Huntsville Leaders Vow to Remedy Construction Patterns That Left Behind ‘Blight’ for Businesses

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) –  Design engineering is progressing ahead of schedule on six of eight major road projects in connection with the City’s landmark $250 million roads agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Two of the 8 new projects will include the continued addition of overpasses on the north and south ends of Memorial Parkway.

But this time around, the city’s urban development team says they will handle things a little differently.

If take a look around north Memorial Parkway and then down south, you may be in two different areas of town, but you’ll notice some similarities: empty or closed businesses. That’s the issue officials want to remedy.

Historically, the city has worked on the design and engineering phases or service roads first then gotten to work on the actual overpasses themselves. But there could be a gap of five to seven years between those individual projects in the past according to city leaders. Nearly a decade of construction? You can imagine what position that puts some businesses in.

“Oh, it devastated us,” remember Rose of Sharon Soup Kitchen and Thrift Store Operator Sharon Walker.

“It was horrible and many of the businesses along this shopping strip that were there then are gone – they couldn’t survive because they literally had the front of our business blocked off where cars could not come and park out here at all,” Walker says.

And forget thrift store sales, Walker says the construction of the Max Luther Drive overpass made it difficult for clients to even walk up to the business. Not only did it affect the bottom line, it hampered the soup kitchen from helping the homeless.

“Taking a decade to do an overpass has left some blight,” admits Huntsville Director of Urban Development Shane Davis. “It’s left some businesses just unable to survive – you know, a decade worth of contraction. We’re able to take that with this funding agreement between the city and ALDOT and cut that into a three-year deal.”

The changes may be inconsequential for the Rose of Sharon Soup Kitchen, now – but:

“You know, God got us through it,” smiled Sharon Walker. “And if we didn’t have God we wouldn’t be here, because other businesses that were here did not survive.”