HUNTSVILLE – One of Huntsville’s most conspicuous empty lots is quickly becoming a hot commodity.
The corner of Main and Centre streets in Huntsville, where the Empire Hotel once stood, is vacant and now for sale.
The property at the corner of Main and Centre streets, where the Empire Hotel stood until it was destroyed by fire in 2009, is gaining a lot of popularity with potential buyers now that the town has finalized another part of its Community Improvement Plan.
Listing agent Helen Thompson, owner of Relaxed Living Realty and wife of Huntsville councillor Brian Thompson, said the lot has been on the market since September, but interest in it has been limited until recently.
“There have been a few reasons it has taken a little while to sort out,” said Thompson.
She noted that the Community Improvement Plan, which the town has been hashing out since fall 2010, was one of those reasons, as the plan will have an impact on how the lot is developed.
The Community Improvement Plan is a long-term strategy for the development of Huntsville’s downtown core, which includes design ideas approved by council for buildings, streetscapes, parking, walkways, active transportation and more. It also includes a series of incentives to encourage developers to implement the ideas in the plan.
Council finalized the incentive portion of the plan in mid-December, and since then interest in the lot has picked up, said Thompson.
“I’ve had a barrage of calls,” said Thompson. “There are developers who are looking at it and doing some due diligence. I think people were just waiting to see what was going to shake out from that plan.”
Thompson noted that, while there haven’t been any offers made on the lot, prospective buyers are seriously looking into the property.
The lot, which has frontage on Main, Centre and Minerva streets, is roughly 110 by 256 square feet. It is zoned for commercial use, but the town’s planning department is reevaluating it as a commercial-residential lot.
Thompson said the lot is listed at $1.495 million and is being sold by the estate of David Keay.
Through the Community Improvement Plan, the town may provide incentives to developers to encourage green building elements, underground parking, active transportation elements and affordable housing on the site.
Mayor Claude Doughty said the development of the lot has the potential to enhance the downtown core.
“If we had a development there that really anchored that end of the downtown, it would make the whole downtown stronger and more viable,” said Doughty.
He said the Main Street and Brunel Road intersection acts as the epicenter of the downtown area now. “If we had another strong development at Centre and Main streets, it would bookend the main street and really anchor the west end commercial area,” he said.
Doughty said he would like to see two levels of underground parking incorporated into the lot’s development.
“Maybe the town would own one level as a municipal parking lot,” Doughty mused.
He noted that he would also like to see the lot developed to its maximum area and height dimensions.
Previously, the building was a four-storey development with both commercial and residential units.
“I would like to see it built to its maximum density,” said Doughty. “It would continue to build on anchoring that end of town. The more residential, commercial and institutional space that’s there, the stronger that anchor will be.”
Coun. Brian Thompson has been declaring conflict of interest on all items related to the development of the lot.