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Old 01-15-2008, 12:44 PM
 
2,064 posts, read 6,018,157 times
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What can be done to bring people downtown???

al.com: Everything Alabama

Bruegger's, House of Brews and Cafe Baba have all closed in the last month or so. What gives? The renovated space on the SW corner of the square still sits vacant waiting for a restaurant/cafe/bar and they did a wonderful job with that space. The Summit office building cannot secure a restaurant to fulfill its contractual obligation. Why does this community not support downtown businesses? I realize downtown will always be small for a metro of this size because of the number of jobs located on the Research Park and the Arsenal, but what we have downtown is very nice yet many of the businesses still struggle. Do you think the Constellation development will succeed? They plan on investing $150mil with 2 hotels right next to the VBC. Could that be the turning point for downtown?

I'm really just looking for thoughts from other posters. I am just frustrated because you can drive by 50 crappy chain restaurants on University on a Tuesday and their parking lots are fairly full, yet local places with good food and service (not to mention character) downtown struggle.
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Old 01-15-2008, 01:30 PM
 
Location: Madison, AL
410 posts, read 1,499,111 times
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Personally, I think they need some quality residential options downtown, preferably even affordable options -- small and mid-size $100k-150k lofts would bring more middle class singles and childless couples into the area, plus apartments for all those relocated engineers that come through town. People shop and eat where they live, usually, I think going downtown just isn't worth it to many.

I find that while downtown has ample well-lit parking, the streets themselves don't feel safe or vital and energizing at night. Perhaps increased lighting would help, and I think MORE going on will also help. There are some great places downtown, but they lack cohesion as a destination. If you go to Earlyworks, they have a cafe but when you leave is there a nicer restaurant across the street? Nope. You get in the car to go eat, and once you are in the car, you just go to a place you are already familiar with.

I'm not sure hotels fit the bill -- downtown needs a baseline of regular local business to succeed. The restaurants will have more effect, IMO, provided they hang in there long enough to get attention. Perhaps it's a start to help increase awareness of the area. I think Huntsville is ripe for a downtown revival, but finding the right scheme to get there is not a task I envy.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:41 PM
 
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^^^Residences are a big issue. We need affordable places that young people can buy. I don't think they need to be cheap, but options at or under $200k for a nice 2 bedroom would be great. I think $100-150k is probably unreachable in the core of downtown but not on the fringes. However, the only places that have been built or proposed have been insanely expensive (approx $300/sqft). Also, the comeback of the Merrimack and Lowe Mill villages would be a big plus for downtown.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:43 PM
 
Location: Rocket City, U.S.A.
1,806 posts, read 5,109,032 times
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IMHO, as an outsider looking in:

Diversify...in addition to a variety of family friendly establishments (don't go crazy with bars...it didn't help Ybor City/City Place/Clematis/Abacoa), promote other targeted businesses/boutiques to come in to the area and STAY OPEN...do you want people to linger or to eat and leave? I understand the tradition of closing early, but darkened storefronts aren't going to help draw a crowd.

Parking...not sure what the situation is there, have only been there a few times so far, but that is another issue. Plan ahead.

This would be a great opportunity for artisans (hey, if I had the start-up funding...), bistros and funky little shops to shine - make it a reason to go there, someplace that has something no other area in the local region does...know what I mean?

While we're on it...I hope someone opens a Cuban restaurant soon. Sangria, black beans and marinated pollo...I'm hungry.
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:51 PM
 
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^^^Parking is not a problem right now IMO. I have never parked further than a block from where I wanted to go unless there was an event going on and I've never paid for parking either. A lack of shopping is a serious problem. Right now there are bars, a couple nice restaurants, a few museums (including 3 kid friendly ones) and a nice big park. However, there is no place to shop. No bookstores, no clothing stores, groceries... I think a nice bookstore downtown would be a great addition.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:05 PM
 
Location: Rocket City, U.S.A.
1,806 posts, read 5,109,032 times
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A bookstore would be GREAT and that park is a gem already...

Groceries...y'all don't have a Whole Foods yet. Hmmmn.

My want list:

Whole Foods Market.

Chipole restaurant.

Genuine Cuban.

Bakery bistro.


Shopping:

Bookstore (local, chain, whatever)

Boutiques offering vintage and fringe designers (not meaning through-the-roof expensive, just UN-mall-like - maybe local seamstresses and knitters? Cottage industry!) and also something to expand on housewares/decor...think Anthropologie for the masses. Something a MAN would be willing to walk in to. Easy on the pink.
If a local ironworker could get together with a flea market salvager we could have something really cool...let's call it 'Butch and Betty'...heh.

Ok...

Wood, stone and glass...I know there's a stained glass place around here somewhere.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:06 PM
 
Location: Rocket City, U.S.A.
1,806 posts, read 5,109,032 times
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A Tandy leather would be nice...I'd think this area would support that sort of thing.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:41 AM
 
Location: Albany, GA (Hell's Waiting Room)
602 posts, read 1,769,937 times
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I remember downtown HSV having a problem with both safety and affordable parking. Big Springs Park was "home" to many homeless, most of whom were harmless but at least one of whom kicked a dog to death in front of its owner a couple of years ago. Downtown is also pretty close to several housing projects, which (according to local law-enforcement types I knew there) were, relatively speaking, hotbeds of criminal activity in the area. We're hardly talking Cabrini Green here, but it was enough to discourage a lot of people from coming downtown at night.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:19 AM
 
Location: Madison, AL
410 posts, read 1,499,111 times
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I don't see $200k as affordable housing for the young singles that are even likely to consider moving downtown. Few single people under 40-ish can afford that kind of house payment.

And million dollar penthouse condos? Forget it. I want some of what those developers are smoking. You can't sell the penthouses until you have a thriving district people are willing to pay a premium to live in, and you won't get that until you have local residents. Bring on the artists and the hip 20-somethings first, then you get the ball rolling.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:35 PM
 
Location: Huntsville native
848 posts, read 2,064,484 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlourChild View Post
I remember downtown HSV having a problem with both safety and affordable parking.
Huntsville downtown parking has never been an issue. It's free and abundant after 6PM on most nights. And safety? I can't think of a safer downtown for a similiar size city in the South. Homeless people gravitate to Brahan Springs (couple miles from downtown) more than Big Spring, which is a shame since I live near Brahan and grew up playing little league baseball and football there. It was once a beautiful and big park with a small amusement park. But I digress...

Some of the suggestions regarding shopping are dead on. I recently moved back from Savannah GA which is actually smaller than Huntsville now. Downtown Savannah is bustling to say the least. Of course Savannah is very historic and has a huge tourism industry. But Huntsville needs to find ways to lure some unique shopping and arts/crafts type place. The bars and restaurants are a start. Sadly we lost House of Brews, which was nice.
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