‘Live, Work, Play:’ Catchy marketing or sustainable developments for Huntsville’s future?

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Crews are in the process of tearing down one of the Tennessee Valley's most iconic malls to replace it with a mixed use development. This trend seems to be taking off all over the Rocket City.

Will these residential "eat, play, do" models be sustainable or will their name be mud?

It took only 32 years for the once jam-packed Madison Square Mall to become abandoned.

"The fact that it was a one, large, commercial use means that as that mall model starts to struggle, and you're seeing it struggle across the country, it makes it hard for it to come back," said Dennis Madsen, Huntsville Manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning.

Rising from the ashes of these once-beloved malls, though, are the latest in architectural buzzwords, mixed use developments. While the term may be relatively new, the concept behind it isn't.

"It's really the historic way that cities developed over time," said Madsen.

He said it's ultimately about smart land planning, which means developing a piece of property for more than just one use.

"It really is very much at its core about being a human-scaled development," he said. "It's about not just being simply reliant on road infrastructure to connect all these pieces."

By combining residential, office and commercial in a confined space, Madsen said these developments also become more sustainable than their shopping mall cousins.

"If you have a mix of uses on a site, it can kind of buffer if one business, say, falls off, you've still got a residential use that is kind of propping up the viability of that site," he said.

Which is why they seem to be taking over, one trackhoe at a time. Roughly half a dozen mixed use developments will soon exist in the valley, all within 10 miles of each other.

Madsen said this will allow the city to stay uniquely Huntsville.

"Allowing for more mixed use development allows you to vary what's being offered and also support local a little bit better by having smaller spaces," he said. "By having something that has a little bit more of a local feel, you can encourage more local entrepreneurship."

And more entrepreneurship, ultimately means a more vibrant economy.

M.U.D. Timeline 

2003 - Village of Providence

This traditional neighborhood development was the first of its kind in Huntsville, combining a variety of housing with educational, civic and commercial facilities located within walking distance.

For more stories about the Village of Providence, click here and here.

2007 - Bridge Street Town Centre

The new model for shopping in the Tennessee Valley was first described as the “premier mixed use lifestyle center." While it lacks the residential aspect of most true mixed use developments, it still boasts a variety of retail and office spaces.

For more stories about Bridge Street Town Centre, click here, herehere, here and here.

2014 - Twickenham Square

Built on the former site of city public housing, it became known as the "Gateway to Downtown."

For more stories about Twickenham Square, click here, here, here and here.

2017 - MidCity

Purchased for just $5 million, MidCity will replace the old Madison Square Mall. As part of its contract, 70 percent of this mixed use development's businesses must be new to Huntsville.

For more stories about MidCity, click here, here, here, here and here.

2017 - CityCentre

Described as a mixed use, urban experience center, this complex replaces the long-standing Holiday Inn.

For more stories about CityCentre, click here, here, here and here.

2018 - Town Madison

Located near Interstate 565 and Zierdt Road, Madison's up-and-coming mixed use development is described as a “premier regional development."

For more stories about Town Madison, click here, here, here and here.

TBD - Constellation

This long-rumored, on-again, off-again development located between the Von Braun Center and the Memorial Parkway is said to start site work "very soon."

For more stories about Constellation, click here and here.

TBD - Coca Cola Bottling Plant Property

Once a possible site for a new baseball stadium, this highly coveted property was said to become a mixed use development in 2014, but it has yet to be sold.

For more stories about the Coca Cola Bottling Plant, click here, here and here.

TBD - Huntsville Times Property

The newspaper's old stomping grounds were demolished years ago, but future plans for the site could soon make headlines with another mixed use development.

For more stories about the Huntsville Times property, click here.

RIP - Sweetwater

Once dubbed a sweet spot for growth, this now defunct Decatur mixed use development quickly became a sore spot for residents and city officials alike.

For more stories about Sweetwater, click herehere, here, here, here, here and here.