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Remembering Ken Groves

This past Tuesday, Montgomery lost one of its great champions. In his honor and memory, we would like to share the following editorial that ran in the Montgomery Advertiser on September 30, 2010. A link to the full piece is available here. About this piece, Sandra Nickel says: “Truer words were never spoken.  Amen and thank you, Ken!”

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Ken Groves made city better place

SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

Ken Groves made his hometown a better place to live, which would be a fitting epitaph for the city’s planning director who died Tuesday after a brief battle with cancer.

Groves become the city’s chief planner nine years ago, and he helped to change the way many in the city look at planning and zoning issues.

He was an ardent champion of the city’s SmartCode zoning ordinance that allows for mixed-use zoning. The adoption of the code in 2006 allowed the creation of loft apartments and condominiums in downtown Montgomery.

Groves also worked diligently on the West Fairview Avenue redevelopment project — a project that epitomized his approach to development.

Instead of government officials telling the residents how their area should develop, Groves believed in asking them what kind of community they wanted — and then working with them to make it happen.

Even though there was no stronger advocate for smart growth development, he was not an “in your face” proponent. Instead, the soft-spoken planner worked to educate developers, government officials and the public on the advantages of the smart-growth planning and zoning. While not always successful, he made many converts, including many of the community’s elected officials.

One of his more recent projects was helping to plan an urban farm for property near the Montgomery Advertiser offices.

“The beauty of Ken’s work is that it will outlive him and there will be such a strong legacy that, as we go about our day-to-day lives, there will be efforts that Ken led that will be standing reminders of all the good he’s done,” said Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes, who worked closely with Groves.

“All you have to do is walk in downtown Montgomery and have a beautiful oak tree next to you as you walk. It’s a beautiful legacy.”

That’s true. But perhaps his most lasting achievement will not be the visible changes in the cityscape that he helped to create, but the changes in attitudes toward development that he helped to mold among the city’s leaders.

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Green Spaces 2: Cypress Pond

By Andrew Cole-Tyson

Note: This piece was originally published in an e-mail sent out to members of a young professionals group called Emerge Montgomery. We reprint it here with Mr. Cole-Tyson’s permission. Part 1 can be seen here.

For almost two years now, 2WR (the company where I’m employed) has been working in partnership with the City of Montgomery and The Montgomery Tree Committee to promote a project that will attempt to address the lack of open and green space in downtown Montgomery. The Cypress Pond Park and Greenway is a major component of the promotion of economic development through the creation of green space. We hope that this project will be the first of a series of spaces that will be made for public use in downtown.

These may be “pocket parks” to supplement future urban housing, or places embedded in the urban building context, that promote various public events and recreation during the lunch hours and after work. The goal of this project (including Cypress Pond Park and Greenway) is to make Montgomery a place where people want stay. It will help create the economic base to support new jobs, industry and increased property value.

Economic and Quality of Life Impact of the Park

In many cities, property values triple and quadruple because of their proximity to green space. For example, studies of property values in Boulder, CO indicate an average of $4.20 more per square foot for each foot a property becomes closer than 3200 feet from a green belt. Often, urban parks and greenways are designed to re-vision historic transportation infrastructures and waterfronts that have been abandoned by the public of their cities. Completing these projects generates an immediate interest in redeveloping sites with building structures for public and private uses adjacent to these greenways. Health, recreation, and opportunities to engage nature become catalysts for many valuable real estate development projects supporting enhanced quality of life.

In addition to increasing economic development and enhancing the quality of life, green space creates an opportunity to address an extremely disturbing statistic that rates Montgomery at the top of the charts for the most obese cities in the country. Promoting green space, recreation, and sustainable transportation is one way of combating this statistic, a problem that begins to be resolved by having all of our daily needs in close proximity to each other to promote a walking, cycling, moving, living city.

Today’s Vision of the Park and Greenway

Cypress Pond Park and Greenway is envisioned as an open green space that will provide the outlets to address the issues associated with city living: the need for psychological connection with nature, the need for a place for physical activity and gatherings and the need for a place that will by its very design draw people to our city. This project will:

  • Capitalize on the natural systems at work in downtown Montgomery and provide an opportunity for humans to embrace nature on a daily basis, conveniently near offices and homes;
  • Spur many real estate development projects, increasing the housing density in downtown Montgomery and eventually providing the appropriate density to attract a grocery store;
  • Allow abandoned industrial properties to be renewed and redesigned into spaces and places that meet the needs of the current generations inhabiting downtown Montgomery.
  • Promote a holistic lifestyle not adapted and programmed around the car. Instead of living in downtown and having to drive several miles to get to the closest park or recreation center, you should be able to walk to this greenway from your residence or office in downtown and safely exercise while enjoying nature.

This project, as well as many others in downtown, takes a proactive approach toward a healthy lifestyle change that is very attractive to people of all ages. Here are some details about this exciting project:

A Brief Summary of Cypress Pond Park and Greenway

Cypress Pond Park is composed of the 260-acre Cypress Pond area, which flows through Cypress Creek into the Alabama River at a point known as Cypress Inlet immediately upriver from the city’s Riverwalk. It encompasses (1) Cypress Inlet on the Alabama River, (2) Cypress Creek, which runs approximately 1.5 miles up to the (3) Cypress Pond Area, approximately 260 acres east of Lower Wetumpka Road and north of Oakwood Cemetery. The park site is unusual in that it is a large tract of undeveloped land located in close proximity to a downtown business district. The location abounds with landscape diversity, providing scenic views of the City of Montgomery from high bluffs that overlook slopes with three ancient ravines carved by the forces of nature. The landscape also features beautiful swampland in the lower regions of the park site.

Diversity exists not only in the landscape, but also in the plants and animals living in the area. To date, more than 100 species of birds, 60 species of trees, and 30 flowering plants, as well as numerous ferns, vines, mushrooms, and, of course, insects have been identified in Cypress Pond Park. Once complete, Cypress Pond Park will provide Montgomery with an outdoor environmental education facility and new outdoor recreational opportunities while promoting the conservation and preservation of natural resources. The park will also support the continued economic revitalization of downtown Montgomery by promoting eco-tourism, job creation and business development.

To date, a feasibility study funded by the Kodak Foundation and the City of Montgomery has been completed. $100,000 has been allocated to the City by the U. S. Congress to be administered by the federal Corp of Engineers. The City also received a $20,000 donation from a local foundation in early 2010.

To learn more, visit www.cypresspondpark.org

What We Need From You…

To date we have had input from many designers; locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as engineers, scientists, non-profits, city, state, and federal entities. The design of this project is coming to life with lots of input from the city and residents. However this design cannot become reality without a good marketing campaign and fundraising strategy and voice and active involvement of young professionals to truly support this effort. As the next generation of Montgomery, we will largely benefit from a project of this magnitude.

Our goal now is to increase the number of young professionals who are passionate about promoting this project with their marketing, fundraising, communications, visionary and networking talents. To date, all work associated with this project has been volunteer. However, we are slowly developing a fund for professional services. In the near future we’ll develop a 501c(3) for this project, as well as a “friends group” as a continued effort to market this project to our city.

We have occasional tours of the park and will increase the frequency of these tours as the demand increases. To get involved, contact me at 2WR Architects at 334.263.6400 or acole-tyson@2wrinc.com.  If you are specifically interested in communications, fundraising or marketing activities, or if you have website design capabilities, please feel free to contact Katie Rose at katie1rose@yahoo.com or 334.399.4681. I truly look forward to getting you plugged in where your talents can best be expressed.

Andrew Cole-Tyson is a landscape architect at 2WR, a 40-person architectural firm with offices in the historic Anderson Block Building on Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery, and in Columbus, GA. He views the landscape as an enormous canvas for experimentation and expression of ideas. A naturalist, he is particularly interested in relationships of people to nature and public park spaces. His work includes environmental and site analysis, site and community master planning, horticultural and planting design, irrigation design, graphic design, horticultural consulting and landscape architectural construction document production.

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Like Us On Facebook

We don’t need to tell you the merits of Facebook, but if you like Midtown Montgomery Living (and we hope you do), go to your Facebook account and type in Midtown Montgomery Living into the search window and open up our page and click “LIKE.” Or just go to our page by following this link right here and then click “LIKE.”

That way, we can build readers on Facebook too, you can like our posts there and it will act as a sort of RSS feed — because when we post new posts, they’ll show up in your Facebook news feed.

It’s easy. And all of your friends will see that you like us, and hopefully will click over and see what Midtown Montgomery Living is all about.

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Weekend Fun Advisory: Capri Film Festival

This Saturday, Midtown’s own Capri Theatre will host the second Montgomery Film Festival. The festival begins at 6:00 and will showcase a series of short films chosen from submissions from around Alabama and across the United States. Admission is $5 for Capri members and $8 for non-members.

On a hot Saturday night, doesn’t sitting in the Capri’s air conditioning with beer, popcorn and short films sound positively wonderful? Last year’s festival was very popular and well-attended. This year’s promises to be even better, adding in a fake trailer and bumper contest. For more information, visit the Film Festival website.

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Beautiful Homes

The Montgomery Advertiser has a regular feature called “Homes Gallery.” It showcases beautiful homes in the River Region. We recently noticed that most of these lovely homes are right here in Midtown! No surprise, really, given how many elegant and historic homes grace our neighborhoods. In any case, we wanted to remind MML readers that the Advertiser‘s Homes Gallery features are all in one place on their site, in case you’re looking for a little decorating inspiration or just wanting to peek inside some of Montgomery’s most delightful dwellings.

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Welcome to MML!

Welcome to our new blog!

Now, usually, that’s the kind of empty phrase that you skip right over as you scan over a blog’s posts to decide whether it is the kind of place you’d like to spend some time. But please know that, at least in this case, our welcome is written with all possible sincerity. We think we are creating an important online resource that will enhance your experience of Montgomery if you live here and will enhance your enthusiasm for our city if you don’t.

Our city has history. It also has amazing restaurants and beautiful homes; thriving businesses and interesting people. Unfortunately, Montgomery and its residents have been slow to translate our past, present and future into the Internet. The generation who gets most of their information from the computer ought to also be exposed to Montgomery’s vibrant civic life — our festivals, our concerts, our restaurants, our parks, and the rest of the universe of things that comprise the place where we live, work, and play.

Here, at the beginning, the question arises: How can we make this blog the best it can be? Blogs, much like cities, work best when people participate. Here’s our About page. Here’s our email, which will also have a permanent place on the blog’s front page: midtownmontgomeryliving@gmail.com. Also, add us to your web browser’s bookmarks. And if you’re particularly savvy, you can subscribe to our RSS feed using the button in the right sidebar. Or you can subscribe by email using that button. And of course, like any respectable online entity, we’ll be doing Facebook and Twitter. But the core of the thing will remain this webpage, Midtown Montgomery Living (MML). Check back often. Leave us comments. And tell all of your friends about us using all of  the usual means of information circulation. We hope they’ll want to check in regularly too.

Thanks for reading! And again … welcome.

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