Tag Archives: Cloverdale Idlewild

Upcoming Fall Fun

Looking for something to do, but tired of researching to indulge your morbid curiosity about the two tired old folks duking it out in the Alabama Governor’s race? Convinced in some sort of deeply buried sliver of your soul that there might be more to life than consumption of a weekly slate of college football games? Feeling as if there’s something missing in your life?

Get out there and experience the reality that most people in the world know and love … or at least tolerate until another morning dawns. “But what to do?” you might be shrieking at your computer screen at this very moment. Never fear, here are some good options for Midtown Montgomery residents looking for weekend fun during coming weeks:

Start a morning at the CIA yard sale. No, no, no the Central Intelligence Agency yard sale, which would be super awesome but probably also a trap. No, we’re talking about the Cloverdale-Idlewild Association yard sale, the 6th annual fundraiser for one of the best neighborhood associations in the city.

It’s October 9th from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. and like most yard sales, the early birds get the bargains. Young people and hipsters who prize the kinds of crap you can find at yard sales are also the most likely to be sleeping in because of long Friday nights. Old people will show up early and buy all the best stuff while the young resign themselves to lolling around on the couch watching ESPN’s College Football Gameday, which features Lee Corso, an old person who has probably already hit 3 yard sales before he dodders on the set each Saturday morning.

The C.I.A. yardsale is pretty great. They have everything from clothing to toys to a whole gardening section (where we sold some of the unfortunate statuary that came with our house when we bought it), all priced to move.

Go see the Springsteen movie at The Capri on September 26th. Bruce Springsteen is sort of like U2: been around forever, couldn’t possibly be more critically acclaimed and totally taken for granted. We’re not huge Springsteen fans. We know people from New Jersey who (while tossing a begrudging bone to that other Garden State musical icon, Mr. Bongiovi) pretty much treat Bruuuuce like The Pope. And he is. He’s sort of the Madonna of white dudes, the American Bono, the working class Mick Jagger, the everything good about the “guy with guitar and kickass band” model of music-making.

If you think you already know what’s up with Bruce Springsteen and don’t like him, you probably haven’t heard enough. One of the bad things about being a musical icon is that people slot you into a box. If your knowledge of Bruce begins and ends with the “Born in the USA” and “Dancin’ in the Dark” stuff from the 1980s, you need to clear your mind and experience the haunting brutality of 1982’s Nebraska or even some of the new stuff like Working on a Dream.

Young people would be making a mistake to lump Bruce in with other middle-aged white guitar rock icons like Tom Petty (who is also awesome) or John (Cougar) Mellencamp (who is less so). Maybe you’re more into John Mayer or Jack Johnson. Or maybe you just don’t think as much about music as you once did because the economy has collapsed and you’re juggling your job (or the search for one) with family obligations and other priorities.

Bruce is the soundtrack to all of this, or could be if you’d listen. Go see this movie. It’s called London Calling, was filmed live in London’s Hyde Park, and opens with the title track being performed (a cover of one of the greatest songs by The Clash). We haven’t seen it, but it is getting rave reviews. It’s a 90-minute live show by Bruce and the E Street Band and if all you’ve ever seen of Bruce live is the Super Bowl halftime show, this movie is sure to blow your doors off.

London Calling is the final of three special programs at the Capri Theatre the week of September 20-26. On Friday, September 24 they’ll be showing one of two showings of the cult classic The Big Lebowski (one of our fave movies ever). Saturday, September 25 brings Alexander City resident and star of Troll 2 George Hardy to the theater to present the documentary Best Worst Movie.

Do Oktoberfest at El Rey. We’ve already explained that we think El Rey Burrito Lounge is one of our very favorite restaurants in the city. That would be true even if they weren’t always having awesome special events like Oktoberfest (Friday, October 1st). We went last year and liked their vegan chorizo dogs so much that we wrote Oktoberfest on our calendar as soon as they announced the date. Of course, they have the meaty kind of chorizo too — and delicious soft pretzels. And beer. Did we mention that there will be lots and lots of beer? Some of it will be kinds you’ve never heard of. All of it will be delicious. And hopefully by then it will not be a million degrees outside.

Go to the Wine Festival. We like wine. It gives us that warm feeling, loquaciousness, and, if consumed in sufficient quantities, it can make us forget about the current political climate here in Alabama (Can you tell that we’re thrilled with the current crop of folks being offered up for election in November?).

On Saturday, October 9, go to the River Walk Wine Festival. It’s noon to 4 p.m. at, well, duh, at the Riverfront. It’s $25 a person with music, wine, food, all the usual festival stuff. We were at the river for the Dragon Boat races and had a blast. And as the weather cools, it’s even better to be taking advantage of one of the best parts of downtown.

While we know a little about wine, we’re far from the readers of the insufferable wine magazines. We don’t go to the wine snob Websites or offer the discriminating curl of the lip if offered something less-than-elite. We know only enough to know what we like. And that’s why it’s fun. We’re actually pretty populist about it, being able to sit on pickup tailgates drinking cheap beer with the good ol’ boys one day, while swilling a Spanish reserva rosé with friends on the patio the next.

The River Walk Wine Festival promises to be a good time. At least 11 distributors are featured on the festival’s Webpage. And we promise to have a designated driver. We are also glad that this is not on the same day as the Oktoberfest because we’re not sure we could mix that much wine and beer.

We know there’s more stuff coming up – just wanted to share these events with anyone looking for stuff to do. And please, as always, if you know of cool upcoming events, drop us a line so we can help spread the word.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Lowder Property Rezoning

Regular MML readers know that we’re closely following the debates over re-zoning in Cloverdale Five Points (the part of town with Sinclair’s and The Capri). For those not as geeked out about zoning as we are, the story so far is basically that the City wants to switch over to SmartCode in this part of town (We have collected drawings and documents here for your reference). That push is still going forward, but in the short term, the City is asking for a rezoning of the Lowder property at the corner of Boultier and Fairview. That’s the western part of the building that used to be a school. For those not totally conversant with the area, it’s near Huntingdon College (once an owner of this parcel), across the street from Sinclair’s and also from the 1048 nightclub.

As it stands, this property is zoned B-1-a. The City is hoping it can be zoned B-1-a-q. Your eyes glazing over yet? It seems the “q” stands for “qualifications.” According to City Planner Tyler Caldwell, “The addition of the q denotes qualifications that restrict potential developments on this property to conform to the standards laid out in the T4-O SmartCode Transect. The only additional qualification is the permission for 1 story structures; whereas, T4-O has a minimum height restriction of 2 stories.” Caldwell has summarized the qualifications in a document you can see for yourself – download by clicking here.

This sounds good to us. Confusing to wade through the jargon, but when you think about it, it sounds nice. This is what governments do. They prevent people from ruining neighborhoods in the name of unchecked property rights. And if you care about how your city looks and functions, this is the sort of thing you should care about.

Why the rush? Well, the property is about to be sold, and the City would like to ensure that whatever is built there maintains the look and neighborhood feel associated with SmartCode. In other words, not a big box store with a bunch of parking in the front. According to Caldwell, this rezoning does not impede the larger effort to have SmartCode for the whole Cloverdale Five Points area. That debate is still upcoming.

The Cloverdale-Idlewild Association voted unanimously at this week’s meeting to support the City’s rezoning of the Lowder property. The next step in the process will be a Planning Commission meeting at 5:00 pm on September 23. The Planning Commission meets at City Hall, Room 142 at 103 N. Perry St. Please contact Tyler Caldwell, City Planner, at 334-241-2728 or tcaldwell@montgomeryal.gov if you have any questions or concerns.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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SmartCode for Cloverdale? Community Meetings Invite Input

By Stephen and Kate

Odds are that many MML readers were in receipt of an email circulated last month rallying folks to protest against what were described as immediate plans to build a big box pharmacy store on the corner of Boultier and East Fairview. Garish lighting? Impermeable cover? Parking lots? Hopefully by now most people know this was only a rumor. There are no such plans to ruin the character of one of Midtown’s best neighborhoods … yet.

To preempt any damage that might be done to Cloverdale’s commercial district (and thereby the neighborhood’s character), the City of Montgomery has decided to push for SmartCode zoning in the district. City Planner and Montgomery native Tyler Caldwell (also a Midtown resident) came to our Cloverdale-Idlewild Association (CIA) meeting this past week to spread the word about the proposed change to the zoning. He was there to explain the city’s proposal (and the concept of SmartCode), and to invite interested community members to learn more about the proposal.

Right now the Five Points area is basically zoned B-2. And it doesn’t have historic designation, so any new buildings constructed in those B-2 lots would be under no special obligation to “mesh” with the existing architecture and use of the area. In other words, there’s nothing now stopping a big box pharmacy (or any other awful chain store) from moving into the neighborhood.

The proposed area for SmartCode zoning is in purple on this map Caldwell shared with us.

Sure, SmartCode designation wouldn’t stop a pharmacy or an Urban Outfitters from moving in. But it would force their buildings to be in character with the neighborhood and compliant with pedestrian friendly guidelines. For example, SmartCode requires buildings to be close to the street with parking behind the building. This encourages cars to slow down. It also encourages pedestrian traffic — something that Montgomery has struggled to promote for a long time, especially in neighborhoods that are short on sidewalks. SmartCode requires sloped roofs and allows for mixed use development, so that apartments can be built above stores. It’s designed to promote urban living so that cities don’t just become places where you work and then flee for the suburbs afterward. One of the goals of SmartCode is to have buildings that can be reused over a century, rather than with a five year lifecycle.

All of which seems like a pretty substantial improvement from the status quo. As Caldwell said: “If Joe California the real estate investor buys the building (neighborhood bar) Bud’s is in, there’s nothing in place right now to stop him from building something out of the character of the neighborhood.” We sure don’t want Bud’s to leave (where would we get our Stella Artois? Our dollar Sunday pool? Our hair smelling of cigarettes for days afterward?), but if they did ever close up, we certainly wouldn’t want a Taco Bell in their place.

Fortunately, Cloverdale residents have been seeking a solution to future bad development for several years. Caldwell was quick to credit the neighborhood for coming up with the zoning ideas that have become standard in places like downtown and Hampstead. He cited the Five Points charettes that happened from 2005 to 2008 as creating a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood. The current SmartCode designation proposal is really just an attempt to implement something the community’s already gotten behind.

Those seeking more information can meet Caldwell tonight. He’ll be talking at the Old Cloverdale Association’s meeting on Monday, July 19th at 7:00 in the basement of the Cloverdale Playhouse.

The city will be holding drop-in meetings for the public from 4-7 on August 5th and 6th in the basement of the Cloverdale Playhouse. Staff from the city will be there to answer questions and solicit input. They will present exhibits designed to show differences in the neighborhood under the existing B-2 zoning and the proposed SmartCode zoning.

After these two days, the rezoning proposal will go to the planning commission within 90 days. That is the official public comment period for the proposed change. “Because this community is so involved,” said Caldwell, “we wanted to be proactive and give credit for initiating this plan in 2006.”

We’re wary of anything that takes sneaky linguistic tweaks to make itself sound better. And certainly the phrases “smart growth” and “smart code” could be used to justify any number of bad urban development and city planning ideas. But in this case, it looks like the city and the developers have the right idea. The goal is to fight the soullessness that is a near-inevitable threat in every city in the world (thanks to our globalized mono-culture). And an ounce of prevention is worth an unfathomable attempt to cure bad development post-facto, especially in a society that values property rights. Montgomery is really trying to get this right, and it seems like the changes are great, laudable, and worth supporting.

To learn more about SmartCode: www.transect.org; www.smartcodecentral.com

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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The Case for Historic Designation

By Sandra Nickel

The "addition" in question

It’s not often that I am a loss for words. But some weeks ago when I received a frantic email and photo of the “addition” being constructed on Glen Grattan, words failed me. Finally, I regained my wits and inquired whether the owner had obtained a building permit. I was shattered to learn that he indeed had and that the enormous growth appended to an otherwise attractive older home was, in fact, legal.

The home is located on the far western edge of Edgewood (no pun intended) and looks across the street at Cloverdale-Idlewild. In other words, it is on the south side of the street, facing north. Sadly, had it been on the north side facing south, this post would never have been written. Because Cloverdale-Idlewild enjoys the protection of local historic designation by the City of Montgomery and the ordinances regulating same would have stopped the project before it ever got started.

The Edgewood neighborhood, on the other hand, enjoys no such protection. In fact, Edgewood has only very recently begun a real effort to establish a neighborhood organization. Such groups, unfortunately, usually emerge only after a group of concerned citizens feels that something about the life they have enjoyed is menaced by one or more unfortunate developments. If there is a silver lining to the Glen Grattan building project, it may well be the birth of a functional Edgewood neighborhood organization with a mission:  Do the hard work necessary to seek and obtain local historic designation.

Lest the folks of Edgewood feel like the “odd man out,” I must also mention a second “architectural travesty” example that I came across just last week. (And I apologize in advance to my fellow real estate practitioners who occupy the structure.)

I was driving west on Mt. Meigs Rd. and nearly ran off the road when I spied this turn-of-the-last-century residential structure that had been converted to office use. Head-on, this building somewhat resembles other businesses operating in early 20th century commercial buildings. While many still have the expected full expanse of glass shop windows across the front, others have those “eyes into the operation” covered over.

But I did not see it initially from the front. I saw it on an angle, which clearly revealed that the entire façade of the building had been “flattened” by a slipcover of vinyl siding and brick veneer. A quick stop and walk-around revealed the vestiges of what was once a Queen Anne cottage!

Like Glen Grattan, Mt. Meigs Rd. is the dividing line between two historic Montgomery neighborhoods, Capital Heights (which shares its 1907 birth date with Old Cloverdale) and Highland Park (which originated in the late 1800’s). Both areas have worked fitfully toward historic designation and both have partially succeeded. But neither has yet been able to gain those protections for their entire areas. So the Mt. Meigs “improvement” is unfortunately legal and other ill-conceived projects may follow.

The message to all who love the ambiance of your current neighborhood is clear. If most neighborhood homes are 50 years or older, and someone comes knocking at your door asking for your support for local historic designation, DON’T give them a speech about your right to do whatever you wish with your home. Recognize that it’s not YOU who are the problem. It’s THEM down the block or around the corner. DO invite the volunteer in, sign their petition. Then, just hope the process can be completed before YOUR block experiences the next architectural misstep!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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Montgomery’s Historic Neighborhoods

By Carole King

It’s finished, printed and headed our way! For those of you living inside the bypass loop, you may have seen or heard the appeals by Karren Pell and myself for older photographs of Montgomery’s historic neighborhoods. Karren Pell, better known as the Alabama Troubadour, completed a photographic history book of Tallassee last year for Arcadia Publishing who later contacted her and asked her if she had any other ideas for other books to be included in their Images of America series. You know the books…those sepia-toned photo books that serve as great souvenirs. Since we had just finished the 100th centennial celebration of the incorporation of Capitol Heights as a city, that neighborhood’s history was fresh in our minds. So she asked me if I would be interested in a venture featuring our local historic districts, and the decision was made to birth Montgomery’s Historic Neighborhoods, which is now a reality and on its way to a fine book retail source near you soon!

We set about surveying what photographic materials to which we thought we could get access. We viewed collections at local universities, churches, Montgomery County Historical Society, Archives and History, Landmarks Foundation, and private individuals. We did several presentations to neighborhood associations, wrote several articles and did the television and radio circuit. To narrow our search, the decision was made to include photographs of structures and people located in the neighborhoods with official historic designation. These areas included Capitol Heights, Centennial Hill, Cloverdale Idlewild, Cottage Hill, Garden District, Old Cloverdale, Old Line Street and a section on the early downtown neighborhood. However, we found more and more documentation on subjects outside of our original parameters. We became fascinated by the properties that were eliminated when the Interstate 85 and 65 dissected the city and the earlier neighborhoods. Many of these magnificent mansions were captured in the Art Works publications of 1894 and 1907 and several neighborhood areas exist in those images only today.

Photographs came trickling in and we were beginning to sweat as our publication deadline rapidly approached. A last-ditch effort interview with Carolyn Hutcheson at WTSUM with a wide listening radius opened the floodgates to many family photo albums and our chapters began coming together, finally. We spent hours upon hours scanning photos to the publisher’s specifications, interviewing family members and researching facts and figures. We mourned the photos with great stories that we had to turn our backs on because of poor print quality and the good quality photos that had no story we could tell.

This photo came in too late for the book but has good documentation penciled on the back. This is a view of “The Old Home” located at 3 Whitman Street in Cottage Hill in March 1905. Mollie, Mama, Ellen and Rebecca are standing out front. More research is yet to come to find out exactly who these ladies are.

We made lots of discoveries about the lifestyle of people during this age of emerging photography. More affluent women had access to cameras and took up photography as a hobby documenting their families, pets, events, homes, vacations and rites of passage and then documenting it all in scrapbooks. Unless they were professionally shot in a controlled studio situation, almost all photographs were taken outside until close to the middle of the 20th century with the development of the flash concept. And, last but not least, almost every family had a goat cart!

One of our better finds was an envelope of photos that was actually in the Landmarks collection with no real documentation other than the photos had been found in the trash. After our extensive work on the pageants in schools and neighborhoods we were able to recognize these photos as documenting the annual May Day ceremony at the Cottage Hill School once located on Herron Street.

Especially fun was spending time with the many folks who brought out family albums in hopes that there was something we could use in the upcoming book. They reminisced and we gave advice on better ways to conserve these family treasures in exchange for access to them.

We were limited to 200 photos with short captions and since we had actually acquired about 350 images, the task of determining what would and what would not appear in the publication was difficult. There were lots of late nights of pouring over images and urgent phone calls with questions to the photograph’s owner. After submitting the initial images and captions and waiting for long weeks, we received a laid out proof for our review. The teacher in Karren and the editor in me came out and we hit the proof hard with our red correction pens even as we added images acquired later.

Just this week we received our authors’ copies in the mail, so we know the book is printed and will be arriving soon. As the shipping date—July 19th—for the printed product nears, we hope these readers will keep a watch out for the upcoming scheduled book-signings at our local bookstores, gift shops and specialty stores. We know there will be mistakes, we know there will be corrections and we know we’ll get bombarded with “how come y’all didn’t ask me for my family scrapbook?” We hope the publication of Montgomery’s Historic Neighborhoods will bring awareness about the importance of preserving family photos and records for perpetuity and encourage the documenting of our everyday life thus creating memories for all of our midtown historic neighborhoods.

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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