Category Archives: Madison County “in the news”

Groundbreaking set for new $34 million facility at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College

Rendering of $34 million facility to be built at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College.

Rendering of $34 million facility to be built at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College.

Calhoun Community College is ready to break ground on a $34 million facility at its Huntsville campus on Wynn Drive.

Retiring Calhoun President Marilyn Beck has talked about the need to expand the Huntsville campus for several years and the expansion set to take place has been in discussions for more than two years.

The groundbreaking will be Dec. 5 at 11 a.m.

Officials scheduled to attend include Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, state school board members Charles Elliott and Mary Scott Hunter and Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.

The new Math, Science and Computer Science building is a three-story facility with about 90,000 square feet. The building will be located on the west side of Wynn Drive.

The event will also serve as a farewell for Beck, who announced her retirement in August. It will be effective Dec. 31.

via Groundbreaking set for new $34 million facility at Huntsville campus of Calhoun Community College | AL.com.

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1,000 new rooftops to rise on Madison’s western horizon

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A thousand new residential rooftops will be popping up in eastern Limestone County, based on recent rezoning proposals to the City Council.

On Monday, the council announced public hearings on rezoning for three separate parcels totaling 176 acres. Combined with the rezoning in July of 158 acres on Huntsville Brownsferry Road, Madison can expect to add more than 1,000 single-family homes, said Mayor Troy Trulock.

“There’s another 600 in the pipeline,” he added.

The 1,000-home estimate will take two to five years to play out completely, the mayor said, so there’s going to be plenty of ongoing construction work in western Madison.

Mungo Homes will likely be the first to break ground should the rezoning requests be approved Sept. 22. It seeks to rezone 58 acres at the northwest corner of Burgreen and Powell roads from agriculture to R-3A single-family detached residential. The 58 acres will be combined with another parcel already zoned residential for a total of about 100 acres.

There’s another 600 in the pipeline.” – Mayor Troy Trulock

The largest of the three rezoning request is from Murphy Homes. It calls for 89 acres on the south side of Hardiman Road and east of Segers Road to be changed from agriculture to R-3A single-family detached residential. The smallest of the three comes from Woodland Homes. It seeks to change 29 acres from agriculture to single-family residential. The property is east Segars Road and across from the entrance to Hardin Oak Drive.

District 4 Councilman Mike Potter, who represents some areas west of County Line Road, said the growth is going to put “tremendous pressure” on Hardiman, Burgreen and Segers roads, and the city must get plans in place so the infrastructure can handle the large amount of traffic. A key part of that will be partnering with the Limestone County Commission, he added.

“Our school system’s got to be concerned, too,” District 1 Councilman Tim Holcombe said.

Potter referenced the new 700-acre Town Madison retail and commercial development as making the expected, rapid growth of new homes easier to bear.

While there’s some tax revenue generated from the construction phase of home building, he said property taxes are not enough to offset the cost of providing city services to them. Without retail taxes on the side, “rooftops translate to negative numbers.”

1,000 new rooftops to rise on Madison’s western horizon; 176 acres sought for rezoning | AL.com.

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South Carolina developer will build hotel, restaurants, offices, shopping across from Big Spring International Park

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As city officials including Mayor Tommy Battle, right, watch, Rece Morgan, president and CEO of Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, S.C., discusses his firm’s plans to develop the old Holiday Inn site across from Big Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville during a press conference Oct. 13, 2014.(Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

A South Carolina company will develop the old Holiday Inn site across from Big Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville into a mixed-use area with a boutique hotel, offices, residences, restaurants and shops, city officials said today.

Central Realty Holdings of Greenville, S.C. , is the lead developer of the $70 million project called Big Spring Square that will break ground in April 2015, Mayor Tommy Battle said at a press conference. It will open in 2016.

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This architect’s site plan show the layout for the planned Big Spring Square in downtown Huntsville, Ala. At left is the current Embassy Suites hotel, and Big Spring International Park is at top. Lee Roop | lroop@al.com

None of the brand names coming in the deal – hotel, restaurants, stores – was announced Monday. The hotel will start at 100 rooms and grow, Battle said.

Battle said the proposal from Rece Morgan, president and CEO of Central Realty Holdings, hits all the marks the city wanted in the development: hotel, restaurants, retail, residential and office space. “We had four great firms that made great proposals on this,” Battle said. ” It was a tough choice.”

Under the terms of the deal, Central Realty will lease the six-acre site for 99 years, paying $144,000 per year. The city will demolish the hotel currently on the site and clear the land for the developer. The city will also do the street-side landscaping required to make the development match the park area.

City officials stressed the historic and central location being developed and said they wanted the development to enhance the area.

“Central Realty Holdings came out with a very, very good plan and one that we’re very proud of and we’re still working with them on,” Battle said. “Our Planning Department is working very hard to make sure that this development integrates very well with Big Spring Park which is the center core of our downtown area.”

Battle gave the following “data points” on the deal:

-       It will include a minimum of 28,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and offices.

-       It will include 200 residential units and a multi-level parking lot.

-       Demolition will begin in November and construction next April.

-       The city retains ownership of the land and will retain some control of the development.

Central Realty Holdings also has the first option on a second phase of the project that will involve demolishing and replacing the Jim Williams Aquatic Center. A new Natatorium is in the city’s plan for 2016.

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Madison city schools far exceed national average scores on ACT ASPIRE test

Madison City Schools’ scores far exceed the national average in all grades tested on the ACT Aspire tests, with all schools in Madison City excelling, the school district reports.

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Mill Creek Elementary School. (File photo)

Dr. Dee Fowler, superintendent of education for Madison City Schools, released the results in a districtwide communication sent Friday. The ASPIRE is the elementary and middle school equivalent of the ACT test that high school students take.

“Many had warned that since the state of Alabama was going to a nationally-normed test that our scores would falter. Not so in Madison,” Dr. Fowler said. “The high expectations and commitment to perform at a high level that you, our community and our schools possess make all the difference.”

We all know that their success begins at the earlier grades. Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of our elementary and middle schools.”

The ASPIRE tested third through eighth grade in reading and math. It replaced the ARMT-Plus and serves as an important assessment for instruction and teaching practices. Dr. Fowler said he is proud of the ASPIRE results in Madison’s elementary and middle schools.

“On many occasions we celebrate the accomplishments of our high schools for making America’s best high schools list, the impressive number of merit scholars they produce and having our seniors earn so much scholarship money,” the superintendent said. “We all know that their success begins at the earlier grades. Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of our elementary and middle schools.”

Dee Fowler
Madison Superintendent Dee Fowler (File photo)

The ASPIRE is a nationally normed test with the national average being represented by the 50th percentile. Results shared by Fowler show that Madison students were 30 points or higher than national average on 11 of 12 categories for reading and math in six different grades:

  • Third graders; reading 82 percentile; math 76 percentile
  • Four graders: reading 80 percentile; math 85 percentile
  • Fifth graders: reading 80 percentile; math 82 percentile
  • Sixth graders: reading 83 percentile; math 86 percentile
  • Seventh graders: reading 81 percentile; math 82 percentile
  • Eighth graders: reading 82 percentile; math 84 percentile

Each child that took the test will be given an individual score sheet. The Alabama Department of Education is in the process of printing these sheets, which the school district will pass on to families, along with a more detailed explanation of how to interpret the child’s scores.

This score sheet will show how he or she scored compared to the national average and will also give a readiness score. The readiness score is intended to show how well prepared the child is for further education and career training.

Madison elementary, middle schools far exceed national average scores on ACT ASPIRE test | AL.com.

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Huntsville school district breaks ground on new $60 million Grissom High School

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Grissom High School students – past, current and future – were part of the crowd Tuesday morning as the Huntsville school district broke ground on the school’s long-awaited new $60 million campus.

The Grissom marching band played for the crowd of parents, city leaders and school district officials, who gathered under a tent erected on the edge of the 61-acre site, located off South Memorial Parkway behind Sam’s Club. The school’s mascot, the Grissom tiger, danced as he and Tiger cheerleaders welcomed attendees to the groundbreaking, which Grissom principal June Kalange called “the start of a new era”.

Students also took part in the ceremony, including three members of Grissom’s Class of 2021 – the first class anticipated to graduate from the new school. The students are currently sixth-graders at Challenger Middle School, Mountain Gap P-8 and Whitesburg P-8.

One of those future Grissom graduates, 11-year-old Priya Morgan, said she was excited about the new campus, which she said will have state-of-the-art classrooms and labs to help ready her for college.

“I want to be a chemist,” Morgan said with a huge smile. “I like chemistry, and science is my favorite subject.”

Morgan’s mother, Preeti Francis, said she, too, is happy to see the new school on the horizon.

“Just knowing we will have the facilities to support the programs that we will need is very exciting,” Francis said. “I’ve not spent a lot of time in the current building, but I know that there are things we cannot do because the school does not have the physical capabilities.”

Huntsville Superintendent Casey Wardynski said Tuesday was a great day.

“Grissom has been an important element of the city and the school system since it was built in 1969 and first opened its doors in 1970. It’s had a long and honorable tradition of excellence and it’s been one of our key incubators for new programs,” Wardynski said.

Wardynski pointed to programs like Project Lead the Way, which started out at Grissom but this year has expanded into every school in the district. He said Grissom, along with the upcoming Jemison High School in north Huntsville, will also set the city schools on a new path of advanced manufacturing education.

“They, and our high school in the north, Jemison, will have probably two facilities that are without compare in the United States,” Wardynski said. “As well as probably the only two high schools that will have racetracks.”

Grissom and Jemison will both have racetracks as part of Huntsville’s designation as the home of Greenpower USA, the American branch of a British organization that teaches STEM education through electric car races.

Mayor Tommy Battle congratulated the district, the Grissom students and the Huntsville community.

“This is an investment that we’re making,” Battle said. “This community is investing in a school. But more than investing in a school and the education process that comes out of a school, we’re investing in a band, we’re investing in young students who will be here and will be educated here, and we’re investing in what we value as a community.

“Education is the foundation block of everything good that happens in this community, from economic development to quality of life,” Battle said.

School board president David Blair pointed out that, four years ago, the school district was struggling under massive debt and had hundreds of millions in capital needs. He credited taxpayers with seeing the need in 2012 to renew a 6.5 mill ad valorem tax that brings about $14 million per year into the school district for upgrades and new facilities.

“That was huge. That allows us to build this school, as well as others,” Blair said. “It’s a huge investment in students; it’s a huge investment in our community. And really, really, thank you for everything you have done to help this community.”

Blair and Jennie Robinson, who has represented Grissom on the school board since 2002, both praised the district’s partnerships with the city and the Madison County Commission, which they said allow projects like the new Grissom campus to move forward.

“Today we’re marking a new beginning not only for Grissom families and faculty, but for our south Huntsville community,” said Robinson, who is seeking the District 3 seat on the Huntsville City Council. “A new Grissom High School in this new location will be a magnet for growth in this area. It will revitalize an area that was depressed.”

Robinson said the new high school also marks a new beginning for the current campus, which will be turned into a municipal complex that will include a police substation, a new public library branch, a recreation center and a community theatre. Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick and other supporters of the plan hope to raise $4 million privately to help pay for the new library.

The new Grissom, initially slated to open in August 2016, is now anticipated to open to students in January 2017.

Excitement pervades crowd as Huntsville school district breaks ground on new $60 million Grissom High School | AL.com.

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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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