Pictured above, the property as seen from the Minerva Street side. Plans include a walkway connecting Minerva and Main streets.
A property in the heart of Huntsville’s historic downtown, which has sat empty for years, is getting a facelift.
“It’s great to see construction starting finally at the old A&P building,” Huntsville Councillor Bob Stone told his colleagues at Huntsville Council’s July 23 meeting. Stone sits on the Board of Directors of the downtown Business Improvement Area as a council representative.
The property at 19 Main Street East has been owned by Jim Witt since 2008 and while he understands people have been anxious to see the site developed, he said there’s been a lot of planning behind the scenes.
“Over the years I’ve had every intention to do something with the building—whether that’s renovate it, sell it, add on to it, go into partnership with somebody on a project—so all of these things take time and they take sorting through and they don’t happen overnight,” he explained.
He said at one point there was interest in bundling the property with other properties for redevelopment purposes including the former Empire building site as well as the property next to it. “That’s where the biggest play could’ve been, but I don’t think that’s possible. Based on the fact that there’s other parties that have their own interest, I just decided to go ahead on my own,” he said.
Witt said moving forward with the redevelopment of the building has required careful consideration. While plans are underway to add another storey, consideration was also given to turning the existing building into a three and possibly a four storey building. At one point expanding the building into an L-shaped structure with underground parking was also considered.
One of the problems that I have in putting the money into that is whether or not Huntsville is ready to gobble up the amount of space that we would be putting on the market, so that’s always an issue. The problem you have is you’re still dealing with a small town, there’s only so much demand for office and there’s only so much demand for retail (space). Owner of 19 Main Street East property Jim Witt
Parking has been an issue on that site as well. While it is privately owned, people have been parking there at no charge for years. Somebody has even taken it upon themselves to actually plow it when needed. “In doing so they’ve helped destroy the surface of the parking lot. So I’ve had added costs in that because now it’s pretty well got to be dug up and start from scratch,” Witt explained.
As for the plans moving forward? Witt said he plans to add a second storey to the building, which will include an elevator. The second storey will contain about six office units with access off Minerva Street and a patio, while the main level could have up to six retail units as well. The end unit on the Main Street side will have a large patio.
He said the patio will measure about 34.5 feet by 40 feet. “So you’re going to get a tremendous amount of people on Main Street enjoying themselves having lunch, dinner, drinks, whatever the case may be. We want those people to be visible from the Main Street so people can see that’s an active spot.” There’ll be a second patio closer to the Minerva side of the building, which will measure 15 feet in depth by about 44 feet in length.
As for the Main Street side, it will be fully accessible and there’ll be an archway and a wide sloping entrance to the retail spaces on the main level with a parkette and a 22-foot-high covered walkway with large outdoor chandeliers connecting Main and Minerva streets. “It’s going to have curb appeal like nothing else in Huntsville,” noted Witt.
The basement of the building will have a separate entrance off Main Street. Witt said the plan is to turn the basement into climate controlled storage units with a lift. “We are probably going to turn the basement into document storage. So somebody that wants to access their documents can go in off the Main Street entrance. If they’re wanting to load documents, they would go off the Minerva Street entrance and access the lift without going through the lobby,” he explained.
Witt said a lot of thought has gone into making the most of the building. “As an owner you’ve got to make sure that there’s a pay-back on the building and it’s conducive with what the Town has been looking for.”
The parking lot has been cordoned off as work begins to prepare the site. Witt said he hopes to start building within the next two weeks and is hoping the building will be ready in 2019 for a late spring occupancy. “We want it to be the premier building in the downtown and it will be,” said Witt.
A sign will be placed on the property in the near future with information, possibly a website and a phone number for those interested in leasing space in the building.
The site plan was approved at Huntsville’s Planning Committee on February 14, 2018. Plans to redevelop the property at 19 Main Street East first surfaced in 2015, when the proponent sought relief from parking requirements, which council accepted in order to encourage the redevelopment of the site.
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