HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A piece of Huntsville history is facing partial demolition for private development. The Annie Merts Center in the Twickenham Historic District is a 1928 school building that currently houses Huntsville City Schools administrative offices.
The Huntsville City School board of education voted to sell the Annie Merts building to a developer and move its central office to a new building off Memorial Parkway. The $3.5 million dollar deal to sell the building to Crunkleton Associates is not final. A school board member tells News 19 there are several contingencies before the purchase is a done deal.
Because the Annie Merts Center is part of a historic district, any changes to the building have to be approved by the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission. City Councilman Bill Kling says changes to the Merts building are of high public interest, so he hosted a town hall for residents to ask questions about the building’s future. More than 100 people who live in Twickenham and Old Town districts attended.
Annie Merts History
The Annie Merts Center, located at 200 White Street is officially in the Twickenham Historic District but is right on the border of the Old Town Historic District. The original building was put up in 1928.
From 1929-1954 it was home to Huntsville High School. From 1954 to 1986 it housed Huntsville Middle School.
In the 1950s the original 18 classroom building was enlarged with two-story side wings extending from the west and east sides of the building. Additional renovations were made in the mid to late 1980s for use as academic offices.
“Its the fabric of the neighborhood the way these things are all stitched together, but I understand the reality of the situation,” says Huntsville Resident Ken Hovanes.
That reality is the Huntsville City School Board of Education needs a new building, and real estate developer Crunkleton Associates plans to demolish a portion of Annie Merts and give the old building new life.
“That’s a big building and I just don’t know that it would be feasible for anyone to try to make something out of the whole building,” says resident Sheri Belmont.
Crunkleton Associates has gone before the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission to ask for approval to demolish the additions to the original 1928 building. They plan to turn the original building into condominiums and subdivide the extra land space for individual homes.
“I think the proposal of putting 15 condominiums in there would be the best use of that building and the prettiest for that property,” says Sheri Belmont.
Most neighbors at Mondays town hall weren’t opposed to the demolition or plans.
“Overall I think its a good idea, but if there is an issue with drainage while they are doing construction then it could be a problem for people who live down the street – and there are a lot of people who live down the street,” says Ken Hovanes.
But many neighbors showed concern about the details of how the changes will impact the neighborhood.
“There’s no definitive plan of what’s going to happen with the lot lines, what houses will be built. We don’t even know how the lot lines will be defined,” says Hovanes.
The developer is expected to present more specific plans to the Historic Preservation Commission before they vote to approve demolition. The commission’s next meeting is set for March 14.