MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new report released by the city of Montgomery’s Department of Economic and Community Development, reveals that Montgomery’s long-time goal of revitalizing downtown has firmly taken hold.
According to the report, from 2014 to 2020, just over $244 million in reported construction values have been invested in downtown Montgomery. This equates to more than 16% of the $1.5 billion invested city-wide during the same period.
The report also shows that in 2020, despite struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, $50 million in reported construction values were invested downtown. This makes up 21% of the $235 million invested city-wide during the same period.
The $50 million invested downtown in 2020 is also the highest value of construction since 2014.
Across the seven years studied, there were a total of 720 building permits issued downtown. And although the total number of permits issued in 2020 went down in comparison to previous years, the value of those permits went up to $49,621,071.
Over the past seven years, a lot of construction projects have contributed to the revitalization of downtown Montgomery.
Some of the largest projects include the Columbus Square Housing Development, The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Pavilion and Monument, The Kress Building, The Heights Apartments and The RSA Building on Dexter Avenue.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said he hopes these developments and future projects bring more tourism to the city.
“We hope to continue to build and develop downtown into a flagship destination,” Reed said. “We just signed the papers for the whitewater park right downtown, so we’re trying to add to that both for our residents and visitors that are coming here from all around the country and the world.”
Reed added that they anticipate seeing a lot more tourists after the pandemic has subsided.
“Once we get from under the COVID cloud, we’ll see a large number of tourists that are coming here,” Reed said. “That not only benefits downtown, it benefits our art scenes, it benefits our neighborhoods and it benefits small businesses and retailors, as people get beyond just the downtown corridor.”
Some of the city’s growth has come from publicly-funded dollars, like renovations to the Montgomery County Courthouse, but privately owned companies are also choosing to build here.
Vintage Hospitality, a company that owns and operates Vintage Café and Vintage Year, is among one of the many privately owned businesses continuing to invest in the city.
“In addition to both of the restaurants we currently have operating we are opening Ravello downtown in the city-fed development where we will have a fine dining lunch and dinner Italian restaurant with some event space as well to kind of really welcome all of the people who are traveling to Montgomery,” said Eric Rivera, Executive Chef for Vintage Hospitality. “We’ve seen a lot of increase in travel and people interested in what we are doing here and the growth that is happening here in Montgomery.”
Andrew Szymanski and Will O’Connor of Hilltop Development Group purchased some of Montgomery’s oldest storefronts in the Cottage Hill neighborhood and have plans to restore them to their original glory.
“When we were looking for a place to invest and create our own foothold here in Montgomery, we were really drawn to the historic neighborhoods,” Szymanski told WSFA. “I love the architecture, I love preservation and saving a piece of Montgomery’s history, and these are just so centrally located right on the outskirts of downtown. And it’s just a really exciting area to bring some life and activity to.”
Looking ahead, the city made it clear that there is still work that needs to be done. The report said, “we both need and expect downtown Montgomery’s revitalization to continue. In spite of the $244 million of recent construction costs, there remain many parcels and buildings ripe for investment.”
Reed said the city is continuing to work on revitalizing downtown, as well as restore communities outside of just the downtown area.
“It’s very easy just to focus on downtown and the traditional retail corridors, but what do we do for those community’s that have not gotten the investment that we like to see? We are looking at best practices across this country and we are working with national think tanks and organizations to help us identify not only partners, but policies and strategies that we can use to incentivize. Whether that be affordable housing, whether that be additional retail, and whether that be re-imagining some of these corridors,” Reed said.
“Because we are Montgomery, because of the history and the significance of the city, we are attracting national interest, both from financial institutions, as well as those partners and investors and developers that have done this in other cities,” Reed added. “And that is what we are trying to share is the potential for many of our neighborhoods that we believe can be redeveloped, can be modernized and really can be invested in. I think we will have some very positive developments in the upcoming weeks and months, and I’m excited just about the energy that surrounds where we are in Montgomery and certainly the data that shows that we are on a positive trajectory.”