Montgomery leaders learn lessons from Texas capital

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - If you've ever been to Austin, Texas you've experienced its energetic downtown.

And if you haven't, you may soon get a taste of it in downtown Montgomery.

55 Montgomery leaders returned from the Texas capital with ideas to use in Montgomery.

"There were bankers there, there were city council [members], county commissioners, obviously developers. It was very important that we focus on a city that we aspire to be," says Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

The group spent two days in Texas soaking up everything Austin, from the downtown to the public schools.

It's a city Strange says is typically at the top for economic development and quality of life.

"Capital city, really high tech, young people," he says.

Now, it's Montgomery's new model.

"I think they call it the live music capital of the world. It's a great place.  There are a lot of bars and restaurants," says Montgomery resident, Jack Campbell.

Campbell is a Montgomery native who lived in Austin three different times.

"Really, [there's] no more to see there than we have here. We have those same opportunities in Montgomery," he says.

Strange believes Montgomery is already similar to Austin, just on a smaller scale.

"We've just bought lower Dexter Avenue.  They bought a 14 block area. Not all at once, but over time. And some of the strategies and some of the concepts they've put in place, we will try."

"This used to be an area that no one came to," says Montgomery resident, Michelle Mowery referring to downtown Montgomery.

Mowery is already impressed with Montgomery's progress and knows a city like Austin is within reach.

"We're not there yet, but we're definitely moving in the right direction."

Next week, developers submit proposals for lower Dexter Avenue revitalization.

Once leaders get them, they'll decide which ones are the best and start working on a strategic plan in January.

The Mayor says Austin leaders raised $25 million dollars over a five year period to help re-do their downtown.

Strange says he'll start fundraising next year, too.

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