HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Several of Huntsville's top business minds have formed a new nonprofit organization to assume most of the downtown revitalization duties previously handled by Big Spring Partners. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says in just a short time the group has already hit the ground running.
"It is a promotion group for downtown to work with downtown in developing it out in a true urban status with places you can live work and play," Battle explains.
Battle says the group has already signed up more than 40 members and raised approximately $800,000. He says the group represents a healthier and more encompassing planning model for downtown revitalization.
"Many development possibilities, looking at opportunity sites and how we turn those opportunity sites into actual developments that benefit the downtown area," Battle says.
In April, the group will launch a nationwide search for a chief executive with experience in downtown development. That person will run both Downtown Huntsville Inc. and Big Spring Partners whose focus will shift to accepting charitable donations of money and property.
"They will be looking for that person who wakes up everyday and does nothing but work on downtown -- they think about downtown; what can I do to help develop downtown, what fundamentals need to be in place, what rule changes need to happen?"
Battle says the early support is encouraging to say the least.
"We have a very vital downtown and there's just some little pieces that need to be put in place to help us develop out some of those opportunity sites that will make our downtown one that is incomparable to anybody else in the southeast," say Battle.
Downtown Huntsville Inc. is a membership-based entity similar to a chamber of commerce, but focused solely on downtown revitalization.
Mayor Battle says the city will only supply about 20 percent of the group's budget.
Our news partners The Times/al.com report Downtown Huntsville Inc. Chairman Evans Quinlivan says he hopes the organization will have a bigger annual budget than Big Spring Partners - the target is $350,000 - that is less dependent on tax dollars. The city has been giving Big Spring Partners $90,000 a year.
"Our goal is to wean ourselves off of that," said Quinlivan.