A Northern Virginia-based apartment developer kicked off a project in a small Sun Belt city that has seen construction rocketing to new heights. 

Bonaventure is building Attain at Bradford in Huntsville, Alabama, about 3.5 miles directly west of NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center and the Army’s Redstone Arsenal where the FBI is building two campuses. The 350-unit luxury apartment development is expected to open by the end of September 2024. 

“Delivering this project advances our growth strategy in the Southeast, which will continue to be a major focus for our company in the years ahead,” Dwight Dunton, Bonaventure’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. 

The firm owns and manages more than 6,000 apartment units in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. 

With its latest development, Bonaventure enters a market that has experienced significant apartment construction over the past two years as national developers have flocked to Rocket City, so nicknamed because of the Army missile and space programs that grew out of cotton fields after World War II. 

Roughly 6,000 units were under construction before Bonaventure broke ground, which is about 17.1% of the overall number of existing units, according to CoStar data. 

Construction peaked at a record 7,240 units in the third quarter. So far this quarter, 1,158 units have opened, and another 1,180 are expected to open in the first quarter next year. 

Huntsville has been on a steady job growth trajectory because of the defense and space industries on top of traditional manufacturing. The arsenal companies employ about 38,000 people. The FBI’s operations are expected to grow from about 1,200 workers now to 5,200 over the next five years. 

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Dynetics and Norththrop Grumman are among the biggest names there. Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin opened a plant in Huntsville two years ago and employs 400. A joint venture between Toyota and Mazda opened a $2.3 billion plant in September last year and eventually expects to employ 1,700. 

National apartment developers have taken note. National student housing developer and investor Landmark Properties chose the Huntsville area for its first single-family rental development that isn’t for students. Northern Virginia-based Middleburg Communities opened the 290-unit Mosbey Bridge Street in Hunstville in June. Atlanta-based Novare Group is building a 290-unit property next to Town Madison, an urban development in Huntsville suburb Madison. 

Nicol Investment, based in Nashville, is developing more apartments in a planned mixed-used development inside Cummings Research Park. It opened a 334-unit apartment property near Town Madison two years ago. 

For the Record 

Birmingham, Alabama-based Doster Construction is the general contractor for Attain at Bradford.