Huntsville using 'The Big Picture’ to move city into the future

Huntsville using 'The Big Picture’ to move city into the future

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - If you live or work in Huntsville, you’ll want to know about “The Big Picture.”

It’s the foundation and driving force for everything the city is doing as leaders look to the future.

Mayor Tommy Battle and city planners unveiled the comprehensive plan in its new, user friendly, interactive digital format on Tuesday during a press conference at City Hall.

It is the city’s first published, comprehensive plan guided by direct and frequent input from citizens.

(Source: WAFF)

“The Big Picture” captures Huntsville’s priorities and vision.

It was a 3.5 year process and there were hundreds of public meetings to gather input from residents.

This plan is guiding economic growth, neighborhood and commercial development, parks and greenways, transportation, and quality of life.

“The Big Picture is something that’s very important to us. It’s our guidebook for where we need to be, not only right now, but where we need to be in 10, 20, 30 years,” Battle said.

The Big Picture is up now at bigpicturehuntsville.com.

A digital plan is something a lot of major metropolitan cities are doing, and it allows for constant feedback from the community.

“By embracing the idea of a comprehensive plan that’s digitally based, website based, it becomes more accessible to the community. It becomes easier to update in real time. We can do regular updates as we finish projects,” stated Dennis Madsen, the city’s Urban & Long-Range Planner.

Mayor Battle and Madsen emphasized that The BIG Picture planning process and the master plan itself will “continue and evolve through community conversations, events and public feedback.” The plan will be updated regularly.

“It’s a plan that will change over time. As things change, as different aspects of this plan are achieved, other aspects of the plan will come forward and we will be adding those,” the mayor stated during the press conference.

Residents and business owners can follow along with what the city is doing when they plan for certain neighborhoods, suggest changes or advancements to the transportation network, add to parks, or develop a new community complex.

“There are ways on the website for people to point out what we missed and say ‘I really like this idea but I wish you would this aspect to it.’ It’s really another step in us making sure that this is community based planning,” Dennis Madsen said.

One of the biggest things in the plan- making sure roads and transportation systems are high functioning.

“It’ll probably be 20-25 years but we’ll be looking at some kind of mass transit, which may include light rail. It may include a whole lot of different things but those are some of the items we are bringing forward so we can start looking at some of those solutions right now,” Mayor Battle explained.

It also looks at the education system and neighborhoods.

“Right now we’re doing a study on South Parkway on revitalization because we finished construction and we expect to do the same thing on North Parkway when we finish the overpasses there because that gives us a sense of communities,” the mayor added. “This gives us a vision into the future as to what we need to have in place.”

You can see the different areas the city has started looking at- the Johnson High School area, the Medical District, the Downtown Master Plan, the Ditto Landing Master Plan, and Cummings Research Park Master Plan update.

“This website gives an opportunity to track along with priorities and see where we’re headed in terms of Ditto Landing, or work on South Parkway or North Parkway or how we may be growing out to the east and west. This provides a good clearing house for that and an opportunity for residents to engage with us,” Madsen added.

More planning efforts are in the works, including closer looks at the following areas:

Northeast Huntsville/Five Points

Haysland Square/South Parkway Corridor

The Meridian/Oakwood Node

AAMU “Town and Gown”

City planners said they could have easily developed the plan on their own but they wanted community feedback as the city’s future continues to take shape.

“If it actually is generated by the people who live here, who work here, who commute through here, who call Huntsville home- this has to be their plan for it to be a workable and sustainable plan,” Madsen said.

“We want to make sure we accommodate the growth without sacrificing the quality...that may require some changes like more of an investment in transit. It may require some technological solutions like creative signalization. There are a lot of digital ways we can help our traffic move better,” he added.

The city provided the following breakdown on all of it:

Who should use the plan?

Anyone and everyone interested in Huntsville’s future or urban planning! The BIG Picture Master Plan is publicly available for any individual or group wanting to know how and why is the City of Huntsville growing the way it is. It helps to answer why and where the City investing in infrastructure, the thinking behind zoning policies, and the role that public amenities like arts and entertainment have on Huntsville’s future success.

Current Huntsville Residents

This plan was created with a citizen-first priority. Citizens will be able to view municipal direction on numerous policy and planning topics, provide feedback, and check on a project’s status in real time.

Future Huntsville Residents & Businesses

The BIG Picture explains Huntsville’s values and perspectives that could impact the decision of future residents or business owners to relocate to the area. It shows a regional, national and global audience why Huntsville is an ideal location to live, work and play.

Policy-makers

From elected officials to members of public boards and commissions such as the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment, the BIG Picture outlines the City’s position on policies related to economic growth, connectivity, community health, education, transportation, neighborhood design and more.

In a nutshell, what is the BIG Picture Master Plan?

The BIG Picture incorporates citizen ideas with a thoughtful analysis of trends and data on changing demographics, economic conditions, education, recreation, health care, and culture and leisure to position Huntsville for long term, sustainable success and vitality.

The plan embodies six principles for growth that are specific to Huntsville. These include:

  • Build  a Live/Work/Connect Community
  • Expand  a Sustainable, Resilient Economy
  • Design  a Mobile and Sustainable Transportation Network
  • Maintain  a Network of Exceptional Educational
  • Support  Local Arts and Culture 
  • Develop  Healthy and Active Neighborhoods

These guiding principles drive a host of topics important to residents: Business Incubators, Complete Streets and Transit Options, Urban Agriculture, Strip Recovery and Placemaking, Design Guidelines, Small Area Plans, Greenways/Bike Infrastructure/Sidewalk Network, Updated Zoning, Energy Resiliency/Security/Sustainability, Recreation Destination, Business and Community Associations, Economic Development, Town and Gown and Aging in Place.

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