Montgomery Preservationists Urge RSA To Redesign Building Plans For Old Judicial Building

Historical Society Not Happy With Renovation Of Old Judicial Building In Montgomery
Historical Society Not Happy With Renovation Of Old Judicial Building In Montgomery

It's coming down to history fencing up against a staggering $200 million investment by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, an investment preservationists believe is misguided.

"It's unbelievable."

And one James Fuller, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Historical Society, says will destroy an old fixture on Dexter Avenue.

"I had no idea it was going to be that big," Fuller said.

This big and some believe at 12 stories, it'll be too high to fit in on Dexter Avenue and complement the view of the Alabama capitol. With RSA Chief Dr. David Bronner's plans to turn the old judicial building into a large office complex, it'll be a mixture of the past blended in with a modern office building.

"We have a resolution we have submitted to Dr. Bronner, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, Governor Bob Riley and the county commission," said Montgomery County Historical Society Treasurer Ray Rawlings.

That resolution which was passed this week urges Dr. Bronner and his architects to consider redesigning the building so the building's character won't be lost. Dr. Bronner told WSFA 12 News he had 'no comment on the resolution,' but has previously said he intends to keep the facade of the judicial building and keep the old supreme court room with the glass office complex on top and around the building. Rawlings is still not impressed.

"Now the steps have been removed, the lighting fixtures have been removed and all that's left are the front doors," Rawlings observed as construction workers begin to carry out the renovation plans.

The Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission for one has doubts whether the office building will really destroy the ambiance of Dexter Avenue and block the view of the capitol.

"While we have seen a rendering of the picture, it's my understanding that is more of a conceptual drawing than a actual picture of what it's going to look like. I have some doubts whether it will really obscure the view as we have seen in the photographs," said Todd Strange.

Critics, however, point to the city's New Smart Code Ordinance.  That ordinance is designed to ensure that growth downtown spreads out, not up. For instance, the ordinance says buildings along Dexter Avenue can't be any higher than 6 stories tall. But city officials say since the Retirement Systems of Alabama is part of state government, it is not subject to city rules. City officials are also reluctant to criticize a $200 million investment.

For some 15 years the old supreme court sat vacant. Now it's about to get a new life, but a new life some argue is coming at the expense of letting go of the past. Still, no matter how you look at it, one part you can't argue about is the economic impact. The project will create 800 new construction jobs and it should be completed sometime in 2009.

The public will have a chance to view the drawings during public presentations in January. The dates for those public meetings haven't been set.