Elements of Urbanism: Montgomery, AL

July 24, 2013 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the downtown of Alabama's capitol city to see if there's something we can learn from their experience that could be applicable to our own efforts to revitalize downtown Jacksonville.

Tale of the Tape:

Montgomery City Population 2012: 205,293 (City); 377,149 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1819)

Jacksonville City Population 2012: 836,507 (City); 1,377,850 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Montgomery (106,525)

City Land Area

Montgomery: 159.6 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2012)

Montgomery: ?0.23%
Jacksonville: +2.40%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Montgomery: 263,907 (ranked 142 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Montgomery: 1,718.4 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2012

Montgomery: -471
Jacksonville: +14,723

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Montgomery: Montgomery Convention Center (expanded in 2007) - 73,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Montgomery: Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center - 342 rooms
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Montgomery: RSA Tower - 397 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2013 (City limits only):

Montgomery: N/A
Jacksonville: CSX (231), Fidelity National Financial (353), Fidelity National Information Services (434)

Urban infill obstacles:

Montgomery: Railroad serves as a barrier between the riverfront and downtown.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Montgomery: The Alley
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Proliferation of surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Montgomery: 80 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

About Montgomery

Montgomery was formed in 1819 when the rival towns of New Philadelphia and East Alabama Town merged. The city is named for Richard Montgomery, an American Revolutionary War general killed in 1775 while attempting to capture, Quebec City, Canada. Bolstered by the cotton trade, Montgomery rapidly grew and eventually became the capitol of Alabama in 1846.

Montgomery found itself in the center of Civil War politics, becoming the first capital of the Confederate States of America in 1861. In 1886, Montgomery became the first city in the country to implement a city-wide electric streetcar system.  In 1955, Rosa Parks helped usher in the modern civil rights movement when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in downtown, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Then the pastor of downtown Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. and E.D. Nixon founded the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the boycott. Like many downtowns across the country, the area declined in the later half of the 20th century as the city spread outward.

Over the past 15 years, $1.5 billion has been invested in downtown and the surrounding area and optimism in at an all-time high. With several projects still on the drawing board, currently downtown Montgomery is home to 17,500 employees, including 9,500 State Government employees.

Dexter Avenue

Court Square Plaza and Fountain sits in the heart of downtown Montgomery, serving as a central traffic circulator.

The Alabama State Capitol is perched on Capitol Hill. This building dates back to 1851 and served as the Capitol of the Confederate States of America in 1861, before being moved to Richmond, VA.

One Dexter Avenue (left building in image above) has always been in the center of action in Montgomery.  Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks was arrested nearby and the telegram that started the Civil War was sent from across the street.

Built in 1997, the 23-story RSA Tower is the tallest structure in Montgomery and the . It is considered the trophy of the Retirement Systems of Alabama's Montgomery office portfolio. RSA's other properties are located throughout downtown Montgomery, Mobile and New York City.  

Completed in 2011, the RSA's Dexter Avenue office building is the third tallest in downtown Montgomery.

The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his first message of hope and brotherhood.

 1 2 NEXT