Belk Hudson Lofts owner Charlie Sealy proposes $30M retail-apartment-office development in downtown Huntsville

Belk Hudson LoftsView full sizeCharlie Sealy III and his wife, Sasha, pose in front of their Belk Hudson Lofts apartment building in June 2012. The $12.5 million project opened in October, bringing 75 new apartments downtown. (Eric Schultz | eschultz@al.com) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Barely six months after opening the Belk Hudson Lofts apartment building on Washington Street, Charlie Sealy III is working on something even bigger downtown.

Sealy confirmed Thursday that he is in active negotiations with Huntsville officials to build a more than $30 million mixed-use development on the site of a city parking lot at Jefferson Street and Holmes Avenue, across from the federal courthouse.

The preliminary design shows 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at street level with as many as 120 apartments above, a four- or five-story office building, wide sidewalks, heavy landscaping, public art and garage parking for 400 vehicles.

“I’m really excited about this and looking forward to moving it ahead,” said Sealy, who is teaming up with his wife, Sasha, and several unnamed business partners on the project.

“Jefferson Street is one of the main gateways into downtown,” he said. “With its proximity to the entertainment district and the Courthouse Square and Big Spring Park, it’s an ideal location for a mixed-use development that I think would really be well-received by the market.”

Several months ago, city officials invited developers to submit ideas for the 2.6-acre asphalt and gravel parking lot at the corner of Jefferson and Holmes. Sealy’s proposal was deemed the best.

Mayor Tommy Battle said the city and Sealy are in the process of “trying to work through the legal aspects so we can come to a development contract.”

“The contract would either give him an option to purchase the property or a long-term lease,” Battle said last week. “We’re still negotiating that.”

Sealy said he hopes to have the negotiations wrapped up in the next three to four months. If the Huntsville City Council OKs the deal, blueprints and other plans would take up to nine months. Construction would start next summer, said Sealy.

“We’re really a firm believer that the progress of a downtown is largely dependent on getting people living there,” he said. “Getting more of a critical mass down there will really help everything. I think this will be a great development for downtown.”

The site currently has 130 paved parking spaces used by city Community Development employees and various downtown businesses, including the Siniard, Timberlake League law firm. Battle said Sealy would be required to provide 72 public parking spaces.

Sealy’s $12.5 million Belk Hudson Lofts project turned part of the old Belk Hudson department store into 75 sleek urban apartments. Open since October, it was the first new rental housing built downtown in more than a generation.

Sealy’s grandfather, the late Charlie Sealy Sr., started an apartment business in Tuscaloosa in 1955 that now manages about 8,000 apartments in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina, including 2,300 in Huntsville.

Last month, Sealy Management Co. proposed a $20-$25 million mixed-use development at the corner of 28th Avenue and University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa. It is expected to include 168 one- and two-bedroom apartments and more than 5,000 square feet or retail and restaurant space.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/05/belk_hudson_lofts_owner_charli.html