SEVERAL DEVELOPMENTS UNDERWAY DURING CRP’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR
By Claire Aiello
We’re seeing a lot of activity in Cummings Research Park this year. While CRP West continues to develop, we’re seeing more – and new – activity happening in the older, eastern section of the Park. We’re spotlighting some of that revitalization in this cover story as CRP celebrates 60 years.
Through the Park’s 50-year master plan, many of the areas under development were identified as targets of opportunity. We are also seeing improvements the City of Huntsville has made to enhance safety and quality of life, including infrastructure changes and crosswalks, dedicated bicycle lanes, a new slip ramp from I-565 to MidCity, and new CRP entrance signs coming soon.
At the intersection of Bradford and Wynn Drives, you’ll see construction of The Arcadia taking shape. It is a mixed-use development that is expected to take about 24 months to complete. The groundbreaking was held on September 12, and this project will include:
■ 250 multifamily units (for rent)
■ 10,935 square feet of office space (for lease) facing Wynn Drive
■ 7,025 square feet of additional commercial retail space, restaurant or amenity service oriented at the corner of Wynn & Bradford
■ Six-story building with structured parking
Amenities for residents include community and fitness centers, a pool, electric vehicle charging stations, outdoor fire pit, bicycle racks, grill pavilion, storage, and more.
Three developers are involved: Retail Specialists, Boaz Ventures, and Bobo Development Group. They are actively marketing the commercial and office space, and residential leasing will come soon.
“There are a lot of good things happening in CRP East, with employment and growth all around. We’re right in the middle of town, and East is ripe with all of this development,” said Joey Azar of Boaz Ventures. “The things we are seeing happening are going to make it more dynamic for people to live, work, and play.”
“You can definitely see the transformation of the old East to the new East. I’m excited to be part of the changing landscape,” added James Bobo of Bobo Family Group.
Every time you drive by MidCity, there is something new to see and experience. The world-class Orion Amphitheater is now up and running, with several successful concerts on the books. RCP Companies is now working on bringing more restaurants and residential offerings to the district.
Also within the East part of CRP at MidCity is Encore, which is in the final stages of construction. It is due to open early next year and is targeting active retirees who want to enjoy an urban lifestyle with nearby music and dining. The Encore will include 244 luxury apartment homes with one, two, or three bedrooms, a wellness and exercise program, more than 11,500 square feet of complementary retail space, secure structured parking, and luxury resident services and programs.
Revitalization occurs adjacent to CRP East with the Metronome, which is also in the final stages. This apartment community is geared for young professionals who may be moving to Huntsville from a more urban market and want to enjoy a similar lifestyle. Nadia Niakossary, business development manager at RCP Companies, said we will soon see additional food and beverage options open on MidCity Drive. These include Blue Oak BBQ, which is based in New Orleans, and Tous les Jours, a French-Korean bakery. More announcements are planned soon.
“Music has been a big focus for the past five years, and now, we’re working on dining options,” said Niakossary. “These all factor in to quality of life offerings so people will want to move here now and in the coming years.”
UAH Executive Plaza
With the fall semester in full swing, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) serves about 10,000 students. UAH is actively working to create a “college town” experience for faculty, students, staff, and the Huntsville community; and part of this includes expanding the campus. A little background: In 2017, UAH purchased a 58-acre commercial real estate property known as Executive Plaza on Sparkman Drive at University Drive in CRP East. UAH leased the office suites to local companies until 2021, and this year, worked with the City of Huntsville to demolish the buildings. The site is now cleared and ready for future development, and the school is working with the University of Alabama System office on next steps.
UAH intends to partner with a master developer for a mixed-use plan, which would include student housing, restaurants, retail shops, entertainment venues, outdoor recreation, office space, and a hotel with a conference center that could host large UAH and civic functions. The project would also include an elevated pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Sparkman Drive to connect the area to the main UAH campus.
“UAH is really excited about the future redevelopment of this site. It will be a game-changer for the University and the community,” said Greg Smith, assistant vice president of Facilities & Operations.
Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering
Keeping with education, head to the corner of Bradford and Wynn and you’ll find the brand new Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE). This is the nation’s first high school to teach cyber resiliency in all disciplines, and Alabama’s third state magnet school. It is in its third year, after operating on Oakwood University’s campus for the first two years while the buildings were under construction.
“The ASCTE Foundation has worked tirelessly to ensure that our campus is something our state can be proud of. And here we are, with one of the most innovative high school campuses in the United States – serving some of Alabama’s most promising students,” said Matt Massey, president of ASCTE. “Our work here is changing the landscape of higher education and industry by producing graduates prepared both in theory and practice.”
This year, 254 students attend ASCTE, coming from 61 Alabama cities and towns. Just over 100 students live on campus in the residential building, and the remaining students commute from around the Huntsville area.
Students spend grades 9-11 on campus and then are placed in local companies to intern during 12th grade. Often during the school year, they all attend sessions with subject matter experts from local companies who come and talk with them about different topics.
OTHER CHANGES IN CRP EAST INCLUDE INDUSTRY-DRIVEN REVITALIZATION…
110 Wynn Drive & 106 Wynn Drive
Northrop Grumman Corporation has a few locations in CRP, and moved some of its work to 110 Wynn Drive about a year ago. It leases the building from Triangle Capital, and between $30-50 million went in to renovating the campus. Previously, it had sat dormant for a few years.
Northrop Grumman has a growing workforce of more than 2,000 employees in Alabama who support critical national security and civil space programs, namely NASA and DoD, including the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program. This is the nation’s next generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system.
Triangle Capital Group has invested in several local properties recently, including 106 Wynn Drive next door. This massive property includes a 400,000-square-foot office building plus another seven to 10 acres available for possible development. It has been vacant for a few years and recently housed some government tenants who have relocated to Redstone Arsenal.
What’s prompted this recent investment? Developer Kyle Collins said the City’s move to straighten Wynn Drive really helped move the needle.
“Once the City did that, [Wynn Drive] really became a thoroughfare. Triangle believes in the development of CRP East. They’re bullish on Huntsville,” said Collins. “We’re going to reposition the building and re-present it to the community.”
Collins said this includes redoing the exterior and modernizing it (as illustrated above). “Whatever we do on the interior will be tenant-driven.” He added. “Triangle only closed on it in May. We’ve had some interest. There’s been some activity.”
Just nearby, off Gilmer Drive NW, a company named Marathon Robotics is busy moving in. You may not have heard their name yet, but you soon will. Their team develops autonomous training robots that move – fast – and help our servicemen and women increase their lethality and marksmanship as they hit moving targets on the battlefield.
The robots are rugged and move around on rugged autonomous ground mobility platforms, over 11 miles per hour. This is much different from unrealistic stationary targets at shooting ranges. A single operator controls the movement of up to 60 robots by computer, so the shooter doesn’t know their next move. The AI-enabled robots can wheel to the left, right, or move right at you. The company’s mission is to create ‘pre-combat veterans’ – Soldiers and Marines who can enter the chaos of a real-world firefight fully prepared.
Marathon was founded in Australia in 2008, and since 2019 the company has been based at Robotics Technology Park in Tanner, Ala. The team has used nearby shooting ranges for demonstrations.
“To the best of our knowledge, we are the only commercial autonomous ground robot or vehicle in the hands of end users in the DoD,” said Ralph Petroff, Marathon’s North American president.
The Pentagon has known about this technology for more than a decade. In fact, U.S. Marines tested these in Quantico in 2011. So, why the delay in getting these deployed to more training bases?
“We’ve inadvertently become a poster child for DoD’s Valley of Death,” said Petroff, referring to the unusual length of time that transformative technologies may linger in limbo, awaiting requirements.
A recent lead article in Politico helped get the ball rolling faster, though. This technology is gaining increasing momentum, and a Program of Record in the USMC appears imminent. Marines have used them at their six primary bases: Quantico, Camp LeJeune, 29 Palms, Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and Okinawa. They are also used at 10 satellite locations. “That’s one of the beauties about the robots – you can move them to any range,” Petroff explained. For example, robots at Hawaii frequently go to other islands. “You can create a state-of-the-art small arms range in just a few hours,” he added.
Petroff cited a recent study quoted in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act. More than 5,000 Marines who used the robots concluded the autonomous robotic training systems were a “vast improvement to training modality over existing systems and was value added in all training events/scenarios.” At a recent industry day, USMC briefed a five-year, $250-million ceiling single award IDIQ, which is expected to be let in FY24 as part of the new Program of Record. This would be for ‘technology as a service’ – one of the very first awards of this type, Petroff said, as opposed to the traditional way of the military purchasing training systems.
The robots are also being used on four continents by NATO and other Allies. Marathon’s Ukranian-born co-founder has volunteered his time and Marathon’s robots to train Polish and Ukranian Territorial Defense Forces since June. “It is enormously gratifying to have bakers and bankers turned into skilled marksmen in just a few days,” Petroff explained.
Lockheed Martin Missile System Integration Lab
Lockheed Martin is adding to its Huntsville campus on Bradford Drive. It officially broke ground on its Missile System Integration Lab (MSIL) on June 27. This building will support development, testing, and integration for the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program. This represents a $16.5 million corporate investment and nearly 25,000 square feet of space, with about 16,300 square feet of that as lab space. About 30 employees run day-to-day operations in support of NGI.
The Lockheed Martin Space workforce is expected to grow by over 200 employees this year at the company’s sites in Huntsville and Courtland, Ala.
Teledyne Brown Improvements
Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) was the first company to locate in Cummings Research Park 60 years ago. TBE has made improvements in the last few years, including extensions to one of the high bay facilities and an additional high bay. In addition, you’ll see a fresh coat of paint on the main buildings.
All but two of the buildings are now gray, and there’s a new marquee sign in the lawn on Sparkman Drive that faces UAH. Flowers in window boxes also make the main building ‘pop’.
The main entrance also shows new signage on the building and new exterior lighting at night. Just outside the cafeteria, the company redid a patio and seating area. Jessica Sanders, director of Marketing, Communications, and Strategic Integration of TBE, said this has added a new place for employees to hang out.
“Everyone has loved it – people really noticed the changes and have really taken advantage of the nice weather at lunch,” Sanders said. “We’ve got some games out there, too, such as cornhole, and we’re really enjoying it.”
Five Stones Research Corporation
Five Stones Research Corporation moved to CRP East in January of 2021. They are in the building that once housed Madison Research Corporation, at the corner of Wynn Drive and Research Drive. For Five Stones CEO Joni Green, this is her old stomping grounds. She began her career in defense contracting at Madison Research with owner John Stallworth.
The property was sold and went through significant renovations, down to the concrete and steel beams, according to Steve Wilhelm, Five Stones’ president. “It was built to suit Joni’s drawing on a napkin,” he said.
About 20 employees are based there, and the rest support customers at various locations through work in IT management, cyber security, engineering, logistics, and program management.
Wilhelm said this new location puts them very close to their teaming partners – not just customers on Redstone Arsenal, but companies they do business with on a daily basis. “It’s so much more efficient for us to link up,” said Wilhelm. “To be in the thick of it has really been the game changer for Five Stones. Plus, to have your logo on Wynn Drive, and get the publicity from that, this is exactly what we’ve needed.”
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Building on investments by the City of Huntsville, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber put forth a 50-year master plan that called for revitalization of CRP East and now the private and public sectors are re-investing in the Park. You can find the full plan at cummingsresearchpark.com. This will build meaningful impact and engagement with the Huntsville community and for employees of these companies. CRP has always been a successful place to locate and grow your business or research, but now it is also the place to play and live, where everything and everywhere is at your fingertips. Cheers to 60 more years, CRP!
This article appears in the October 2022 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.