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.