05 February 2023

MidCity District, Huntsville, AL

 Under development

Almost all signs have been obliterated of the first of the three malls of my youth to fall.  There are a couple of old “tombstone” signs still sitting just off of the main roads surrounding the spot where it once stood, but the main building and even the out lot movie theaters are gone.  The only remaining structure even slightly showing signs of Madison Square Mall is the Holiday Inn located just to the northwest outside of the ring road.

1- One of the old Madison Square signs altered for MidCity.  2- The main entrance and Trader Joe's off University.  3- The Holiday Inn, the only structure remaining from the mall days.  4- The view of MidCity coming off of University Drive.  5- The view from the north.  6- The view from the east.

Although it is sad that Madison Square is gone, I'm pretty stoked about what's being built.  MidCity District is under construction in full force and it already seems to be a hot spot for new stores coming to what is now Alabama’s largest city.  It’s attracted a Top Golf, Dave and Buster’s, REI, Wahlburgers and Trader Joe’s.  And it’s still growing, with many urban style apartments, an amphitheater and even a kayak course in the works.

1- MidCity Drive, the District's main street.  2- Looking south down MidCity Drive.  3- REI is one of the retail anchors of MidCity.  4- Dave and Buster's.  5- Morgan Echol's colorful shipping container art piece.  6- The Little Richard mural.

On my most recent visit in October of 2022, I finally got to see what all of the fuss was about The Camp.  Calling itself “Huntsville’s coolest outdoor destination” there are several food truck style food vendors, coffee shops and stages of various sizes.  It hosts special events such as Mardi Gras and Halloween festivities.  It’s kind of hard to describe as there are very few places like it.

Scenes of The Camp, all decked out for Halloween.

Also sprouting on Madison Square’s grave is the Orion Amphitheater.  Opening in May 2022, the venue has already attracted acts such as Jack White, Jason Isbell, Brittany Howard, and Stevie Nicks (on Halloween, no less.)  They also host community events like Huntsville’s Gay Pride and a winter park in the lead-up to Christmas.  It’s been lauded by Jason Isbell and Rolling Stone as one of the top new music venues in the country.

The 8,000 seat Orion Amphitheater.

Also under construction are several more hotels and apartment buildings including Encore MidCity and The Metronome net-zero apartments catering to Huntsville’s transient military and government workers.  There are murals and artwork scattered throughout, such as a portrait commemorating Little Richard, who was buried in Huntsville not far from the site, and a colorful shipping container mural by Morgan Echols located in the center of the main retail strip.

The residential buildings of MidCity under construction.

I’ll always be a mall guy through and through.  Hell, that’s what this blog is about.  But even I know that shopping malls in the traditional sense are on their way out.  Even the best performers in their markets are having struggles.  Madison Square Mall’s time has surely passed, and the city has moved on.  The plans look great and there’s much more to come, and I can’t wait to see what else MidCity brings to the fast-growing Rocket City.

MidCity District pamphlet ca. 2022. View the full PDF version here.

Though I don’t love that MidCity offers no interior walkways to waste hours of my day, non-MTV watching adult me really likes what’s there now.  It’s really much more in tune with this new version of Huntsville, Alabama.  It seems the trade-off for the city’s amazing progress and growth is losing some of the outdated places that we loved.  No more Southern Adventures or Funtasia; The Mall or University Six.  But now I can find amazing locally brewed beers, one of the largest privately owned artist facilities in the country and a revitalized downtown packed with new hotels, restaurants and bars.  It’s a good trade-off; and I’ll always have my memories.

The outdoorsy western side of MidCity including High Point Climbing & Fitness, the future Apollo Park kayak course, and Top Golf.

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