Rebuilding Huntsville’s City Hall: The Possibilities

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville’s City Hall is an aging building. Once a symbol of the community’s innovation, it could now be hampering efforts to recruit jobs and development — making it hard for city leaders to make a good first impression.

In a WHNT News 19 Taking Action report on the building’s problems, Steve Johnson and Michelle Stark outlined the esthetic issues – falling marble, chain link fences, plywood boards and wire-wrapped pillars – as well as efficiency problems. The building can’t really meet the needs of city government anymore.

Community leaders acknowledge the issues. The real question is, what should a new City Hall look like? Where should it be? How much should be spent? There are a number of ideas already circulating.

Architect Tim Packard has a pretty simple concept for Huntsville’s future City Hall. He’d demolish the annex next to the existing building, build a new City Hall where the annex was, then move everyone over, demolish the original building and expand the nearby park.

Developer Scott McLain, on the other hand, envisions a new City Hall on property he owns at the corner of Memorial Parkway and Clinton Avenue – along the busiest highway in north Alabama. The mixed-use development, which he calls Constellation, would combine city, county and even school district offices.

“You can have all of the people in one facility,” McLain explained. “[A building] that looks appropriate and those people [visiting] from Chicago or Japan will say, ‘This community really has its act together!’”

McLain said he’d be taking the risk in construction and development on the roughly $30 million plan – a potential plus for city leaders wary of another Madison County Jail situation. That building ended up way over budget.

According to McLain, Constellation would also fundamentally reshape the area – since it moves City Hall to the west edge of downtown.

“It makes downtown have a greater center of gravity. More to do. More happening,” McLain said.

Mayor Tommy Battle isn’t too keen on that idea, though.  He’d prefer to keep City Hall closer to existing shops and restaurants in the city’s core. Battle estimates a tear down-rebuild on the current City Hall site would, like McLain’s plan, cost about $30 million.

Battle would like to see any new facility pull together the currently scattered city offices. Those vacated office spaces could be sold to offset the costs of a new facility. Bonds could also help pay for the project.

As for combining city and county government? Battle’s not sure that’s the best move.

“There’s value to having your own signature there too,” Battle noted.

Any plan for a new City Hall will have to win City Council approval. That might not be so easy in a still-recovering economy. Battle tells WHNT News 19 $1 million was put toward a new City Hall in 2013’s Capital Plan but the Council stripped it.

What do you think should happen with Huntsville’s City Hall? Share your comments below.

You can also watch Rebuilding Huntsville’s City Hall: The Problems to see the condition of the current building up-close and what business and political leaders think of it.

8 comments

  • Scott

    Preferably downtown, but wherever it is built, don’t build a modern monstrosity which will quickly become last year’s fad like the last building did. Something more fitting to local architecture.

    McLain is just trying to get himself out of his failed Constellation project. The Springhill Suites architecture was also a little disappointing.

  • Jim M

    I think that it should be built across the street (East) from the current location on the entire block that a parking garage currently occupies. It is a higher elevation than the current location and parking could be put underneath it. They could consolidate all offices into that building. The old building and annex and fire dept could be demolished and made into some type of amphitheater on the hill and added to Big Spring Park. The city hall would then look over the city from that location.

  • lm

    LM.

    I agree with the above comment. if this is done. There could be more concerts in the park along with movies and other programs. I am sure this would a better use of the property . I was born and raised here and I remember when all of the area around Big Spring Park was all green space and it broke my heart when they started to develop the area. I would go there and have all the room I wanted to run and play as a child. When trying to come up with a solution think about the public and what would be good for them for a change and not just the government .

  • thenickster

    It will become another huge money disaster similar to the 70 million dollar jail. Whatever the projected cost becomes, expect it to be at a minimum 2.5 times higher than estimated. Huntsville City government overspends the citizens taxpayer money with no restraint and no accountability. IMHO.

    • Michael Kewl

      The Public agrees as many contractors lined their pockets with the JAIL DEAL and failed, then the next group of contractors tofix the JAIL DEAL did the same…what a disaster indeed for Huntsville City!!!

  • peter jenke

    .Whatever is done, don’t fall into the same trap as with the jailhouse !!!!!!!
    That was a disaster.
    Prefer to have it built where the old one is; it will attract more business to the downtown area, which is desperately needed.
    Just make sure plenty of parking will be available.
    And keep the surroundings GREEN…….

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