Huntsville City leaders unveil Cummings Research Park Master Plan

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville City leaders unveiled the first draft of the new master plan for Cummings Research Park on Monday.

The campus, which was first founded nearly 55 years ago andnow serves as the nation's second largest research park, has not been updated since 1980.

"It takes a plan that was a great plan in the 1950s and 60s that we put together and now it turns it into the 21st-century plan," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

CRP contributes roughly $280 million in state and local taxes, but at a current 87 percent occupancy rate, city leaders want to ensure the tech mecca continues to thrive.

"It's going to be a slow-rolled plan," said Battle.

The master plan has been in the works since September with help from architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. It includes a five-year vision, but first more than a dozen stakeholder groups must approve the plan.

"Our plan is to spend June and July and part of August meeting with those stakeholders and getting that feedback so that we can modify the plan as needed," said CRP Director Erin Koshut. "That gives us the time to look at those design guidelines and the writing of zoning ordinances, which will all have to take place as well."

Once those hurdles are cleared, then the focus will turn to the cost of the project.

"We really didn't want to let the budget drive our design," said Koshut. "We wanted it to be the right fit for the park first and foremost, so now it's a matter of coming up with okay, what does that look like in terms of cost."

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Mayor Battle said possible funding streams include a TIF or a business district.

"Where everybody also helps pitch in some for the improvements that are done, because obviously we're increasing the value of the property," he said. "A lot of things are being looked at right now as ways that we can continue to fund all of the improvements that we see in the park."

With an emphasis on revitalizing Research Park East, the plan includes a focus on both corporate and start-up opportunities. It also incorporates greenways, activity hubs and mixed-use plazas throughout the park.

"Everbody's really excited about what they saw today and really excited about what it means for the future of the park and that it was time to do something like this," said Koshut. "We had a number of our park CEOs here today and they've been really pleased and supportive and we look forward to working with them to ensure that we implement this in a great way."

Housing, restaurants and retail are also slated to join the more than 300 companies and 29,000 employees on the campus. It is all with the goal of both attracting and retaining businesses.

"We turned it into something that has more of what people are asking for greenways, pocket parks, urban infields, areas that you're going to have more density in the park," said Battle. "When you put all those together, I think what you're going to end up is a 21st-century park coming in."

To see the full master plan for Cummings Research Park, click here.

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