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Old 12-19-2009, 03:49 PM
340 posts, read 585,649 times
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Council OKs downtown apartments' architect - al.com
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Building would be linked to 5-story parking garage A city of Huntsville-backed downtown apartment building is moving closer to reality.

Thursday night, the City Council voted to pay architect Bill Peters $156,500 to design the shell of a 40-unit apartment building on Lincoln Street. It would be connected to a five-story municipal parking garage that Peters designed earlier.

Mayor Tommy Battle said the city, which has budgeted $8.8 million for the parking deck and $2.5 million for the apartments, will solicit bids from general contractors early next year. If the price is too high and the city has to scale back the project, Battle said, the apartments "would be the first to go."

The project would fill most of the block bordered by Holmes and Clinton avenues and Lincoln and Greene streets, replacing a small city parking lot. It would be just a few steps from Drake State Technical College's planned downtown campus in the old Times Building.

Battle said the 449-space parking deck would help the northeast corner of downtown grow. It would include 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space that could be leased to small businesses.

The apartments would overlook the historic Old Town neighborhood. Plans call for the city to build the facade and "rough in" the concrete floors, plumbing and electrical connections, then find a private developer to finish the apartments and manage the property.

Battle said he's convinced young professionals will flock downtown if the city creates affordable rental housing in the $750-a-month range. Developer Randy Schrimsher was originally interested in the apartments, but Battle said he has bowed out of the process. Recent talks have focused on Big Spring Partners, the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group that owns the Holiday Inn building on Williams Avenue.

Council President Mark Russell said he's not thrilled with the city "getting into the apartment business." But if it's going to happen, he said, officials should seek competitive bids from apartment managers.

"I want it to be open to where the best-qualified group" runs the apartments, Russell said Thursday. "I would like a (bid solicitation) to go out so we make it known that we're listening to other people as well."
Russell voted for the design contract with Peters, noting that Old Town residents he has talked to are in favor of the apartments.
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