Big Projects That Never Made It in Huntsville

Every city has them, and Huntsville is no exception. They are kept in the closet and pulled out every once in a while to ask once again why they never came to be. Depending on your perspective, some were even better off never happening.

Here are several development projects that were announced years ago that just seemed to fizzle out. Keep in mind any large development project is incredibly complex, and with such complexity comes timing, quality and financial hazards. I suspect in most cases, the developers met with financial difficulties that caused the demise of the project. See if you remember some of these!

22-Story Hotel near VBC
This was proposed for the southeast corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street back in April of 1992. The developer and the City Council couldn’t reach an agreement on the innovative financing on what would have been the tallest building in downtown Huntsville. Ironically, this is the same location where a seven-story Hampton Inn & Suites is currently being constructed. The site just begged for a hotel to be put there.

A Pair of 14-Story Office Buildings on Wynn Drive
In September of 1983 this pair of office buildings were planned for the southeast corner of Holmes Avenue and Wynn Drive near the then newly constructed Madison Square Mall in West Huntsville. There are some one-story offices nearby, but nothing ever came of a multi-story structure. Again, this would have been the tallest building(s) in the city.

Space City USA Amusement Park
Described as ‘the biggest thing that never happened in Huntsville‘, this was planned for the area that is now Zierdt Road, south of I-565. It even has its own Wikipedia page. Lady Ann Lake was more like Lady Ann Swamp back then; totally rural with a jeep trail going around it, and dead tree stumps dotted the water’s surface. It is now a large developed community of apartments and single-family homes around a very well-kept Lady Ann Lake.

Monte Vedra
This was ‘A Planned Community of 30,000’ to be built on Green Mountain. Having grown up on Green Mountain, I remember seeing the large billboard at the southwest corner of South Shawdee Road and Riverview Drive with those exact words. The developers built all the roads and got the water lines and water tower installed – and that was all.

As a youngster back then, I was glad they had stopped at that stage, so I could jump on my bike and explore all those roads that really lead nowhere. Eventually, much of the property on Green Mountain was auctioned off around 1994, then gradually, individual lots had houses built on them. Read more at the Green Mountain Civic League.

The Oasis
I just moved this one over from a blog I’m writing on Big Projects That Are Yet to Be in Huntsville (to be posted a few weeks after this one). Planned for I-565 not far from the intersection with I-65, it really sounded grand. Very arts-oriented. I hoped it would come about, but I do notice a distinct lack of any coverage on it since about 2018. Besides, there are already several fairly new small stores and other buildings on that location. Try checking out their Facebook page and an impressive YouTube video, but I believe they recently took down some of their content; that was the main reason I moved the Oasis to this post.

Lincoln Mill Condos
As of December, 2007 the plan here was to give the Lincoln Mill a new life as condominiums. This has a happier ending than most. Rather than converting the old mill into condominiums, it was converted into office and retail space, where it is alive and thriving today.

A Missile Factory inside Green Mountain
No, it’s not April Fool’s Day and I’m not kidding! Back in 1957, the plan was to hollow out the mountain and put in a missile factory. Apparently, several homeowners held out when much of the land on Green Mountain was bought and eventually the whole idea just sort of caved in, pun intended.

Read more at the Green Mountain Civic League. Old Huntsville Magazine did an article on this in their September 2018 issue titled ‘The Mysterious Plans for Green Mountain’. UFOlogists have also taken note of such extravagant plans.

I’m going strictly on memory on these last few projects, so some details might not be exact.

Parches Cove
Back in the 1970s, a development was proposed for Parches Cove. That is a 1500+ acre cove on the south side of the Tennessee River just west of Guntersville Dam in Marshall County. It was going to house some 4,000 residents and probably the usual accompanying stores and office space. With a bridge over the Tennessee River, that would be a reasonable commute to Huntsville. Otherwise, it would be a bit closer to Huntsville than Arab. I believe the local folks really didn’t like the idea of a large development there and it went away.

Super Mall at the Old Airport
This project was announced back in the 1970s. The developer wanted to buy up the old airport property – now John Hunt Park – and put in a mall similar to Madison Square Mall. Malls were all the rage then, but the developer and City Council couldn’t make the sale, if I recall.

BTW, roughly in that time frame, we had five malls in town:

  • Madison Square Mall (now the Mid-City property)
  • The Mall (now Home Depot and Costco; that fountain sitting in the middle of the traffic circle is the original mall fountain, and looks to be sitting exactly where it was originally!)
  • Heart of Huntsville Mall (now Constellation property)
  • Dunnavant’s Mall (now Huntsville Hospital Medical Mall)
  • Parkway City Mall (now Parkway Place, our only remaining mall today)

River Port at Huntsville International Airport
The plan was to tie all four transportation modes – Air, Rail, Road, and Water – together at the airport, three of them already being there, and the airport being so close to the Tennessee River. However, that would have required major construction on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge property and it never got off the ground due to the environmental issues that were foreseen.

As an aside, here is an interesting story about a project that didn’t quite make it in Chicago back in the 60s. Let’s hope Huntsville never has a project fail due to those circumstances!

Do you know of other projects that didn’t make it? Let me know!

Next topic in the category of urban planning, I plan to talk about big projects that are still on the drawing board, but are just taking a while.

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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