“South Huntsville is my home,” shared Bekah Schmidt with a smile. She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. “This is where my husband and I chose to raise our babies and build a life together. In this neighborhood of Huntsville we have a quiet pride of place. We’ve personally experienced the wonderful community of people surrounding it. For us, there’s nowhere else quite like it.”
Thanks to recent efforts of leaders in South Huntsville, Bekah has become just one of the many people seeking to revitalize the neighborhood and bring economic growth and support to the many businesses housed within the district. Leading the charge is the South Huntsville Business Association (SHBA), the organization where Bekah serves as Executive Director.
“The South Huntsville Business Association supports, advocates, and promotes businesses in the area,” she explained. “With the recent investments on the South Parkway overpass and the new Grissom High School, the district is in a prime position for growth and redevelopment. Many young families are moving here and we have a great existing housing stock. It’s time to push the area to its full potential.”
Becoming a Main Street Community
In August 2018, South Huntsville was awarded a prestigious designation as a “Main Street Alabama” community. As a local chapter of the national organization—Main Street America—Main Street Alabama aims to be the “leading voice” for “preservation-based economic development and community revitalization” across the state. South Huntsville endured the rigorous application and presentation process to become one of only three officially designated communities in Alabama.
“First of all, it’s a huge honor to be selected because several communities apply and very few are chosen,” Bekah informed. “As a member, we have access to Main Street’s four-point approach: Promotion, Design, Economic Vitality, and Organization.”
Through these four steps, the SHBA has already reached many milestones on the road to revival. Very soon, they will be releasing an in-depth market study that will be distributed for free to the area’s business owners.
“As a market study, it tells us who we are as a community,” clarified Bekah. “Are we a caviar-and-champagne neighborhood or a burger-and-beers type? Personally, I’d say we are a Rosie’s taco-type community—the best of both worlds.”
Creating a Destination at Main Street South
Many new and exciting projects are in the works in South Huntsville and one existing development directly off the Parkway has some promising plans for its future.
Recently, a group focused on activating the Main Street South property at 7500 Memorial Parkway approached Crunkleton with a goal of curating the ideal tenant mix for growth.
Josh Carlegis, Tyler Harris, and Adam Allen of the SCI Grouppurchased the property with the intent of making it a South Huntsville hub for productivity, dining, and entertainment. They believe the first step is filling vacancies with high-profile businesses, experiential retail, and exceptional restaurant options.
“We came across the property after a broker contact of ours reached out and pitched its availability,” shared Josh. “After looking at the site and working with Bekah, we slowly developed a plan to reboot the property by introducing viable, exciting tenants to its lineup, making a few aesthetic improvements like new lighting and interactive elements, and opening the development up for events. We’ve basically offered up the facility to the SHBA at this point and told them to utilize the space as much as possible.”
SCI Group focuses primarily on high-performing areas in the southeast and identifies under-performing commercial assets they can invest in to increase its value and income.
“Main Street South has been in the area for some time and has one of the most unique characters of any property in the district,” said Tyler. “It’s a beautiful property with high-quality features, like Canadian timber used throughout the building’s structure. The atrium alone is a stunning asset and the site’s close proximity to many South Huntsville hot spots—both current and upcoming—makes it deserving of its own renewal. We paired with Crunkleton to fill the vacancies at the center with a great tenant mix that will draw more people to Main Street South and make it a popular destination for work and relaxation.”
One of Main Street South’s most well-known tenants, Good Company Café, just celebrated its one-year anniversary on June 1st with brunch, a cookout, drink specials, live music, and games. Josh and Tyler said this is a perfect example of the type of activity they’d like to make more frequent at the center.
“We feel like we owe it to the community to make Main Street South the best it can be,” insisted Josh. “Demographics for the area are becoming more impressive day by day. And we hope to capture an audience that’s looking for high-quality office space in a growing area and crowds who are wanting to enjoy a good meal and drink while hanging out and listening to live music. We’re excited about the future of the property.”
When asked about Main Street South, Bekah shared that the SHBA was ready to support its team.
“Everything from Ditto Landing to Martin Road is within our district, and Main Street South is one of the key developments that will draw even more people to the area,” she said. “We are all about growth and creating jobs. Naturally, we would focus on one of our best assets to accomplish that task.”
She also shared that Arts Huntsville recently partnered with the SHBA to create a distinctive, artistic mural at Main Street South. It will be just one of the first steps in the master plan to reactivate the site.
“We encourage everyone to join us at our ribbon cutting this Friday and talk to us about what they would like to eventually see at the property,” said Tyler. “We love getting to know the community that our development serves.”
South Huntsville’s Brand Reveal
This Thursday evening, June 6th, the South Huntsville Business Association will reveal its official branding at the new Grissom High School at 6 p.m. with an ice cream social.
“Creating a brand for South Huntsville was a bit of a challenge because we had so many things we needed to highlight,” admitted Bekah. “For instance, we have riverfronts, stunning mountains, hiking, nature trails, good food, thriving businesses—the list goes on.”
In order to be strategic about future branding, the SHBA conducted a thorough consumer survey and business survey to dive deep into the perceptions if the community. After listening to countless interviews and discovering “what makes South Huntsville special” to its residents, they began developing the final brand.
“It’s a brand that will link directly back to the businesses within our neighborhood,” assured Bekah. “Now that we have the pieces together, we will release a ‘How To Do Business In Huntsville’ guide and a ‘Live Local South’ guide. They are fun, free tools that will be available to the people who wish to live, work, and play in the area.”
The new brand will also be a part of many interesting placemaking projects that will take shape over the next few years.
“You will start to see the South Parkway come alive thanks to sensational projects we have planned,” teased Bekah. “To start, we are working on the basics like creating an official South Huntsville sign and street banners throughout the district. But, trust me, it gets much more creative than that and we can’t wait to reveal more in the future!”
South Huntsville is certainly a special area with one-of-a-kind characteristics that dedicated leaders are showcasing with pride.
Extensive work on the South Parkway overpass, the new Grissom High School, upcoming Sandra Moon Complex, and the recently announced Hays Farm development will make the neighborhood an even more attractive destination.
“I believe we have a great team in place to make the most of Main Street South and bring more opportunities to the South Huntsville area as a whole,” claimed Josh. “All of the upcoming projects are incredible and will surely change the face of the neighborhood for the better. But it’s not just about the new buildings and businesses, it’s mostly about the people. And we want to do something that gives them pride in South Huntsville.”
“Hays Farm is going to add a lot of density to our district that will support business in the area,” she said. “Every project is important and they work together to make our South Huntsville home—my home—a place that people treasure. Whether it’s a new state-of-the-art school, a beautiful library, long hiking trails, exceptional restaurants, additional business, or a new area of homes filled with families, it all comes together to make South Huntsville special. It’s a time of growth and we couldn’t be more thrilled to help make it happen.”
Once each year, the Rocket City celebrates its culinary diversity, award-winning dishes, and local flavor with a 10-day event known as Huntsville Restaurant Week. 2020 is no different. In fact, this year will be the largest promotion to date with more restaurants participating than ever before. This means there are endless opportunities to explore our food scene while enjoying discounts, deals, and giveaways!
Not far from the center of Downtown Huntsville, you’ll find Meridian Street and the Lincoln Mill district. As our city center continues to grow, more businesses are finding a home on Meridian making it an increasingly appealing destination for shoppers and diners alike.