.

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