Starting A New Legacy At Johnson

By Kelly Schrimsher, Director of Communication, City of Huntsville, Alabama

Kelly Schrimsher

There’s a new vibe coming to the former Johnson High campus in North Huntsville. The City is spending $5.25 million to transform the school’s former gym into a community hub for meetings, fitness and play.

The Johnson Legacy Complex is set to become a premier draw for millennials and seniors alike who will take a fresh look at North Huntsville.

Take a tour

In the former gym, KPS Architects have created a bright colorful interior using teal blue and gold accents as a homage to Johnson High colors. The contemporary open floor plan features high ceilings and large glass walls that provide unobstructed views of recreation spaces. Gathering areas have the look a feel of a co-working environment and meeting rooms are equipped the latest technology.

Panels of glass separate the gathering hub from three volleyball and futsal courts. Beyond these vibrant play spaces is a competitive 25-foot high rock climbing wall. A new weight room and exercise area connects to men’s and women’s dressing and locker rooms and a sauna. Free Wifi will be available throughout the complex. “The Johnson Legacy Complex is set to become Huntsville’s premier indoor facility,” said Devyn Keith, Council President and the City’s District 1 representative.

“There’s nothing in town like it and I believe it will draw more people to North Huntsville to see what D1 has to offer.”

Keith emphasizes that the concept for the new legacy complex was derived through a number of meetings with the community, alumni and recreational professionals. Of primary consideration in the design was the recognition of Johnson alumni. A modern trophy case will display Johnson memorabilia and a Hall of Honor will commemorate notable alumni and their accomplishments. Alumni will also be able to purchase named bricks to place in the entrance plaza.

“Retaining the Johnson school legacy in the renovation was important to us,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “When alumni return, we hope they’ll be wowed by what they see and experience here.”

Community-driven vision

When J.O. Johnson High School closed in 2016, the City acquired the property and engaged residents in visioning sessions to flesh out a new purpose for the 44-acre property. What rose to the top of the wish list was a mixed-use development with new housing options, recreation opportunities, green space, and some complimentary commercial or retail.

The City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in late 2017 to solicit potential projects for the site based upon community criteria that included retaining the gym for civic use. Two developers replied and negotiations continue on a largely residential project that incorporates green space and a small area for business or retail. The City’s investment in the Johnson Legacy Center is expected to be a catalyst in the property’s redevelopment.
“This is a large tract of beautiful land in an area that is begging for new housing options and quality, modern spaces that feel urban and connected,” said Keith. “We’ve got hundreds of new jobs coming just up the road at Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Toyota, making this a prime location for people wanting an affordable option to live, work, and play.”
Consolidated Construction is set to begin work on the Johnson Legacy Complex in March. The remaining buildings on campus will be demolished at a later date. Municipal police and fire are using a portion of the campus for training until a new public safety training complex is completed in 2020 on Triana Boulevard.