Judicial Building Opponents Offer RSA An Alternative: Architectural Review

A new idea has arisen from opponents of the Alabama Retirement Systems plan to rebuild the old state Supreme Court building.

Instead of fighting, they want to offer a compromise, complete with a professional opinon.

Preservationists have vehemently opposed a huge 12 story building, and RSA chief David Bronner has said that opposition is something from 'little old ladies. '

Now the opponents are offering an alternative, and they're willing to pay for it.

If anyone has an emotional attachment to the Capitol, it's Anne Waldo, who once owned a nearby business.

"We enjoyed that view of Dexter Avenue from our bed and breakfast on Clay Street for 14 years," said Waldo.

She and 100 others met Tuesday night to talk strategy on how to convince RSA Chief David Bronner that his vision of a huge office building right next to the capitol is the wrong way to go.

"I wish the (city's Smart Code) plan had been consulted," said Mrs. Waldo.

Organizers say the RSA never joined in community meetings on zoning and that Bronner sprang his Judicial Building design on the public with little notice.

But worst of all, they say a large office building does exactly the opposite of revitalizing downtown;  that if one building signs up every possible office tenant, then owners of smaller buildings will have no reason to renovate.

Bronner has long said the Judicial Building is so out of shape there are really only two options.

"Either save it or flatten it," Bronner said in November.

Bronner also said a large building is the only way to make a profit.

But the opponents says there are other alternatives, and it wants to work with Bronner on a new architectural plan.

"We want to bring in folks who can explain to him how that can work to his benefit as well as the city and everyone else in the river region," said opponent Nathan Norris.

Norris won't say who's willing to fork over cash to fund the review, but it will require both private and public funding.

That means people like Anne Waldo, Bronner's proverbial little old lady....

"I think there are plenty of younger people who oppose it also," she said with a smile.

...will have to open their wallets, one way or the other.

Many people might think it's too late to change Bronner's plan, but Norris and other opponents say the only thing going on now inside the old Judicial building is demolition.

They also say the RSA has yet to submit construction plans or permits to the city.