Planning the Future of Downtown's Historic Buildings

The historic buildings and homes in downtown Huntsville are important part of the city's charm, culture, and southern heritage. Three of these major structures are in transition, and we want to know your ideas on what should happen next with these buildings. The two school properties are listed on the State of Alabama's historic register, and approval for renovations must be granted by the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission. The bank building is listed on the National Historic Register.

First National Bank of Alabama on Jefferson Street.

1836One of Huntsville's most iconic and recognizable structures, this Greek Revival bank was built on the Courthouse Square in 1835. It served as a bank until 2010, when Regions Bank deeded the property for community use via an arrangement with the Historic Preservation Authority. The City needs a plan and funding for the building's use and maintenance. What do you think should happen to the building?





East Clinton Elementary School on East Clinton Street in Old Town.

1938The site of the first school to be built in Huntsville, East Clinton Elementary is the third school structure on the property (see timeline of photos at the bottom of the page). Built in 1926 in the Art Deco style, it closed in 2012. Huntsville City Schools would like to sell the property to help fund capital improvements in other areas. It also costs the school system about $39,000 - $42,000 per year just to keep the building in its current state. The school system is asking $1,564,000 million for the 3.62 acre property. The building has 39,100 SF under cover.



Annie Merts Center

1836 Home to the Huntsville City Schools administrative offices, this former school building sits on the corner of Randolph and White Streets. Built in 1928 in the Renaissance Revival style, it served as a high school. In 1987, the building was converted into administrative offices. Huntsville City Schools is considering selling the property along with the nearby parking lot across White Street.





Evolution of Education on Clinton Avenue


1882Huntsville’s first public school building was built in 1882 on the site of the present East Clinton Elementary School.














This larger brick building was erected only 20 years later in 1902 on the same East Clinton Avenue site as the first frame building.This larger brick building was erected only 20 years later in 1902 on the same East Clinton Avenue site as the first frame building.









By 1938 the East Clinton Avenue site had yet another school, this Art Deco style building, which is still in use as East Clinton Elementary School.



By 1938 the East Clinton Avenue site had yet another school, this Art Deco style building, which was used as East Clinton Elementary School until June 2012.









Preserving Historic Buildings

Create An "Arts Bank" At Old Regions Bank Building On The Square

Create an “Arts Bank” arts and entertainment venue on Huntsville’s downtown square in the historic Regions Bank Building. Utilize the historic Regions Bank building to provide a critical programming venue to draw Huntsvillians and tourists alike to downtown entertainment, restaurants, and retail. With programmatic leadership from The Arts Council and its member arts and cultural groups, this City-owned venue could ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Courthouse

Let’s add a category: "County Courthouse." Either the epicenter of downtown is a government center surrounded by lawyer’s offices or it is an entertainment, small shops and living zone--but the two do not easily mix. Rows of attorney offices hardly project the idea of "fun" and the dilapidated and overwhelming monstrosity of a courthouse is the white elephant in the room. We are trying to re-purpose around it without ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Realistic Plans for Preserving The Old Regions Bank Building

The Historic Huntsville Foundation supports the adaptation of the historic First National Bank of Alabama in a way that supports a thriving downtown Huntsville, whether as a community arts center or privately-owned condos. Nearly two hundred years ago, Huntsville’s founders invested in this building as a symbol of their belief in Huntsville’s prosperous future. History has proven them correct. It is critical that ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Think outside of the box

If we're going to revitalize Downtown, it's going to require thinking outside of the box. Honestly, the downtown is not that interesting if art or nightlife isn't your cup of tea. You need to look how difficult the City rules make it for new businesses to open. In addition, the high cost of rental space doesn't encourage the eclectic, interesting shops that many residents would like to see. If you want it to happen, then ...more »

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Condos - nono

I disagree about the condos thing. While it might help folks MOVE there (those that can afford it), it won't help the downtown area become more pedestrian unless there's something to go TO. Right now, and handful of smoky bars and old hardware stores is not a *draw* for downtown. I recommend freeing up some space for shops, retail and otherwise, and restaurants. Most of the restaurants there are pretty pricey and ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Performing Arts Center/Music Hall/Art classes

Transform the Art Deco building into a Performing Arts, Theater, and Fine Arts and Music Center. From what I understand, it already has an auditorium and would be perfect for community plays, and art and music learning/classes. We must preserve a place (preferably in historic Huntsville) for the arts and cultural learning. Engaging young people in the arts is the most important thing a community could do. There could ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Transform them into lofts/condos!

I have seen it in many other cities as small as Athens, GA and as big as New York City. Beautiful old historic buildings and public schools turned into amazing modern/historical lofts and condos. I know these ideas don't come cheap, but it is a way to bring more people to downtown who still want to live within a mile OF downtown but not quite IN downtown. The idea of this beautiful historic building being torn down is ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Create affordable, on-demand office space for small businesses

Create affordable, small, on-demand shared offices within the current historic structures for startups, entrepreneurs creatives, or other small businesses, that can be rented on short-term leases like in larger cities. These types of shared work environments are affordable for small businesses, promote collaboration and foster the exchange of ideas. By growing the workforce downtown, we'll increase foot traffic during ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Historic Preservation Commission

Some earlier posts have indicated a lack of confidence in the Historic Preservation Commission. Based on my experience with the Commission over the past twenty years, most of the Commission members are passionate about preservation and want to do the right thing. If the demolition of East Clinton comes to a public hearing, it's pretty certain there will be Commission members who will follow the guidelines of the Commission ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Use East Clinton Building As A School

I was so happy to see that a private school wants to buy the East Clinton building. They want to buy it without making modifications to the exterior. This seems like the best option to protect our Old Town District's distinct character. Link to the newspaper article: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/02/private_school_wants_to_buy_ea.html

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Use the bank building for a museum

We have the Museum of Art. We have the Space and Rocket Center. We have the Train Station, but we do not have a museum that is striictly about Huntsville. Convert this building into a 'Huntsville' museum. Regarding East Clinton School, it isn't located in a very strategic spot for community wide use. I say sell it to the highest bidder and use the proceeds to improve existing schools. At this point, it's just an old ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Something like (maybe better) than City Museum in St. Louis

I wish Huntsville had something like City Museum in St. Louis. My family and I drive 7 hours to see a Cardinals game and visit this museum. My husband and I have as much fun (if not more) than the kids while at the museum. The original space was an old shoe factory. Because our city prizes family-activities, I think it would be a great use of our "old" space. Here's a link: http://www.citymuseum.org/site/

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Private School

The East Clinton School is extremely significant culturally and historically. The property was the site of the first school in Huntsville dating back to 1820, before Alabama was a state! During the Civil War it was a military academy/training camp that was captured by troops and burned down. After the war, we had designated the property to always remain for educational purposes only. I strongly recommend that the Historic ...more »

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Private School

I just read the article about the Providence Classical School wanting to buy East Clinton school and allow it to remain a school! Wonderful! Hopefully the HSV Historic Commission will come to their senses and deny the demolition request by Broadway and let this historic and cultural landmark remain a school!

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Arcade/Indie Film Theater

By day, an arcade for families to have something else to do together downtown besides feeding the ducks and fish. Arcades are making a comeback on the nostalgia factor for 30 something parents who spent all their time in arcades as children. And this will be a pleasent alternative to Chuckie Cheese! By night, an Indie Film theater. That Huntsville doesn't already have one of these astounds me. Indie Film theaters ...more »

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Preserving Historic Buildings

Keep the historic structure with new purpose

Upscale CONDOs is the best way to retain the building's exterior and preserve the neighborhood's historic appearance. No matter how much new homes are built to appear old, they are just not a good fit for a truly historic district. They stand out as too perfect against the funky character of great old homes. CONDOs also mean more people living downtown and supporting new restaurants, etc.

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