SHSU Research Park Idea Retooled
SHSU has hired a director for a planned research park that could bring new jobs — and other forms of economic development — into the city, reports the Huntsville Item.
Terry Stokes started work in November at SHSU, tasked with developing a master plan for a research park that might house criminal justice-related technology programs.
Stokes said he’s in the process of reviewing previous proposals for sites of the planned park, which include a 200-acre plot of land on Ellisor Road and Highway 19 in Walker County, about 8 miles from the main SHSU campus. About 160 acres of the site would have been donated to the university by the D’Agostino family. At full build-out, the complex would have included, according to developer plans, a full-service hotel and other private tenants.
But consideration of this site became controversial last summer when the Huntsville City Council began to consider commitment of $2 million in providing utility infrastructure to the site, which borders the city’s sewage treatment plant, and annexation of the site and land between it and the city limits. The Ellisor Road site has recently been advertised for sale.
Citizens who spoke out against annexation and using tax funds to build utility lines to the site were critical of its suitability, based on its distance from the city, its access from a two-lane highway and its close proximity to a sewage treatment plant
Critics also pointed to other sites along Interstate 45 near existing utility infrastructure and with immediate access to I-45. SHSU officials postponed public discussion of the Ellisor Road site after acknowledging that the city’s draft hotel study had identified superior sites along I-45.
Master planning efforts will yield details Stokes said he doesn’t yet have — such as what sites might be considered, the total anticipated project cost from site acquisition to completion, the types of programs to be housed at the park, and whether new jobs will be created for Walker County’s existing workforce.