Mayor, developer need to work together
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The Madison County Record
Ellen Kreth

The potential is still there, but the opportunity is gone, according to Jonathan Formanek, who recently proposed putting the Huntsville School District’s Career Technical Education Center in the former Walmart building on Lee Avenue.

Last week, the district began moving dirt on a brand new CTE building in Huntsville in another location. The district is also building a CTE building in St. Paul. Both of the projects are being funded by an increase in district’s millage passed last year by Madison County voters.

“The real opportunities were missed and were missed for a whole generation,” Formanek said recently in a phone call. “We learned nothing about building more humane schools or helping the environment or community involvement. We’ve ended up with another parking lot.”

Even though the bid for the CTE buildings came in higher than what was originally quoted, but lower than most recent estimates, the costs do not include equipping the building.

Formanek is an architect by trade and current owner of the Faubus House, a Faye Jones constructed house once owned by Orval and Alta Faubus. Formanek met with many community groups and reached out to the school district and city and county officials in hopes of using the Walmart building for the CTE facilities.

The Walmart building is still not listed for sale on the company’s website. We asked Formanek his plans for the building now and he said he didn’t have plans and probably wouldn’t do anything with it, questioning where the money would come from to renovate it for community use. He still has an option to purchase the building.

“I don’t technically own it. What worries me more is just the direction of things. We’re building buildings that essentially look like it was in 1950s. These individual little boxes, you tack one onto the other. Just little boxes that are only open from 8 to 5. No benefit to the community. The community doesn’t get stronger because of it. Those are all missed opportunities. Those are failures of visions and failures of opportunities.”

It’s refreshing to have a citizen in Huntsville that has a vision, wants to make the community a better place and repurpose buildings in the center of town. Formanek worked hard to bring his vision to fruition and while it didn’t work out, he engaged community members in an active discussion as to what would be best for the district and the community. Apathy, be gone.

Thank you, Mr. Formanek. We agree that the potential is still there and we hope that the opportunity is not gone. Now, Mayor Darrell Trahan, it’s up to you to work toward ideas for repurposing the former Walmart building. We encourage you to work with Mr. Formanek. The city is lucky to have a citizen who is willing to put in the work and the vision to make Huntsville a better place. Get in touch with Mr. Formanek and work together to generate ideas for repurposing the building for the community’s benefit. We hope the opportunity still exists.

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