John Hunt Park in Huntsville will be getting a bit bigger in the near future.
On Thursday, November 19, the Huntsville City Council approved a resolution allowing the city to begin the process of acquiring the land that currently houses an Alabama National Guard building to the west of South Memorial Parkway, just south of the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center.
"Over the years as they’ve looked at what the future might be, and this is long-term capital planning on their part, they really needed to get out of the little armory building that’s there on South Parkway and get to a site that would be larger, allow them to build more substantial facilities and consolidate some units," said Huntsville City Administrator John Hamilton.
The National Guard agreed to grant the city the land and the building. In exchange, the city is providing a plot of land in Chase Industrial Park, which is north of Winchester Road.
Hamilton said the move will offer some economic boost to that part of town.
"Most of the unit, they come in on the weekend almost every month and two-week training periods during the summer, things like that. Those people go eat lunch somewhere. They go eat breakfast and dinner somewhere. So, it’s almost similar to the impact that a tourist activity would have, you know, when that unit comes in for the weekend," Hamilton said.
A 2018 economic impact study of the military in Alabama states that as of fiscal year 2016, "for every $100 invested by the [Department of Defense] in the Huntsville area, an additional $60 of income is produced for others within the area."
As for the current National Guard building that will be renovated by the city and a new drive, named after former mayor Steve Hettinger, will be constructed.
The deal is expected to take about 60 days to close and then renovation work should start in the first half of 2021. City officials should be able to move in around the end of next year. It will incorporate both office space and room for other activities.
"We’ve been looking at some programs, specifically for things related to fitness and stuff for senior citizens. That’s one of the programs and partnerships that the Senior Center would likely be able to use some space each day," Hamilton said.
The Army National Guard has already vacated the building. Hamilton said it will be some time before the Guard has its new facility up and running since it still has to construct the buildings.