South Montgomery Community Plan

Now underway is the South Montgomery Community Plan whose purpose is to document South Montgomery’s vision for its future and identify ways to implement that vision.

A community meeting resulted in formulating goals that focus on economic development, youth programs, housing, public safety, land use and zoning, as well as creating a more positive appearance to encourage private investment.

The plan addresses the desire of South Montgomery residents to strengthen the area’s sense of community, conserve its natural areas, preserve its neighborhoods and promote reinvestment in its commercial areas. It also serves to guide the City of Montgomery when considering land use and zoning issues, along with investments in city services and capital improvement projects.

Because the plan is long-term and could take years to complete, it will require involvement by both public and private partners. KPS Group, Inc. is serving as planning consultant.

Says KPS Group Planning Studio Leader Jason Fondren: “The plan covers a lot of ground, and a big part of the first phase is getting the implementation plan together and putting together a communication team.”

Residents of South Montgomery and city officials view the plan not only as a means to making improvements, but also as a preventative measure to stave off any further decline.

The first phase is to make zoning changes to ensure that future decisions will not create an arbitrary development pattern.

Another goal is to provide adequate and diverse supply of housing for all income levels. Existing programs will be integrated into in the plan such as BONDS (Building Our Neighborhoods for Development and Success) to maintain stability in neighborhoods by attracting quality, affordable housing.

Additional principles of the plan are to minimize negative impacts between incompatible land uses and provide interconnectivity between developments. Objectives also include protecting and promoting historic and culturally significant areas, along with recognizing suitable areas for public uses to minimize the impact on residential areas.

Image 1- An aerial photo of the area encompassing the South Montgomery Community Plan, which will make improvements to this part of the city over the course of several years. The first phase will be zoning improvements.

Image 2-A vicinity map of the area to be improved under the South Montgomery Community Plan. Along with making necessary improvements, the plan will also initiate ways to help prevent any further decline to sections of South Montgomery.

Image 3- Depicted here is an overlay of the development/reinvestment concept and the future land-use map for the South Montgomery Community Plan. KPS Group, Inc. is working with the City of Montgomery in the development of this comprehensive and long-term plan.

* Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of KPS Group, Inc.


DesignAlabama Partners with Opelika for its first DesignPlace

DesignAlabama has started a new program and the City of Opelika is its first participating city. Experts associated with DesignAlabama visit selected communities where they provide assistance with design, planning and community identity.

Design experts demonstrate how to enhance quality of life and community development when the design arts are applied. The program involves intensive meetings where design professionals meet with citizens and city leaders who share their ideas and concerns. Two meetings were held this summer in Opelika and a plan will be designed and implemented based on suggestions from the first meeting.

“We were very excited to work with DesignAlabama,” says Opelika City Planner Matt Mosley. “The City of Opelika was happy to see the early ideas and concepts from the charrette. I’m most interested to see the final concepts, especially in regard to the Pepperell Mill and Village and areas on the edges of downtown.”

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Pepperell Mill and Village is a site containing over 200 properties that were constructed between 1925 and 1940 by the Pepperell Manufacturing Company to provide housing for its Opelika textile mill workers. Downtown Opelika is also on the National Register.

The plan provided by DesignPlace will build on revitalization already in place in Opelika. Through the efforts of Opelika Main Street and other groups, much progress has been made to revitalize the city.

“The value of the DesignPlace program is immeasurable,” says Pam Powers-Smith, president of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, an agency that is partnering with DesignAlabama on the new program.

“It’s almost like a dream to have that many experts visit and work with you on solutions to problems,” she adds. “In no other setting would you have access to those people all at one time. I thoroughly enjoyed their visit and how we worked together to get through the particular projects that we felt were best to tackle. And I can’t wait to see our end product, because then we have a working product in our hand that can be used when ready.”

Alabama communities that participated in the DesignAlabama Mayors Design Summit are eligible to apply. A committee of design professionals who direct the program make the final selections.

Image 1: One of the most important aspects of DesignPlace is community input, here the design team is participating in one of two community gatherings during their time in Opelika.

Images 2 and 3: Design professionals from many design fields spend time working together with each other and community leaders to create the best ideas for the community.

Image 4: A rendering produced during DesignPlace of the possible re-use of the Coors Building in downtown Opelika

Image 5: A rendering produced during DesignPlace of the possible re-use of the historic Pepperell Mill site. 

Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of DesignAlabama and Robert Smith (FlipFlopFoto)

Landscape Architecture and Community


Landscape architecture encourages people to get out – to walk, to recreate, to dine outdoors, enjoy an outdoor concert, or simply take pleasure in a natural environment, notes landscape architect Joel Eliason, principal of Nimrod Long and Associates in Birmingham.

“Landscape architecture can and does affect the pace of our communities and our everyday lives,” he adds. “It creates spaces that encourage conversation and people watching. In the best examples, landscape architecture can help us break down the physical and cultural barriers we put up between ourselves and our communities.”

Eliason points to Birmingham as having a long and rich legacy of good landscape architecture. An example he cites is Vulcan Park, built in the 1930s under the WPA.

“We’ve been fortunate to work on Vulcan Park for many years. That legacy of community involvement continues and the work we’ve been part of is still very much a community effort. It’s an extraordinary history for any park and when you look at the range of uses at Vulcan – park, museum, concert venue, event space, walking trail, educational programs, weddings – you see the value and the potential that landscape architecture has in bringing people together.”

David Hill, Auburn University’s chair and associate professor of landscape architecture, says landscape architecture creates some of the most public spaces in our cities. People are not “locked out” of landscape architecture, unlike privatized buildings that require access to be mediated by someone, he observes.

“Of all the disciplines in the built environment, landscape architects work in the public realm,” Hill says. Landscape architecture’s role is holistic – creating exterior rooms where people gather is open and inclusive.

He identifies examples of community-driven landscape architecture. In Headland, a small town near Dothan is a town green where a parade route wraps around it and people gather for festivals and other events.

Hill previously worked for New York City-based D.I.R.T. Studio – a firm known for turning derelict industrial sites into vibrant public spaces. While there he managed a project that transformed a decommissioned U.S. Naval shipyard into the Urban Outfitters headquarters.

The $100 million project included redesigning a dry dock into a dog run, in keeping with the company’s “bring your dog to work” policy. It’s a fitting example of how corporations can use landscape architecture to create community for their workers.


-Article By Jessica Armstrong

-Images are student work under the direction of Professor David Hill at Auburn University and are courtesy of William Nix (1), Felipe Palacios (2) and Preston Frankstone (3)


Creating an Arts & Cultural District in Historic Montgomery


Plans are under way to revitalize a Montgomery historic district that played a critical role in the Civil Rights movement. The Five Points Cultural Commission is redeveloping the commercial corridor of the Five Points area into an Arts and Cultural District.

The goal is to turn Five Points into a vibrant community setting with art galleries, retail, restaurants and performing arts venues. The plan also includes streetscape and façade enhancement and business development.

“We fundamentally believe that low-income neighborhoods have the capacity to support small businesses in those neighborhoods,” says Chase Fisher, president of Five Points Cultural Commission, a nonprofit real estate development organization working to transform commercial corridors in low-income neighborhoods through resident-led creative place-making projects.

“We are working to demonstrate to the development community and to city leaders that developing commercial property in these areas is feasible, beneficial and sustainable.”

Architect Mike Snows of Chambliss King Architects of Montgomery is on the plan’s design team, along with Chambliss King’s intern architect Nicholas Henninger, who is leading the design.

“From a design perceptive, it is very contextual,” Snows explains. “We want to respect the district’s history and draw comparisons between the old and the new.”

He says the project consists of “a lot of little pieces and each have their own schedule.” Currently under renovation are three buildings that have been acquired by the Five Points Cultural Commission.

“Our goal is to create a place that unifies one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Montgomery through creating inclusive and inviting spaces,” Fisher adds. “Folks can follow our progress on instagram @fivepointsmgm.”


-Article By Jessica Armstrong

-Images Courtesy of The Five Points Cultural Commission and show the area as it is now and also proposed development.

Cordova Plans for a New City Park

The city of Cordova was hard hit by the series of tornadoes that tore through parts of Alabama in 2011. Among the latest efforts to revitalize the old mill town is the creation of a park on the 18-acre site of the former Indian Head Cotton Mills.

Kelly Landscape Architects in Birmingham has partnered with the city to create the Mill Site Park Master Plan. The plan calls for developing green space with pavilions and a bandstand created from the mill’s loading docks.

The proposed park will also provide a variety of recreational opportunities – fishing, walking trails with fitness stations, a ball field and a multi-use court. A special park for dogs is also planned, along with an amphitheater and an interactive fountain designed for play and splashing. A senior center is also part of the master plan.

“The town wanted to create a park that offers something for everybody,” notes Chuck Kelly, owner of Kelly Landscape Architects in Birmingham.

Because of its proximity to the central business district, the park will connect with the downtown through a tunnel under the historic spur rail line that runs adjacent to the park.

“This year the plan is to stabilize the site and grass it for regular mowing,” Kelly explains. “It’s a great historic site where the old mill sat. So why not create a park and celebrate what the mill meant to the town?”


-Article By Jessica Armstrong

-Image Courtesy of Kelly Landscape Architects and is an overview of the park master plan.







Prattville’s Historic “gin shop” to Become Apartment Complex

Plans are under way to turn the historic Continental Eagle Corporation’s five cotton gin buildings in downtown Prattville into a 150-unit apartment complex called The Mill, designed by Chambliss King Architects of Montgomery. The collection of masonry buildings date from 1848 to 1899. In addition to apartments, the $20 million development will also include parking, public meeting space and a venue for special events. The project is under review for an historic tax credit by the National Park Service.

-Photos Courtesy of Chambliss King Architects

Rotary Trail Contributes to the Revitalization of the Downtown Area of Birmingham

Efforts to revitalize downtown Birmingham have sparked a boom in residential and commercial construction and renovations. The latest transformation is an abandoned rail bed that created an eyesore in the city center. The once blighted area is now Rotary Trail that runs along First Avenue South between 20th Street (the Birmingham Green) and 24th Street. Downtown Rotary of Birmingham took on the project and raised $3.5 million to complete the Trail – a half -mile linear park designed by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.

The Trail’s focal point is the Magic City sign, which pays homage to an iconic sign that once stood at Birmingham’s Terminal Station, notes Cheryl Morgan, co-chair of the project for the Rotary Club. The station and the sign were demolished in 1969, but nostalgia for the sign remained strong. At 60 feet, it serves as a gateway element in this urban context.

Morgan calls the sign “a great gesture to Birmingham history and a new icon in our downtown.” The sign was a gift from BL Harbert International. O’Neal Steel donated the materials and Fravert Services created the letters. The structure was fabricated by Daniel Iron, which can trace its origins to a company that built the original sign.

DesignAlabama Executive Director Talks about ConnectLivity as Part of the Alabama Arts Radio Series

In this program DesignAlabama Executive Director Gina Clifford talks to Cathy Gerachis DesignAlabama board member, Cheryl Morgan retired professor of architecture at Auburn University, and Jay Lamar Director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, about ConnectLivity.

ConnectLivity is a series of six regional design charrettes to take place across Alabama in 2016 in association with Southern Makers’ events.  Southern Makers is a curated group of artisans working in various fields such as fiber arts, food, wood crafts, fashion and other focus areas.

This special radio series will air every Tuesday at 9:00 to 9:30 P.M., on the Troy University Public Radio Network at:

  • 89.9 (Montgomery and Troy)
  • WRWA 88.7 (Dothan)
  • WTJB 91.7 (Columbus and Phenix   City)

This radio series may not be broadcast in your area, but it can be accessed via the Internet at:

If you have been listening to, and enjoying this radio series, please send your comments to:

North Perry Street Sites Development Opportunity Study

The City of Montgomery recently hired the firm of Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood to assist as the city begins to explore the potential for redevelopment over the next years on – and around – North Perry Street in downtown Montgomery. The city owns a number of parcels around 401 North Perry Street (collectively the “North Perry Street Sites”) in the warehouse district of north downtown. While the overall pace of downtown revitalization has accelerated over the last 10 years the area North of Madison and Jefferson Streets has not gotten the same level of change and private investment that others have seen. The partnership resulted in the creation of the North Perry Street Sites Development Opportunity Study. The city hopes the creation of this plan will help to jumpstart change and revitilization in this part of their downtown.


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