Montgomery residents, business owners react to ‘Smart City Living Lab’ announcement

Updated: Jan. 17, 2019 at 8:15 PM CST
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Montgomery residents share their thoughts on Montgomery's efforts to become a "smart city."

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The city of Montgomery officially announced the creation of a Smart City Living Lab in downtown Montgomery on Wednesday afternoon, showcasing Montgomery’s efforts to continue to grow as a “smart city.”

The plan announced includes an expansion of the city’s already-existing free public Wi-Fi. The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the Wi-Fi expansion, confirmed the internet service is already operating in the Alley, inside of Riverwalk Stadium, Court Square and at the end of Commerce Street, near the visitor’s center. Meg Lewis, with the chamber, said the free public Wi-Fi offering will be fully expanded from the Capitol building steps, all the way down Dexter Avenue and down Commerce Street, to the riverfront by March or April.

Wade Preston is the co-owner of Prevail Union, a coffee shop that sits on Dexter Avenue, and he said the shop already offers free Wi-Fi to customers. He said, because the shop sits right on Dexter, he’s curious to see how much the service impacts his business.

“Considering we’re right on Dexter, my assumption is we will catch a little bit of that,” said Preston. “I don’t know how deep into our business it will go, but I think it’s just one of those things that’s going to invite more people to downtown. There will be more people around in general. It’s a good thing on all accounts.”

However, Preston said any development for the city of Montgomery, especially in the technology sector, is a win for his business.

In addition to expanded Wi-Fi, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange announced the release of a “smart parking” app in the next 60 days to help residents and visitors locate available parking and pay for their spots with their smartphones. Preston said that would be a helpful move for Prevail.

“To be able to pay for parking with an app is perfect for our demographic,” Preston said.

Preston said, in general, tweaks to the ways the city operates and offers services has a ripple effect to businesses like his.

“When there are thing like better lighting, better infrastructure and better sidewalks you know you’re in a place that’s working to create an experience,” said Preston. “We are trying to do that here as well, create an experience.”

Meanwhile, another part of that plan involves Alabama Power Company replacing 22,000 street lights with LED lights across the city. Currently, there are a number of areas where the lights are already up.

Currently, the lights are up in places like West Jefferson Street, near Dreamland BBQ, on Atlanta Highway from Taylor Road to Barrington Place Apartments, Victor Tulane Court Housing Authority, Patterson Court Housing Authority and on Woodley Road from Narrow Lane to Bear Elementary.

Freddi Williams, who lives in the Paterson Court Housing Authority, said he has seen the difference in lighting.

“You can see everything,” said Williams. “It’s bright, and you can see people at night when they’re walking around.”

Williams said it makes him feel safer and more secure as he travels to and from church in the evenings.

Clark Hankins, with Alabama Power, said the company installed the upgraded lights in areas where lights were already needed and will spend the next 12 to 15 months completing the work.

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