John Hunt Park Master Plan Is A Go!

By: Huntsville Real Estate Expert Mike Manosky On November 25, 2012

The Huntsville Planning Commission has given the John Hunt Park master plan the go ahead, according to Read what they have to say…

Following a public hearing, the Huntsville Planning Commission unanimously approved an updated master plan for the 378-acre property. Mayor Tommy Battle said the $100 million proposal — which includes an indoor sports arena, concert amphitheater, children’s splash fountain, additional soccer fields and more — will give the Rocket City its own version of New York’s Central Park.

It won’t happen overnight, however.

The plan hinges on the city selling 25 acres near the corner of Airport Road and South Memorial Parkway for retail development. That land is now home to Huntsville Fire & Rescue Station 6, which would relocate to Drake Avenue, a firefighter training facility and city employee medical clinic.

Battle said the city won’t part with the valuable land unless it fetches a minimum of about $6 million. That money — plus 25 percent of the sales taxes from stores and restaurants that build on the site — would be earmarked for park upgrades.

“We will not get halfway into this and have it stop,” said Battle.

While the master plan drew raves from civic leaders, auto enthusiasts aren’t happy. Since 1971, the city has allowed local sports car clubs to use part of the former runway as a weekend racetrack.

Samir Darji, who runs the website, said losing John Hunt Park as a venue would “severely degrade” the quality of life for many sports car-loving engineers who participate in autocross.

Revised John Hunt Park master plan The updated master plan for John Hunt Park. (Courtesy City of Huntsville)

John Allen, a member of the Twickenham Auto Club and Tennessee Valley Region of Sports Car Clubs, said autocross events at the park often attract more than 100 people who zip around an obstacle course racing the clock. Speeds are typically less than 60 miles an hour because of sharp curves, he said, and racers are required to wear a crash helmet.

If the old runway has to be ripped out, said Allen, the city should consider designating some of John Hunt Park’s parking lot for autocross when no large events are planned.

“That real estate is sitting there empty and unused a large portion of the time,” he said after the meeting.

Battle said the city will work with the car clubs to find a new racing venue as part of a public-private partnership.

Scott Rich warned Planning Commission members that the steel-reinforced runway will be difficult and expensive to pull up. Rich, who lives about 800 feet from the park, also expressed concerns about noise from the proposed concert amphitheater.

Marie Bostick, the city’s manager of planning and zoning administration, said studies would have to be done to determine how to orient the amphitheater to funnel the sound away from nearby homes and apartments.

“All of that would be taken into consideration in the design,” Bostick said.

The terraced amphitheater would seat 3,000 to 4,000 people, she said. Plans also call for a 4,000-seat indoor sports arena, 15-acre outdoor festival area, tree-lined walking and jogging trails, new children’s playground and multi-purpose community building, additional soccer fields and tennis courts, and a third rink at the Benton H. Wilcoxon Ice Complex.

Bostick said walking trails were the most popular idea in the city’s online John Hunt Park poll. Autocross finished second, followed by more tennis courts, the playground and outdoor festival area.

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