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 districts, through the eyes of their council representatives. Today: Bill Kling, District 4.
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What is old is beginning to look new again.
As Bill Kling notes, “A lot of the older neighborhoods in the city are in the district I represent, the old central area.”
That includes the West Huntsville area that has already undergone a renaissance of sorts with Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment (Pictured above), Campus No. 805 and the Huntsville West co-working space.
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His area has seen new residential growth in old places such as the Medical District, where 1950s bungalows are co-existing with new construction.
There’s more of that to come this year and in the years to come, believes Kling.
“There’s been a lot of momentum for the central area of the city,” he says. “Other cities around the state, people are moving out of the central and into the suburbs. You look at Huntsville, and some of the nicest areas are Lowe Mill and Merrimack and the Medical District, older areas but they are nice places and we’re seeing an increased demand. Mayor Battle and the things he has initiated have been phenomenal in making this take place.”
The Lowe Mill area will see new additions this year as Invent Communities, a Nashville company that specializes in the renovation of older neighborhoods, begins its project to introduce retail, multi-family homes and new residences.
A new project in the Merrimack area is going through the zoning process now, new development along Knight Road and Kling senses an increasing sense of community in Westlawn, where residents are active in sprucing up their homes with fresh coats of paint and landscaping.
Commercial properties getting boost
There are some commercial properties seeing a similar change.
On Governors Drive West, much of an old strip mall has been leveled “and that will be a great catalyst” for business in that area, with his adjacency to the Stovehouse project. The Stovehouse, on the site of old Rome and Martin stove companies, will house an urban food garden along with coffee and wine bars.
“It’s the corridor coming off I-565 toward downtown and there are new things there, like the Big Spring Café and other places, that will attract business,” Kling says.
The evolution of recreational facilities and increased budget for the Parks & Recreation Department will pay dividends this year as well, Kling believes.
The opening of the Huntsville Aquatics Center last year will attract major regional and national meets. Not far away, John Hunt Park is getting a new look, particularly on the site of the former municipal golf course. The site is being transformed into a multi-sport complex that will serve a broader cross-section of the community.
“These are all things we can look at with pride,” Kling said. “Especially when you look at other cities where you see people literally evacuating a city to go to the suburbs.”
Reality check on roads
But there is a reality and a challenge for District 4 that is shared across the city.
“With the cold weather we’ve had this month, a big thing will be road resurfaces in the spring and summer,” Kling said.
That’s part of a larger infrastructure picture.
“We need to stay ahead of the curve on traffic congestion,” Kling continued. “If we can get that under control, I think we’ll be in phenomenal shape.
“It’s not going to go away overnight, and there are things to look at in the future. A ‘ring road’ around the city, with Research Park Boulevard to Martin Luther King and continue to circle to Hampton Cove would take a lot of traffic. Eventually, we’d need a southern bypass.
“These are not glamorous things, but they’re things I hear a lot about from people. It’s something where we need to roll up our sleeves and throw energy and money into.”