Centennial Hill residents speak out against future RSA building

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 10:44 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery’s Centennial Hill neighborhood holds a unique place in the city’s civil rights history.

“My whole family has been here since the1800s,” Valda Harris of the Harris House said.

Harris’s home, the Harris House, served as a strategic meeting place for Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders during the movement.

“This one side of the street is extremely historic. It’s like hallowed ground, and this is one of the areas that we’ve been trying to protect for the longest,” Harris said.

In January, the city and housing authority secured a grant to revitalize the area. It’s something that many of the residents are looking forward to, but they’re not on board with a future development that will put an RSA office building and parking facility on a vacant lot in the area.

Councilwoman Marche Johnson and other residents are asking that the development be moved to a more convenient space downtown.

“This is the last space that Montgomery has, the state of Alabama has, that is tied to the civil rights movement, that is tied to Black wealth, and it’s about to be destroyed or overtaken by a state building,” Johnson said.

WSFA 12 News reached out to RSA for an interview on the development. They declined but gave a statement saying:

“RSA is in the planning stages to construct a Class A office building and associated parking facilities on a vacant lot at the corner of High Street and S. Jackson Street, which RSA has owned for approximately 20 years. These improvements should benefit the surrounding areas with streetscape improvements and increased foot traffic. RSA does not own the historic buildings on the other side of S. Jackson Street, including what is commonly referred to as the Harris House and the Martin Luther King Jr. House, and has no plans to negatively impact these buildings.”

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