One of the most significant pieces of North Huntsville’s past will soon become one of the most dynamic spots in its future.
From its opening in 1972 to its doors closing in May 2016, J.O. Johnson High School has been an integral part of North Huntsville. This spring, the J.O. Johnson Legacy Center, now under construction where the school’s gymnasium was located, will become a sparkling snapshot of the revitalization happening in North Huntsville.
“The Johnson High that many people remember will no longer look like that,” said Devyn Keith, president of the Huntsville City Council. “We’re preserving the school’s culture and memories by creating a dynamic new development with the J.O. Johnson Legacy Center as the centerpiece.”
Keith represents District 1, which covers most of North Huntsville. He was voted into office in 2016.
“When I ran, some people believed that City Hall was the only mechanism to create economic development,” said Keith. “I’m a believer in the power of public-private partnerships to redevelop key sites. Campus No. 805 is a good example. Stone Middle School turns into a brewery, and is now is one of the most frequented places in Huntsville. We need places like that in North Huntsville. That was my argument, and the Johnson High property, being 46 acres, offered us an opportunity like no other.”
The Johnson Legacy Center is one part of the development, which will be completed in four phases. Keith describes the facility, however, as “the jewel of the overall development.”
The recreation center will include volleyball courts, indoor soccer fields, a climbing wall, a large fitness area, sauna and meeting rooms. It is expected to be one of the most unique recreation centers in the city given its amenities offered, and it will honor Johnson High with a color scheme of blue and gold.
Keith said he expects the ribbon cutting to take place in March or April.
That’s just the beginning of the redevelopment, though.
The second phase concentrates on a single-family residential plan that will cover 15 acres and include anywhere from 45 to 61 new homes – the first new home construction in North Huntsville in 15 years. The remainder of the old Johnson High building is expected to be torn down during this phase.
“We’ll have hookups for food truck rallies and, next fall (after we) tear down part of Johnson High School, we will have a park where we can host festivals and events,” Keith said. “This development is a clear signal that North Huntsville is open for business, and this is only the beginning.”
Cecil Fain Drive, which connects the campus with Winchester Road, will also be redeveloped during this stage. This includes new streetscaping and landscaping, decorative streetlights, sidewalks and bike lanes.
The third and fourth phases will bring more single-family residential areas, with some serving senior living, and neighborhood commercial projects that complement the development.