City planners taking community input for downtown master plan seriously

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The City of Huntsville master planning consultants, and the company tasked with executing the plan, have held a couple of different public engagement meetings.

They want to know what community members would like to see for the downtown Huntsville master plan.

From what city planners are hearing, the public wants to live, work, and play in downtown. That includes even more shopping, entertainment, and living space.

City of Huntsville urban planner Dennis Madsen calls it "experience retail."

"It's restaurants, it's night life, it's the sort of thing that really create that after hours vibe," he explained.

Madsen said people are also asking for more open space. They like the renovations to Big Spring Park, but he said they want to see more plazas, and places to just hang out and enjoy downtown.

"Another thing we're really working on is how to make the downtown a little more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Obviously parking is a big issue," he said.

Madsen said Spragins is an example of an underutilized road they could use to create more connectivity.

"We actually have some fairly wide streets downtown. There's some opportunities maybe to take a lane here or there and create a cycle track," he said.

One big idea they're really looking into is connecting the VBC to downtown better. Right now, Madsen calls it a missed opportunity.

"Not only kind of improve the existing deck but also take that opportunity to maybe add some restaurant or some nightlife pieces. So that when you walk out of the VBC after a show you can see opportunities for entertainment right across the street," he explained.

He said he wants the public to know if you live and work in the area you deserve a say in the downtown master plan.

"When you come out and you get involved in a plan we want you to know that we're actually going to take those things and run with them," he said.

The downtown master plan is a five to ten-year undertaking. But, Madsen said you could start to see some of the smaller projects ready as early as the next couple of years.