Tag Archives: development

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Intro to Green Spaces

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.

On the evening of July 27, 2010, I attended the event at MAX Credit Union where Mayor Todd Strange spoke to our group of young professionals. The theme, “The Future of Montgomery,” was very relevant and timely. I believe that we are at a pivotal point in the development of our city where young professionals like ourselves can have a true impact by positively affecting the ways that downtown Montgomery will be further renewed and revitalized.

As a professional designer interested in landscape architecture and urban design working with 2WR Architects, I see that a large part of the future of Montgomery is related to urban design and architectural retrofit and infill projects as coordinated with the SmartCode. Key to these efforts is the creation of green space in our city.

Why is green space important? Some of the top reasons include:

  • economic development including increased property values and an impetus for revitalization near green areas, business and job creation, tourism management and use, and profits from programmatic entertainment events, etc.
  • psychological liberation from pressures of living and/or working in a growing city
  • more opportunities for physical activities that can reduce obesity and other health issues
  • increased programs for entertainment (water sports, hiking, cycling, etc), education, music, and the arts in and near green space
  • environmental benefits in the areas of air, soil, and water management.

It is exciting to be here in Montgomery at a time when, if combined, our voices can call attention to ways our city can become a better place for us to live and work.

EMERGE Montgomery is made of a phenomenal group of young professionals that have the capability to analyze what is good about other cities that have already made revitalization changes, and lobby for these elements to become a reality in Montgomery. In cities across the south like Chattanooga, Charleston, and Savannah, younger generations are becoming increasingly more interested in the economic and social advantages of mixed use living in urban environments — ways of living that immediately bring up the subjects of green space and the need for a connection to nature for psychological freedom from the stresses of life in the city.

Outdoor entertainment and recreation made available through the creation of green space, added to entertainment venues, make living in our city even more attractive. Typically projects like these come to reality through public/private partnerships that start with buy-in from city entities such as the office of the Mayor and the Planning Department. Here are just a few examples of green space projects:

http://www.railroadpark.org/

http://www.millenniumpark.org/

http://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/

http://www.thebattery.org/

http://www.chattanoogachamber.com/gettoknowus/riverfront.asp/

Through involvement in increasing green and open space projects, we can take even more advantage of Montgomery’s downtown and waterfront area. The Amphitheater has gone a long way in improving the number of programmed events, but part of the advantage to a large green space near downtown is the capability to enjoy nature at any time without the confines of a structured program, all close to our offices and homes. Green and open spaces are more than tree lined streets, though we do want tree lined streets as well! Green and open spaces are places to connect with nature, and specifically, places that we want close to our homes and offices for the sake of a quick escape.

One of the most valuable components of any city is its relationship of green space to the built environment. We’ve seen the impact of green space in places we’ve visited, and maybe even in other places we’ve lived. City planners agree that green space is advantageous, not only for the psychological, environmental, and social rewards, but also for the provable increase in the value of property adjacent to green areas and the other aspects of economic development that are a result of adequate green space creation.

When I think of green space, I’m not thinking just about the aesthetics of natural areas, but also about functionality and programming to include all of the things we love to do on a daily basis. Street trees are a good start, but what about interactive spaces and places that we will look forward to embracing on a regular basis? The beauty of having these larger open green spaces in cities is that we can leave our jobs and walk into a nice park that may be programmed for recreation (walking, cycling, hiking, etc.), musical events or other after-hours events.

We understand that there is a lack of public green space in Downtown Montgomery. Perhaps the reason for this is because there’s not a loud enough voice from residents of this city expressing the need for both small and large dedicated green spaces in downtown. Due to the riverfront improvement that sparked more interest in downtown entertainment venues, the perception of downtown Montgomery not being a great place to hang out is rapidly changing.

However, when I look at our parks downtown, I rarely see anyone using them for recreational or nature focused activities. And even though as kids most of us enjoyed cycling, I rarely see people cycling. My suspicion is because while the downtown parks that we do have are nice, they are either designed for sitting or programmed events. A person living or working downtown must drive to parks designed for more active pursuits. While the change that has occurred thus far is excellent, my hope is that we can continue to create more green space in our city and maximize its utilization by taking input about its design from younger residents.

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.

13 Comments

Filed under City services, Fun, Government, Legal Issues, Parks, Pets, Real Estate

Cloverdale SmartCode Update

By Stephen and Kate

Last Thursday and Friday the City of Montgomery’s Planning Department held public meetings in the basement of the Cloverdale Playhouse. The meetings were open-ended, come-when-you-can affairs, designed to share information about the Planning Department’s proposal for implementing SmartCode in the Five Points business district. Like many folks from all over Midtown, we wandered down to the Playhouse last week to look at the City’s various ideas.

The meetings were informal, with various exhibits on tables and walls throughout a big room in the basement. Residents were invited to move between the exhibits and talk to City personnel who were available to discuss any concerns. When we were there, folks were involved in a dozen conversations about their ideas for the neighborhood – sometimes with City personnel, sometimes with each other. Everyone was invited to leave comments using a standard form. Most people seemed to be very interested in giving written feedback.

The overheard comments ranged from the uninformed, strongly-held opinion (everybody has feelings of some sort about property rights and the aesthetics of buildings) to the expert-level conversation about implementation and origins of smart code (we had no idea what a “transect” was).

Here at MML, we’re delighted to be able to host copies of the drawings and exhibits from the meeting – in fact, we are the only site on the Internets with these pictures. Tremendous thanks to City Planner Tyler Caldwell for sharing with us. He’s also given us a copy of the results from the original 2006 design plan by Historic Southview, Old Cloverdale Business Coalition, AIA and countless other concerned citizens. Again, we believe that we are the only place online that you can download the document. If you care about the livability and look of your community and Midtown Montgomery, familiarity with this conversation is a crucial part of municipal participatory citizenship.

For the convenience of our readers, we have put all the images and documents from the meeting on this page here at MML. You can browse and download everything on this page.

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Government, Kate and Stephen, Legal Issues, Municipal business, Real Estate

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Historic preservation, Real Estate, Sandra Nickel