As the 2010s come to a close, we’re struck how much Huntsville and the surrounding area has changed. There’s still much to see in the coming years, but the Rocket City has enjoyed a decade of transformation. While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are some of the ones that resonate with our staff.
This decade began with the old cotton/boot factory of Lowe Mill seeing success as an arts facility. As floors were opened and studios added, it soon became the largest privately owned arts facility in the nation. An old middle school soon saw new life as two breweries, restaurants, axe-throwing and more in 2017. Campus No. 805 has been deemed the coolest school in the country and we have to agree. Another factory is now home to "moderate horsejackery" with Stovehouse coming online in 2019. The food and leisure garden is going strong and soon they'll be opening up a shopping area and event space in the next few years. Finally, AM Booth's Lumberyard decided the Roaring 20s was a fantastic decade. The owner bought a train car, refinished it, and now you can dine All Aboard the Blue Bayou for an incredible eating experience.
The Southeast's best swimming facility was built right here in 2017. The Huntsville Aquatics Center holds three pools. The complex is the only one in the Southeast with two 50-meter competitive pools under the same roof. The Huntsville Parks and Recreation Department was also busy with renovations to John Hunt Park. The City of Huntsville is hoping to draw more people into the area with the new sand volleyball pits and cross country course. There is still more to do in the park, but so far the improvements have brought in several events.
The Huntsville Stars left the Rocket City with a baseball-sized void in 2014, but soon talk a new team and stadium was in the works. In 2019, we learned the Rocket City Trash Pandas would be playing at Toyota Field in Madison. We're sure they will be winners based on their name alone. Speaking of winners, the two-time defending SPHL Champions, Huntsville Havoc, continue to draw in hockey fans across the area with their matches at the Von Braun Center.
Von Braun Center
The Von Braun Center is home to plays, concerts, conferences and more. Both the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall and the Propst Arena have seen some updates in the past decade. One of the newest updates is the Mars Music Hall and restaurant that will be open in January 2020. The new music hall is just one step in the multi-tiered plan for expansion at the Von Braun Center.
Along Highway 72 in Huntsville there once stood the Madison Square Mall. It was torn down and soon a multi-use facility development began to take shape. It started with TopGolf breaking ground, followed by The Camp and Alchemy. MidCity District is now home to High Point Climbing, REI, and soon, a new hotel and the largest movie screen in Alabama.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center just celebrated its one millionth Space Camper and also hit at least one-million visitors this year. It just opened its INTUITIVE Planetarium with state of the art projection and screens. It also just finished a huge campaign to 'Revive the Saturn V' with new paint. Both the Saturn V and Saturn I rockets are looking like new outside the world's largest rocket museum. With an Apollo 50th celebration under its belt, the U.S. Space & Rocket team will look to 2020 with its own 50th anniversary and a possibly Guinness World Record with the rocket launch attempt.
Early in the decade, the Huntsville Museum of Art added seven new galleries with their two-story Davidson Expansion. The Huntsville Botanical Garden also added a new Welcome Center in 2017. Ditto Landing also did some renovations with adding pathways to connect to greenways in the area and camping sites. The Historic Huntsville Depot underwent some renovations and now has a beautiful path to walk along throughout the area. Burritt on the Mountain completed The View in late 2018. The Cocktails at The View event is one of the best places to catch a sunset in Huntsville. Finally, in time for the Alabama Bicentennial in 2019, Alabama Constitution Hall Park re-opened to the public. The new green space is the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful weather and enjoy the historically recreated buildings.
The Land Trust of North Alabama acquired 200+ acres of land and opened the Chapman Mountain Preserve. In 2016, The City of Huntsville partnered with Land Trust of North Alabama to revise and expedite a master greenway plan for pedestrian connectivity across the city of Huntsville. In 2016 Big Spring Park also had a facelift with new seawalls, two new fountains (one for each pond) and a modified shape to the lagoon to promote better water flow. They also installed 10-foot wide sidewalks, plazas, lighting and electrical outlets, benches, Wi-Fi, and updates to the gazebo and Freedom monument areas.
Huntsville is home to Redstone Arsenal. We have NASA Marshall Space Flight Center who is turning 60 next year and the US Division of the Army. In the past decade, several large companies have expanded their footprint and now call the Rocket City home. Polaris, Blue Origin, Remington, Aerojet Rocketdyne and more have all made a spot for themselves in the Tennessee Valley. The FBI will soon be housed on Redstone Arsenal, and Toyota-Mazda, along with a new Facebook Data Center, will be bringing in several hundred jobs to the area.
There have been several hotels built in the past 10 years. At Bridge Street Town Centre, The Westin became the first dual-branded hotel in 2017 with it becoming the Westin / Element. A new Hyatt Place is about to open. Just across from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center a new Drury Inn opened up in 2018. In downtown the Downtown Huntsville Holiday Inn was torn down and in its place is a new AC Hotel by Marriott. In the Twickenham Plaza area, you'll find a Homewood Suites. And finally the first of the Constellation project, the SpringHill Suites popped up downtown almost 10 years ago. We know more hotels are coming to our booming area, and we can't wait to help fill them with visitors and conference guests.
Boom of Craft Beer and Coffee
The craft beer culture boom began early in the decade after lawmakers allowed taprooms on-site at breweries. Several of the breweries in our area play right into the space theme and pay homage to the history of Huntsville and Madison. Downtown Huntsville has a craft beer trail with seven craft breweries. We have two breweries in Madison with Rocket Republic and Old Black Bear Brewing Company. You can also find the newest Huntsville brewery, Fractal Brewing Project on Leeman Ferry Road. You can get "hoppy" with us anytime by stopping by the visitor center to pick up your craft beer card.
Along with beer, gourmet coffee has also boomed in the area with roasters and shops popping up across Madison County. In fact, the trend happened so fast we just added a craft coffee trail too in Huntsville. You can't get to the moon without a little rocket fuel!
What great changes to the Huntsville area over the past decade have been most memorable or impactful for you? We’d love to hear your own stories. Just go to the comment section below.