Neighborhood growth may be a key to unlocking more opportunities across Huntsville

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Leaders say the medical district is the area with Huntsville's fastest growing population.

Chad Emerson of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. breaks it down: "You have Twickenham Square. You have the hospital right there. You have the Whole Foods development."

At a Big Picture meeting Wednesday, the question was what does the community want to see happen there? The group examined what to preserve, things that should be changed, and what connections need to be made going forward.  Dennis Madsen, manager of urban and long range planning, said many people expressed interest in seeing the sidewalk network expanded, and connections to greenways improved.

"With property prices going up and demand going up, and a lot of interest here. It's great to get ahead of the curve and progressively plan," said Emerson.

As small pockets in Huntsville grow, Huntsville officials say bigger businesses can get more interested. Huntsville has garnered interest from entities involved in  54 projects, said Mayor Tommy Battle, although he was clear he could not reveal their nature. He said it's work like what's being done with Big Picture that's a good sign to entities that Huntsville is the place to be.

"They like to see a growing community that is addressing their needs and addressing their infrastructure needs," he said. "When we talk to companies about coming here, they want to locate here. But they want to locate here for 25, 30, 50 years. And they want to make sure their investment they're making today is still going to be good for 50 years."

Battle said the city has picked up some major momentum through deals like those with Remington and Polaris.

"I predict we have two or three more production announcements in the next seven months," he said.

It's that kind of momentum that the city wants to keep, but maintain wisely. Battle said a big part of that is making sure growth happens, but in a measured way.

"We don't want to outgrow our infrastructure," he said.

Battle has met with many companies in recent travels, and these companies have expressed interest in locating or expanding in Huntsville. He said that kind of increasing notoriety is flattering and good for the growing Rocket City. But it also allows the city to make some choices of its own.

"There have been some who just didn't fit in what we wanted to do. So we turned those away. It was probably a good idea," he said, "and a community decision." Huntsville leaders say they're looking for companies that will add to the community and become a part of it.