The Von Braun Center Propst Arena was brimming Friday morning as leaders celebrated the top downtown Huntsville project, event and advocates of 2015.
Yellowhammer Brewing and Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza took the coveted Downtown Huntsville, Inc. Project of the Year award, given annually to a business or an individual who brings innovation to the city center. The businesses opened in December at Campus No. 805, a mixed-use development at the former Stone Middle School in west Huntsville.
In an AL.com poll used to determine Friday’s winners, 31.08 percent of readers chose the Yellowhammer/Earth and Stone expansion as their favorite downtown project. U.G. White came in second with 22.32 percent of the vote, followed by Mason Dixon Bistro and Bakery, 21.27 percent; Clinton Row, 13.71 percent; Appleton Learning, 6.06 percent; and Wild Bean Coffee Co., 5.56 percent.
A total of 1,998 votes were cast. Yellowhammer General Manager Ethan Couch accepted the award, saying they have “come a long way in the past two years.”
“We’re just really excited for all the projects that are going on in downtown Huntsville,” he said. “The competition for this event was stiff and we really appreciate all the effort that everybody’s put in to make downtown something special.”
The new 10,000-square-foot brewhouse, bier garten and taproom allows Yellowhammer to immediately double its production capacity. For Albertville-based food truck Earth and Stone, it is the company’s first brick-and-mortar business.
Big Spring Crush, an annual wine festival in downtown Huntsville, was also honored by Downtown Huntsville, Inc. as the 2015 Event of the Year. Organized by Homegrown Huntsville, the event took 27.21 percent of the vote on AL.com.
Whistlestop followed closely behind with 23.63 percent of the vote, followed by Yuri’s Night with 16.67 percent; Pro Bono Brews, 11.79 percent; Battle of the Buffalo, 10.6 percent; and Slide the City, 10.1 percent.
Ashley Ryals, founder of Big Spring Crush and creator of Homegrown Huntsville, said she started her business about four years ago to collaborate with local businesses and restaurants to create signature events the community can enjoy.
Homegrown also offers signature trolley events Dine & Dash and Beer Hop.
“I just want to say thank you to all of the local restaurants and breweries and businesses that I’ve gotten to work with over the last few years to make these events happen,” Ryals said. “I couldn’t do it without you guys.”
Belk Hudson Lofts developers Charlie and Sashy Sealy won the Downtown Advocate of the Year, an award selected with input from a group of downtown advisers. The couple is building The Avenue, a $34 million project featuring 197 upscale lofts and 21,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the corner of Jefferson Street and Holmes Avenue across from the federal courthouse.
Site work began in May at The Avenue, which will offer a resort-style swimming pool, 400-vehicle parking garage and large sidewalks to encourage outdoor dining and pedestrian walking in downtown.
“This duo has done a lot since I’ve been here and even before I got here,” said DHI CEO Chad Emerson, who was hired in 2013. “Their project probably really kicked off the Renaissance you’ve seen lately.”
Winners received rocket-shaped trophies made by Drop Metal, a design and fabrication studio in Huntsville. Julie Schumacher, deputy to the Commander for U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), was the keynote speaker for the third-annual event.