Encore Mid-City

Architecture firm:  Hord Coplan Macht

Owner: Compass Real Estate

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Category: Merit

Encore is intended to move beyond senior housing conventions to create intergenerational living in a vibrant, walkable environment to promote the physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of the rapidly-growing population of baby boomers. The owner’s objective was to design a prototype for a series of wellness-focused communities tailored for active adults to be developed in growing markets throughout the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

Intergenerational living enhances the healthspan of all people, creates stronger communities, and produces better economic results for all stakeholders. Healthy living includes both the built environment and programming and activities that promote and enhance wellness. The healthiest communities include proximity to and integration with medical providers, as well as sustainable, ecofriendly construction.

Encore is located at the heart of MidCity Huntsville, which is one of the largest active mixed-use developments in the United States. Encore provides immediate access to some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment venues in the Tennessee Valley in one of the fastest-growing major cities in the country. Diagonally across the street from the urban center and within two blocks of a new $50 million amphitheater, Encore’s residents will enjoy all of the best that MidCity has to offer within easy walking distance. At the same time, the Encore site opens to Cummings Research Park to the South, which provides both a less dense transition out of MidCity and a connection to the tens of thousands of people who work in the park every day.

“This project shows that aging can be fun. The ground floor really brings in the public and rolls out the welcome mat.”       - Jury comment

Inspired by the architectural precedent of historical mills in the region, Encore balances authenticity with forward-leaning design. Encore builds on the story of the redevelopment of Madison Square Mall by envisioning the redevelopment of a large textile mill. The signature design feature of Encore is the six-story, modern, diagonal element in the center of the building, which divides two large, traditional elements on both ends of the building. These building components form a unique courtyard in the center of the building crossed by a high single-loaded bridge, which draws people into the building and allows easy pedestrian access from the secured parking area to the rest of MidCity. The design was developed to achieve signature spaces like those found in memorable market rate urban apartments.

Encore includes an integrated aquaponic farm, which provides fresh vegetables and fish for the adjoining dining venues without the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Aquaponic farming combines the benefits of hydroponic farming and recirculating aquaculture in a self-contained, sustainable ecosystem. Plants are grown without soil in nutrient-rich water that constantly circulates to provide natural fertilizer for our plants and purified water for the fish. The Encore farm allows the owner to produce clean, fresh fish and vegetables all year, providing better and lower cost food for Encore residents and the broader community.

The Encore farm is designed to produce almost 50,000 heads of lettuce and 2,000 pounds of seafood per year, in addition to kale, arugula, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, swiss chard and a variety of herbs. This production volume will provide the majority of the raw food for the salads and many other dishes served in Encore’s restaurants. The Encore farm will feature both a warm water and a cold water system, which allows the owner to produce a more diverse mix of plants and fish. The restaurants’ chef-driven menus have been crafted to combine the food grown within the building with other regionally-sourced healthy food.

Building on the foundation of physical fitness and clean, nutritious food in a healthy environment, Encore supports holistic wellness through integrated visual arts space and cultural programming. Encore will include studio, gallery and classroom space in the front and center of the building at the apex of the six-story diagonal element of the building. The two-story gallery will have floor to ceiling glass with movable walls in an open, naturally-lit space and a staircase leading to an artists’ loft.

Encore will include medical office space on the ground floor of the building adjacent to the parking lot at the central public courtyard. This is the only healthcare space currently planned within MidCity, providing on-site immediate medical care for our residents and the broader community.

By locating Encore in a well-designed city center redevelopment, Compass Living was able to access the advantages of an urban lifestyle without the challenges that come within many historic downtowns. The intention is that future iterations of the Encore concept will be located in existing downtowns where conditions are conducive for this type of project.

Design challenges

The basic concept for the exterior massing came very early in the design process, but the façade expression took a long time to resolve. The building is over 400 feet long and fairly flat, so scale was an issue. The diagonal break at the access courtyard helped with this in theory, but repeated efforts to design a consistent contemporary skin were not successful. The angled wing jutting out of the long flat façade made the building look jumbled on its most important face. The concept that broke the impasse was to treat the rectilinear parts of the building as simple masonry structures reminiscent of old Huntsville warehouses while retaining the contemporary vocabulary in the angled portion. The angled middle wing of the structure became a more dynamic object building inserted between two background structures. This solution not only tied the building to other brick structures being designed around the Encore site, the former jumble also became a clear and iconic composition.

Additional information

Project attributes

Estimated date of completion: April 2021

Project site context/setting: urban

Is this project a LifePlan Community? No

Provider type: for profit

Target market: middle/upper middle

Project area - GSF of new construction: 320,000

Project area - GSF of additions: n/a

Project area - GSF of renovations: n/a

Project team

Aquaponic Farm Consultant: JBG

Engineer - civil: Garver

Engineer - MEP & Structural: Century Engineering

Food Service Designers: Clark

Interior Design: Banko

Landscape Architect:  Hord Coplan Macht


Quinn deMenna, AIA, Chair, City Invincible, Camden, New Jersey

Steve Leone, AIA, Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc., New York, New York

Steve Lindsey, Garden Spot Village, New Holland, Pennsylvania

Dean Maddalena, Studio Six5, Austin, Texas

Rhonda Spector, 2Life Communities, Brighton, Massachusetts

Image credits

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