Top designers, architects in Montgomery for rare forum

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - You might not have ever heard of the term "new urbanism." But if you live in Montgomery, you probably drive by it everyday.

Areas like downtown, the Old Cloverdale retail district and the Hampstead development in East Montgomery are all examples of urban design.

Spots like these are the reason handfuls of the nation's top architects and designers are in Montgomery for a forum only held every four years.

You could call them the master-minds of urban design--people who designed some of the country's most cherished communities--like Seaside, Florida, for instance.

"We're thrilled that they think Montgomery is progressing far enough along that it's worth studying," says Montgomery Development Director, Chad Emerson.

Designers spend three days dissecting "urbanist" developments in the Capital City.  But what are they?

"The idea is that you build cities that allow the pedestrian and the vehicle to co-exist."

Emerson says downtown Montgomery does just that.

"Down Commerce [Street] now..those areas have wide sidewalks because you have more pedestrians."

"The alley itself, look at that--a bright spot in the once quiet downtown," says Victor Dover.

Dover helped create the downtown plan more than five years ago. He's thrilled at how the area has grown--making it a perfect case study for the group.

"We set out 18 or 20 things that were high priorities and at my last count, 16 or 17 of those have been started in some way," he says.

Most anyone you talk to that has development experience says there's one thing Montgomery leaders need to do to make sure areas like downtown thrive.

"Building up the residential population," adds Dover.

He says it's key to breathing life into downtown streets.

"You will be amazed at what having a few hundred souls living here overnight is going to do to wake up these storefronts and reinvigorate the cultural scene downtown."

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