District 3 2018 outlook: Roadwork milestones, new-look for Ditto Landing

single-meta-cal January 18, 2018

In the coming days, City Blog will take a look at what’s in store in 2018 in each of the City of Huntsville’s five council districts, through the eyes of their council representatives. Today: Dr. Jennie Robinson, District 3.

View City Council district boundary lines via this map.

This one was too easy and too obvious.

“Top of the list,” Jennie Robinson says, “is finishing the overpasses.”

South Parkway construction has caused a drain-clog in Robinson’s district over the past several years. But, as she is quick to point out, “the overpasses are ahead of schedule. They are, in fact, due to finish, ahead of schedule, sometime this summer.

“Once they’re open,” she adds, “I think everybody will breathe a sigh of relief.”

And, for a multitude of reasons.

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First, for the residents in the 60,000-plus vehicles that travel daily on South Memorial Parkway through the Martin Road interchange, whose drive-times will be shortened. From Ditto to downtown in 10 minutes won’t be far-fetched.

Second, it can revitalize businesses who have, as Robinson puts it, “done the best they can in a challenging situation.” She offers her gratitude to the members of the South Huntsville Business Association for their work and their patience.

The Association is looking for branding opportunities and a strategic plan after construction is completed and has found itself with something of an unexpected bonus. The Martin Road interchange has created a short tunnel for South Parkway drivers and “it sort of becomes the entrance to South Huntsville,” Robinson says. “What can we do to make that an iconic entrance?”

New look and new vibe coming

Whatever it becomes, it will open up into a new look and vibe. The Haysland Square area, on the west side of the parkway near Whitesburg and Weatherly, will be a focal point for development. The new Grissom High has already brought revitalization, and a recent donation of land by the Hays family will add more green space, more access to Grissom and likely lead to more residential property.

At the southernmost part of the Parkway, Ditto Landing is undergoing a major facelift. Two new access roads are being built, there is fresh landscaping with ponds and waterfalls, and an updated campsite with room for nearly 200 RVs, up from 30, making Ditto Landing more of a destination for visitors or an easy getaway for locals.

However,  South Huntsville development isn’t just fed by the main artery of the Parkway.

Work is beginning on the Sandra Moon Complex, at the site of the former Grissom High. A gymnasium and ball fields will provide recreational opportunities, Arts Huntsville will have a satellite operation there with use of the performing arts center. The planned demolition of some of the building will lead the way for a new library and a large lawn that can become a gathering place for community events.

Robinson has met with owners of businesses in the immediate vicinity, including the retail center directly across Bailey Cove, to see what opportunities for further development are there to complement the Sandra Moon Complex.

Green Mountain challenge

Looming over South Huntsville is Green Mountain, which until recent years had seen modest development and tended toward large tracts of family-owned land.

“What I’d like to see in 2018 is more conversation about Green Mountain and what does Green Mountain need to look like,” Robinson says. “How can we preserve it? I’m all for residential and commercial development in South Huntsville, but once we lose Green Mountain, it’s gone for good, and we need to have some conversations about that. The fact is (because of a narrow and steep road), we can’t provide services (like school buses and larger emergency vehicles) for it. So we need to have a conversation with developers about what’s appropriate.”

Development and improvement is positive. But there’s also a necessary balance with preservation, and that’s all wrapped up in the challenges and changes for South Huntsville in 2018.