REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- There's a lot of dirt work going on near Gate 9 these days.

And there's much more to come.

Bulldozers, dump trucks and other heavy construction equipment are regular sights at the corner of Gate 9/Rideout Road and the I-565 interchange. All that activity is preparing for the first building in a 468-acre, 4.6 million square-foot office, retail and hotel complex known as Redstone Gateway.

With its first building, set to open in December, developers Corporate Office Properties of Maryland and Jim Wilson and Associates of Montgomery are set to launch what will one day be known as the Army's largest enhanced use lease project.

"The developer is focused on having a building open as soon as possible," said Craig Northridge, project manager for the Garrison's Directorate of Public Works and the EUL project manager.

"The first building will be five stories, 125,000 square feet and home to about 500 employees. But, most importantly, it will set the standard for a complex of buildings that will complement each other in their architecture," Northridge said.

That first building will also set a statement as to the potential for the development.

"We are coordinating with the developer, the city and the Army to reach a consolidated vision of this project and how it will be developed," Northridge said. "We are working with the City of Huntsville and the developer to ensure the development fulfills the needs of the installation and the community."

More than 48 buildings will eventually be built just outside the Arsenal's gates and west end of Rideout Road during a 15-year building program. In addition, the project will include another 11 secure buildings inside the gate on the east side of Rideout Road.

Redstone Gateway will be unique to the Army sheerly because of its size and its focused purpose.

"There are eight other enhanced use leases in the Army, and two of them are not for office space," Northridge said. "One is for a large race track at Yuma Proving Ground (Ariz.) and the other is a waste energy power plant at Fort Detrick (Md.).

"The six others are all office space. But if you take those six and add up their planned capacity you come to 5.2 million square feet total. Just in ours, in Redstone Gateway, we will have 4.6 million square feet. We are essentially doubling the capacity of the Army portfolio with the most significant and largest of the EULs."

The Navy and Air Force both have EULs, but they are characteristically smaller in size than the Army EULs and are not at the level of planning as the Army program.
With the large size of the Army mission and its installations, "there's a lot more opportunity to do big things like this in the Army," Northridge said.

Northridge and the Garrison's team of planners, including Brendan Bennick, project manager of Master Planning, and Tom Richardson, DPW's civil engineer for base operations, are coordinating plans that will augment the Redstone Gateway development. While Northridge works primarily with the developers on the project, Bennick is working on plans that will involve moving Gate 9 and Richardson is working on plans that accommodate increased traffic at Gate 9 and along Rideout Road.

"The work is starting. This is real. We are going to see new things happening that are going to change the face of Redstone," Northridge said.

In March, the first building in Redstone Gateway will begin taking shape. In addition, sewage and gas lines, utilities and infrastructure will begin to be installed, and work will be done in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Huntsville Utilities to move the substation from the middle of the development to further south along Rideout Road. Work has also started on upgrading a rail head that will be reopened in August.

Then, if the development proceeds as planned, a second building in the complex should get under way by the summer.

Also next month, the entrance to the Visitors Center will begin undergoing changes as the developer reshapes the entrance to make it, first, the construction entrance to the project, and, second, the eventual main entrance to Redstone Gateway.

"Temporary traffic adjustments will be made to accommodate construction equipment," Northridge said. "In July, the actual traffic patterns in and out of the Visitors Center will begin to change."

In addition, plans are being solidified to move Gate 9, add traffic lanes to Rideout Road, reroute Goss Road and ensure smooth traffic flow from I-565 and along Rideout Road.

"Any changes to Gate 9 and Goss Road are still in the conceptual stage," Northridge said. "We are working to ensure the gate changes will meet Army standards, and we are working with the City of Huntsville on traffic patterns and with the state to ensure a smooth traffic pattern from I-565."

Northridge knows that Arsenal employees are curious about Redstone Gateway.

"A lot of people are asking 'How is this going to impact what we do normally'' Redstone Gateway is bringing improvements to the installation that will help meet our mission," he said. "We will see significant road improvements early on along Rideout Road, hopefully by this fall, that will reduce some congestion coming in and going out of Redstone."

Those road improvements are among several positive impacts of Redstone Gateway that are sure to increase the quality of life for Arsenal employees and the community, and "continue Redstone Arsenal as the economic engine for the region," Richardson added.