A new arena in downtown Montgomery? 6 takeaways from state of the city
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed took the stage Tuesday night to outline how he expects the city to capitalize on a year in which companies announced $1.7 billion in local investment along with 2,000 new jobs.
That plan emphasized goals across town, but it may start a few blocks away from the Cramton Bowl Multiplex where Reed delivered his annual state of the city address.
Here are six takeaways from that address:
1. The city is studying a downtown arena plan
Reed revealed that the city has launched a feasibility study to consider an arena and convention center that could feed into recent tourism growth downtown. “From concerts, to games, to worship services, to everything you can imagine doing. We’re looking at building a best-in-class facility,” he said. “We want this to last for many decades to come.”
The first step is to determine what it would cost, where it should go, and other key questions. Reed said that’s now underway. “We had a lack of space, and we were losing out on some regional conventions that wanted to come here.”
2. The Montgomery Zoo will get renovations and a possible planetarium
Reed said a renovation of the Montgomery Zoo is on the way, along with “the addition of a planetarium at the zoo that we believe will spark more investment in north Montgomery.” He did not announce a timeline for that plan but confirmed that the city has initial renderings and is working on other aspects of the process. “That’s something that we do plan to announce in 2023.”
3. A new plan to address homelessness
A group of advocates, experts and others in the community have crafted a plan that Reed said is already being put into action. He said the city will announce the details of that plan “in the coming weeks” and that it will treat homeless residents as “community members entitled to dignity.”
He noted that homelessness and panhandling are separate issues. “Not all homeless are panhandlers and not all panhandlers are homeless,” Reed said.
4. Plans for neglected areas of the city
The mayor said the city must prioritize improvements in neighborhoods and areas that haven’t gotten attention. Among others, he mentioned:
A plan to use federal money to improve walkability and infrastructure in Centennial Hill while lighting bridge underpasses that connect to Alabama State University. “This community that was torn apart by the interstate decades ago, we seek to reconnect and rebuild."
A still-in-development fire station on Fairview Avenue and improvements to the nearby Farmer’s Market.
The new Shady Street Park and Trail in north Montgomery and broader trail ambitions
Retail centers including Normandale Mall “that need a boost from government”
A partnership with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to repurpose vacant land on Mobile Street for retail and affordable housing. “This is affordable housing that you and I would look at.”
A broad plan involving several partners and existing small businesses to help reinvigorate parts of west Montgomery.
5. The future of $87 million in federal funding
The city and county agreed in 2021 to pool a total of $87 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle bigger projects. On the local level, Reed conceded, “that process hasn’t exactly been smooth.” A series of neighborhood studies and other hoops, some of which are mandatory for the funds, has delayed the rollout of many long-awaited improvements to community centers, public safety, water and sewer, mental health, broadband access and other initiatives.
Reed urged councilors to stick to the plan, and vote to move the current deal forward. “We have to choose what’s right and not what’s expedient,” he said.
6. A call for business mentors
The mayor said the overall key to capitalizing on recent investment is relying on larger, engrained businesses here to help smaller ones broaden their circle and gain a better foothold. Reed said the city has grown the number of female- and minority-owned small businesses registered with its procurement department from 53 to 315, but getting help from the broader business community will allow those businesses to fulfill their potential.
“If you’re local, we want you to be regional. If you’re regional, we want you to be national,” he said. “… In order for this to happen, there has to be a commitment.”
Brad Harper covers business and local government for the Montgomery Advertiser. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: A new downtown Montgomery arena? 6 takeaways from state of the city