HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville city leaders say the relocation of Grissom High School could spark a revitalization of the surrounding area that includes new retail and residential developments.
Residents in the area met Monday evening at an event hosted by the Chaffee Neighborhood Civic Association to learn more about the plan in the works that will bring new retail, housing and the new school in the coming years.
City Councilman John Olshefski told WHNT News 19 the new Grissom site near Weatherly Road and South Memorial Parkway would revive an area that's been on the decline of late. Olshefski didn't mince words about the current business climate near the future site, where empty storefronts and parking lots are easy to spot.
"There's a perspective that it's dead there," said Olshefski, who believes revitalization of the area is long overdue. "We're an older part of town, and new growth means new opportunities for new families... It could go full spectrum. There's opportunity to just take what's old and upgrade it. There's opportunity to knock it down and start over. We're always looking for a mid- to upper scale restaurant. We're looking for better shopping for stores for clothes and those types of things for our folks."
Councilman Olshefski said some retail developers who would like to set up shop near the new Grissom site have already made inquiries at Huntsville City Hall. He also said some of the land that would border the school is zoned residential, and could accomodate up to 700 new homes. The new Grissom is set to open during the 2016-17 school year.
The relocation of Huntsville's biggest high school by enrollment is also leading to concerns over traffic flow in an area that already sees plenty of it. Preliminary plans call for the portion of Weatherly Road that's west of Memorial Parkway to be expanded to five lanes, with the current dead-end at Haysland Square Plaza being extended all the way to the new campus.
Olfshefski said the three-pronged entry way of Weatherly Road, National Boulevard and Meadowbrook Drive is more than enough to offset those traffic concerns, which were addressed in a recent traffic study completed before the new school site was chosen.
"There will be three entryways into the area," said Olshefski. "The traffic obviously goes north-south, and the roads we're talking about are going east-west. We're not saying there won't be some growing pains with it, but we believe there's enough capability to handle the traffic."
The Huntsville City School Board voted to approve a plan the purchase the $2.5 million plot of land off Weatherly Road last May. Officials said students and faculty had long outgrown the aging facility on Bailey Cove Road, which is the smallest land mass for any of the city's high schools.