Special Report: The Future of Downtown

A lot of people are calling Montgomery's new Renaissance Hotel and Spa an economic catalyst, prompting renewed interest in downtown. For years, city leaders have had a vision of what the area could become. But only now does it appear that vision is taking off.

So how do all the projects fit together? And how will they benefit you? WSFA 12 News takes a closer look.

Jerry Kyser is among the private developers who are banking on downtown's rebirth. His new restaurant is slated to open in a few months.

"I don't think most people understand how much money is going to come to downtown Montgomery with the new convention hotel," Kyser sad.

The front of Kyser's new restaurant faces Coosa Street. The back empties into the so-called Grocer's Alley. In the next few months, the city will transform the rundown alley way into a streetscape reminiscent of New Orleans' french quarter.

Shops, restaurants, and a state-of-the-art children's museum are already planning to move in. The alley is just steps from the new hotel and convention center.

"They alley is another way we hope to manifest this dream we have," said one of Mayor Bobby Bright's assistants, Jeff Downes.

The mayor's dream started eight years ago with the amphitheater and riverwalk. Soon, the riverwalk will connect via a pedestrian bridge to a new parking deck downtown.

Other downtown projects include:

  • Riverwalk Stadium, home to the Montgomery Biscuits
  • A new round-about at Court Square, complete with a free wi-fi hotspot
  • Updated street lights, traffic signals, and parking meters
  • Two more downtown parking decks under construction
  • Future work along Bell Street to beautify the downtown entryway into Maxwell Air Force Base

"Ultimately our goal, and the mayor's goal, is to see Montgomery vibrant 24 hours a day and seven days a week," Downes said.

"You have to remember, if you're going to have a city, you have to have a viable downtown," said Retirement Systems CEO David Bronner.

Bronner was among the first to see downtown's potential. Over the years, he financed nearly 2-dozen projects, including the new Renaissance hotel and convention center. Bronner also insisted that the complex include a performing arts theater as a way of attracting even more people to downtown.

The question now is, will all these government funded projects encourage the private sector to move downtown? City officials claim incentives and grants are already working their magic.

"We're very close to closing some of those deals," Downes said.

Chamber of commerce statistics show a total current investment in downtown of $1.1 billion. Officials say a majority of that amount is coming from private investors.

Investors are building new residential lofts, new office buildings, and don't forget Jerry Kyser's new restaurant!

"I think if you come back in 3-5 years, you will not recognize downtown Montgomery," Kaiser said.

Reporter: Mark Bullock