By Bud McLaughlin, City of Huntsville
That’s what City officials, business leaders and residents are realizing as Jaguar Hills and the Johnson Legacy Center breathe new life into northwest Huntsville.
Jaguar Hills is an up-and coming neighborhood within walking distance of the Johnson Legacy Center, the former J.O. Johnson High School campus. The City of Huntsville is partnering with Stanley Developers LLC and Davidson Homes on the project.
“It’s exciting to see the resurgence in this part of town,” said Al Stanley, a lifelong northwest Huntsville resident. “I’m really excited to partner with the City to bring rooftops to this area … commercial and retail follow rooftops.
“Success breeds success. Hopefully, developers will take a good look at this part of town.”
City Council member Devyn Keith, whose district includes Jaguar Hills, said the development dispelled doubts about the housing market in the area.
“Nobody believed you could sell a house for $275,000 ‘up there,’” he said. “We proved them wrong … people were buying houses.
“I can’t express how exciting this is.”
“We took a gamble and it paid off,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding.”
Keith said the key was getting homebuilders together as well as the City’s cooperation.
“You have a public infrastructure with the private,” he said. “Shane Davis (the City’s Director of Urban and Economic Development) put together a good private-public plan.”
New life for JLC area
The City has long looked at the area for a rebirth and held meetings with residents on what they wanted.
“What really was needed was new housing,” said Dennis Madsen, the City’s urban and long-range planner. “Build good housing to be an asset to the community. And something that is unique to the area and adds value.”
And the Johnson Legacy Center was created.
“I think it’s a great asset,” he added. “The Johnson campus is an excellent example of what can be used in its next life.”
Among the standard amenities, the facility offers indoor rock climbing, volleyball and futsal (similar to indoor soccer on a hard court). There are also weights, group exercise classes and locker rooms with sauna access.
“That whole project and the different types of activities break the stereotypes” of other City rec centers and gyms, Stanley said.
“Give credit and vision to those two gentlemen (Keith and retiring Huntsville Parks & Recreation Director Steve Ivey),” Madsen said.
A resource for the whole community
The center is something that will be used by the entire community, not just northwest Huntsville, Keith said.
“People want good things and expect good things,” he said.
“Now, they have a new standard.
“Any development in any part of the city is good for the whole City.”
And now, it can shine a bright light of positivity when people look at northwest Huntsville and the city as a whole.
“You want to flood Google searches with good news,” Keith said. “You want to have a big splash when people Google ‘northwest Huntsville.’
“We’re really blessed to have people looking at us in a positive way