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Buildings rise from site of Trash Pandas’ future home

April 9, 2019

MADISON, Ala. (AP) — It’s happening.

And maybe the word “finally!” should be added to that.

Yes, Town Madison is finally happening.

Buildings are rising from the ground, a semblance of a baseball stadium is emerging and the $300 million mixed-use development along I-565 just west of Huntsville is becoming a reality.

No longer is the 530-acre site seemingly a place where dirt moves and nothing else does.

“There is a lot under construction,” said Joey Ceci of Breland Companies, the group developing Town Madison. “This has been a project that’s been a long time in the making. It’s unfortunate when you have a large project like this with the infrastructure that had be built. Infrastructure and roads take a long time to build. Now that the infrastructure is in and coming, the stadium is coming.”

Ah, yes, the Rocket City Trash Pandas - the Double-A minor league baseball team’s pending arrival in April 2020 has injected a sense of urgency into the project that began long before anyone knew what a Trash Panda was in the first place.

The stadium is an anchor for the development and Louis Breland - the head of Breland Companies - has become a part owner of the team. And next year’s opening game has launched the project into overdrive.

“It’s like a shot of steroids for the project,” Ceci said.

As a whole, however, Town Madison might seem to have different personalities.

On the eastern end up to Zierdt Road - another seemingly endless construction project that Ceci said is expected to be completed by next April - Town Madison is a sprawling construction site with bulldozers and red dirt and little else until recently.

“There is a lot under construction,” said Joey Ceci of Breland Companies, the group developing Town Madison. “This has been a project that’s been a long time in the making. It’s unfortunate when you have a large project like this with the infrastructure that had be built. Infrastructure and roads take a long time to build. Now that the infrastructure is in and coming, the stadium is coming.”

Ah, yes, the Rocket City Trash Pandas - the Double-A minor league baseball team’s pending arrival in April 2020 has injected a sense of urgency into the project that began long before anyone knew what a Trash Panda was in the first place.

The stadium is an anchor for the development and Louis Breland - the head of Breland Companies - has become a part owner of the team. And next year’s opening game has launched the project into overdrive.

“It’s like a shot of steroids for the project,” Ceci said.

As a whole, however, Town Madison might seem to have different personalities.

On the eastern end up to Zierdt Road - another seemingly endless construction project that Ceci said is expected to be completed by next April - Town Madison is a sprawling construction site with bulldozers and red dirt and little else until recently.

On the western end up to Wall-Triana Highway, one hotel is almost ready for opening as well as retailer Duluth Trading Company.

But if you glance toward the eastern end of Town Madison as you zip along I-565, what you’ll notice beyond the baseball stadium is the building of The Station - a 274-unit apartment complex.

Those are the first signs of tangible progress being made at a development perhaps bigger than easily comprehended.

“The date to key on is first pitch of baseball,” Cecil said of a Town Madison “opening,” so to speak. “Not everybody’s waiting for first pitch. You’re going to start seeing somethings open this year with the hotel, with Duluth. The first quarter of 2020 is going to be a big ribbon cutting time for us and continue on through baseball and they’re not going to stop.”

So far, there have only been a series of announcements about Town Madison ahead of those ribbon cuttings. The Home2 Suites hotel will open in about a month, Ceci said, and two other hotels have been announced for the project: Avid Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn will be built in a cluster with Home2 Suites on the west end.

Duluth Trading Company is also on the brink of opening.

And there is the Margaritaville Hotel - which will be linked with the baseball stadium - that’s expected to begin construction in a matter of weeks.

Other announcements are in the process of final approval, Ceci said.

“Everything is coming together,” Ceci said. “We’ve been careful not to announce folks until we had a deal done.”

But there have been challenges. Ceci said Town Madison is actively recruiting restaurants and retailers new to Alabama. And that isn’t always easy.

“Part of what we have always faced is the challenge to take a look at Huntsville and Madison,” he said. “Whether it’s a corporate executive or a general, if you get them here and they see the town, they love it. A lot of times, you call and say Alabama, and they say it’s not in our plan right now. Or if they look at Alabama, they immediately look at Birmingham first and see how it goes. A lot of it is getting folks here. It’s on us to be aggressive and going after those folks.”

The sales pitch is pretty obvious, Ceci said. The development is along a high-traffic corridor that will - by the summer of 2020, Ceci said - have access directly from I-565 through an interchange that will be built just west of Zierdt Road. It’s also literally next door to Redstone Arsenal, where more than 40,000 federal employees work each day.

There will also be a built-in customer base with the apartment complex and single-family homes that will be part of the development.

It is a site that checks all the boxes,” Ceci said. “It’s got the income levels, it has the traffic count, it has the daytime employment off Redstone Arsenal - all the things the retailers and restaurants are looking for. All it was lacking was the access and now it’s got that as well. It checks all those boxes.

“When you talk to retailers, everybody always tells you, I don’t want to be the first one. We’ve got some first ones now and now folks will see this is really happening. That’s always an issue. You hear so much about it. Now that you’re actually starting to see the construction, it becomes real.”