City Leaders Look To Unexpected Space For Downtown Development

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The effort to revitalize downtown Huntsville has had city leaders looking at unexpected places.

What is normally a holding place for furniture and long-forgotten decorations could become the next retail hub of downtown.

“This used to be the retail center of Huntsville right here, but now there’s very little retail downtown,” said David Johnston, owner of Downtown Storage, on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Jefferson Street.

The space has served downtown businesses and residents for the past 15 years. Before that it was a furniture store for 75 years, and a farm supply store before that.

Through a partnership between Johnston, Downtown Huntsville, Inc., and the UAHuntsville College of Business, the Clinton Row Project means to bring the space back to its retail roots.

“We have some great restaurants some great bars, but we needed some place to buy things,” said Chad Emerson, CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc.

Downtown Huntsville, Inc. has leased out six storage units, to in turn rent to vendors.

“Artistic people can come down and rent these units, open the doors and display their work to the passing world out here,” said Johnston. “So we hope if it’s the right mix of people and art it can catch on and reactivate retail downtown.”

The vendors will be able to paint the walls and floors of their 10-by-10 spaces, that they will rent for a year.

What Emerson and Johnston call ‘incubator’ shops, will serve as a starter home for small businesses.

“The goal is that during those twelve months if they determine if they’re successful and the market is good for them, they’ll find a permanent location,” said Emerson.

Downtown Huntsville, Inc. has signed a lease for 6 units, they hope to expand to 15.

The grand opening is March 1st, with soft openings throughout February.