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Fairview Avenue Revitalization

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Charrette participants
want a bank in the neighborhood


April 2010

by David Zaslawsky

If you were asked what amenities you would like in your neighborhood, what would you say? If you’re like most people – including those who participated in a weeklong “charrette” meant to generate ideas for the revitalization of Montgomery’s west side – you’d want banks, movie theaters, restaurants and a place to gather with your community.

Well, west side residents are no different.

The results of a survey administered during the Dover, Kohl & Partners-directed charrette show that a majority of participants asked for the same thing: A bank.

“The private market has abandoned this area as evidenced by the fact there is not a bank on West Fairview,” said Ken Groves, director of planning and development for the city of Montgomery. “You have businesses producing income and they have to take it out of the neighborhood to get it in the bank.” 

Participants were asked to pick two choices from a list compiled from earlier suggestions: movie theater, fine dining, bowling alley, splash park, multi-cultural center, fitness center/gym, bank, Internet café and jazz bar.

More than 50 percent wanted a bank and the next closest was a movie theater (35 percent). Fine dining was the third favorite at 22 percent and the only other selection with 20 or more percent was a multi-cultural center (20 percent).

“One of the things we learned (from the charrette) is that the things that you and I like are the things that everybody else likes,” Groves said. “We are all living in the same era. We have similar exposure to other things. Everybody said they want a decent place to live and don’t want bars on the windows. We all want good housing.”

Results from the survey show that residents also want a police substation in the area (73 percent), affordable housing (55 percent), sidewalks and street trees (61 percent), beautify existing buildings (44 percent) and reduce traffic congestion (43 percent).

The city and private developers are working on affordable housing. The city is developing Lanier Place, a subdivision because “we haven’t been able to pay someone to do it,” Groves said.

“The bottom line is we are re-establishing a marketplace (for housing),” said Montgomery Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes. “We’ve created a vision of what the market could bare as far as residences. We create a relatively small area of these styled homes and then establish comparables.”

A relatively quick way to establish those “comps” is the use of courtyard houses, ranging in size from 480 square feet for a two-bedroom home to 1,112 square feet for a three-bedroom house. You can build seven units on a 20,000-square-foot lot.

________________________________________________________________________________

"THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE ARE RE-ESTABLISHING
A MARKETPLACE (FOR HOUSING). WE'VE CREATED
A VISION OF WHAT THE MARKET COULD
BARE AS FAR AS RESIDENCES."

Jeff Downes

Montgomery Deputy Mayor

 

The cost of the homes would range from $64,000 to $120,500 and require annual incomes ranging from $17,000 to $28,500.

Those courtyard houses, according to Dover, Kohl & Partners, would raise property values, make good use of undervalued properties and meet community’s needs – and the housing is eligible for federal funding.

Groves said that Ed Starkey, an economist with Urban Advisors, Ltd., suggested the use of courtyard housing to “get the real estate values up the fastest.”

Of course, the properties for courtyard housing must be acquired. Downes said vacant property or property whose owners are three or more years delinquent on their property taxes may be purchased for $100.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do in coming up with the right proportion,” Groves said. “How big is the market? How fast can it be realized? Courtyard housing doesn’t need to be the predominate method of housing – it needs to be a component of it. We also have housing on the other end of the spectrum, like we’re doing at Lanier Place, and how do we get these two things to work together?”

There are a wide range of housing options recommended for West Montgomery: live/working units, townhouses, duplexes, quadplexes, apartments, small, medium and large houses, as well as something called “accessory dwelling” units.

Accessory dwellings are an old concept. Groves said people once had carriage houses that provided quarters for the groomsmen and the horses. As the times changed, Carriage houses were later converted to apartments for aging family members.

The concept later fell out of vogue, especially in the suburbs. But now accessory dwellings are hot commodities.

“It’s a way of using land more efficiently and provides a wider variety of housing,” Groves said. “They are coming back big time. They call them ‘granny flats’ now.”

It’s all about reinvention.

Downes said the point of the West Montgomery initiative is to take an area where the private sector has not invested appropriately; not grown properly, and establish a market for them.

“All we’re trying to do is prime the pump,” he said.

The charrette participants must agree with these efforts: Eighty-six percent of them said the plan is on the right track.