Brandon Kruse was looking for somewhere affordable and convenient and sturdy and conducive to collaboration. But, mostly, affordable.
He admitted that he “fell in love with the economics” that led to his acquisition of the West Huntsville Elementary School building in 2015. That’s where he established his Huntsville West Coworking facility, a business incubator that he and Mayor Tommy Battle have lovingly called “a flophouse for entrepreneurs.”
Eventually, Kruse admitted on Tuesday, “I fell in love with the building. I’ve seen it transforming. It’s been mind-blowing.”
The building’s transformation and Kruse’s leadership in adaptive reusability earned Huntsville West recognition from the City of Huntsville’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The theme of May’s National Historic Preservation Month is “This Place Matters,” which has been adapted locally, complete with hashtag, as #ThisPlaceMattersHsv. Huntsville West was the winner of the first of four #ThisPlaceMattersHsv Mayor’s awards to be presented as May’s commemoration moves along.
“The whole purpose is to recognize preservation efforts across the city, whether we’re recognizing historic buildings and sites, businesses that have adaptively reused historic buildings or even residences, and local historic preservation to celebrate Huntsville’s heritage,” explained Jessica White, City of Huntsville Historic Preservation Consultant.
White encourages those interested in preservation and Huntsville’s history to nominate other buildings and entities by contacting her or via the Huntsville Historic Preservation Facebook page, as #ThisPlaceMattersHsv recognition will continue through the year. Huntsvillians can also use the hashtag on Twitter to make a nomination.
However, it’s much more than simply patting some deserving folks on the back.
“It’s about strengthening the bond between our preservation partners and community members and it’s about coming together to help preserve these historic places for future generations,” White said.
The National Historic Preservation Month will have three other similar presentations as well as a TweetChat with White on May 1 and a presentation and panel on May 16 at Campus No. 805 that will also feature Cheryl Morgan, an Auburn professor and expert on reurbanization, which refers to the movement of people back into an area (through strategies like adaptive reuse) that has been previously abandoned
As Battle said as he honored Huntsville West, Kruse and team have “saved a piece of West Huntsville history and you have returned a thriving business to the neighborhood.”
Huntsville West sits at Ninth and Triana, at one end of an evolving neighborhood anchored by Lowe Mill at the east end. The old school building still has wonderful nostalgic touches mixed with ultra modern conveniences. For example, directly across the room from where a giant flatscreen TV rests on a chrome stand, a manual typewriter sits on a shelf.
Providing collaborative space, individual workspaces for privacy, meeting rooms, high-speed internet and, mostly, a palpable vibe of creative energy, Huntsville West has become a nest for dozens of bright minds.
Not to stereotype too much, but these entrepreneurs are the kids who once probably breezed through school. And now, look at ‘em. Back in a school again. In a school building that, yet again, matters.