A decade of delay, developer says Constellation project ready to move in downtown Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- It's one of the most sought after properties in downtown Huntsville, but after years of delays, the constellation development seemed to be lost in space. Now, a developer and city leaders say the project is back on. City leaders are promising over a million dollars to make sure the work will begin soon.

"This is one of the front doors to downtown," Downtown Huntsville, Inc. president Chad Emerson said.

For over 10 years, the lot along Heart of Huntsville drive has sat vacant.

"Developers have tried to convert it to a mixed-use walkable project. They spent a lot of time, a lot of hard work," Emerson said.

The former home of Heart of Huntsville mall, city leaders say the recession scared off investors, waiting until the economy rebounded before committing.

"This is a way we can proceed to eliminate what some people consider to be an eyesore," McLain Real Estate owner Scott McLain said.

On Thursday, the council voted unanimously to approve the development agreement with Constellation Development to build new apartments, office space, retail, and parking.

"There is no Class A office space in downtown. There is a terrific demand for downtown office space," McLain said.

At Thursday's city council meeting, city leaders agreed to spend $3 million on the project, $1 million to improve infrastructure, another million once the foundation is done, and another million once the first building gets its certificate of occupancy.

"The callbacks are up front, in that we do not perform until they perform. So, the taxpayer is protected," Huntsville's director of urban economic development Shane Davis said.

McLain says the project will happen in two phases. The first includes over 200 apartments, office space, retail, and parking.

"We're not likely to compete with a Target shopping center or a mall. This is not going to be a place particularly where you buy suits or shoes," McLain said.

In exchange for the investment, the City of Huntsville will have claim to 40 percent of the parking spaces, expected to be in high demand during nearby events.

McLain says they expect to break ground on construction this fall.

The second phase is expected to include a hotel and 60,000 square feet of office space.

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