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    For the last decade there’s been increased activity downtown, but now people aren’t just heading to the center of the city to catch a baseball game, walk the riverfront or grab a bite. They’re going downtown to live.

    Montgomery is in the midst of a boom in downtown residential development, with easily a dozen multi-family residences either newly constructed or under construction but already leasing. Arguably, living downtown became more attractive after significant downtown revitalization projects like the construction of the Renaissance Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center and the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre; the Montgomery Biscuits Baseball Stadium; The Alley Entertainment District; and, most recently, mixed-use development on Lower Dexter.

    Jake Kyser, owner and qualifying broker of Kyser Property Management Company, Inc., described the see-saw of commercial and residential development downtown as a “chicken or the egg” proposition. “It was sort of a question of who’s going to move first – restaurant or living,” Kyser said. “The construction of the baseball stadium gave us confidence to come and invest in downtown, and especially in downtown living.” Kyser Property developed one of the early mixed-use loft properties above the restaurants at the Alley. The nine units that are available for leasing are the Watertower Lofts, so named for the iconic and historic water tower that marks the entrance to the Alley. “There were people who had hesitation to live downtown without certain amenities and, on the other side, people not opening a business because people weren’t living there. So now we’re seeing a progression and there’s a lot happening.”

    From an economic development standpoint, residential development in Montgomery’s downtown is actually progressing at a very healthy pace, according to Lois Cortell, Senior Development Manager for the City of Montgomery. “It’s sometimes hard to calculate because demographics in a given area are determined according to a number of different variables, so it depends on what you’re counting,” she said.


    “Multi-family market rate—That is what has changed the most in the downtown core area. Where there might have been a little more than 200 units 20 years ago, we are currently getting close to the 750 range in the multi-family market rate. I’m optimistic in five years we will get close to 1,000, especially with potential properties that could convert. Even going from 250 to 750 is a big jump in 20 years—That’s safely a three-fold increase,” she said.

    The makeup of people moving downtown includes a mix of singles who want to walk to work; professionals—usually with no kids—who want to be in heart of the city; as well as empty-nesters who are active adults who, with no more kids at home, are downsizing and planning for the future. Montgomery also has a unique subset of temporary downtown residents because of state government. Legislators and affiliated staff may not live here full time but may rent an apartment to use as a home base while the legislature is in session.

    Like their residents, the properties are diverse, offering a wide array of styles ranging from traditional “loft” style apartments in renovated historic buildings to brand new construction offering more traditional apartment plans, including amenities like a pool and clubhouse. Many offer enticing features like private balconies, unique hidden green spaces or exclusive views of the downtown skyline and the Alabama River.


    TJ Williford’s company, Partners Realty, manages historic lofts for sale or rent at 246 Court; mixed-use apartments that combine the charm of an old building with new amenities and features at Alley Station Flats; as well as brand-new construction in the heart of it all at 79 Commerce, with apartments located over the Mellow Mushroom pizzeria. “Each property has its different features that create an environment that is attractive. But the overall draw is living in a true urban environment in a modern downtown Montgomery, in a walk-able urban community. It’s a practical lifestyle that’s efficient, and it’s just really fun,” he said.

    Abby Migliore said when she and her husband realized they were in downtown more than they were at their sprawling four-bedroom house in Prattville, they decided it was time to relocate. The Migliores have been in the River Region since 2010 and decided to stay after Mr. Migliore retired from the military.

    “We actually loved the house, but it was a lot of space for the two of us and half the time when we met up with people it was in Montgomery—maybe 80 percent of the time,” Abby said. “We realized we were driving into Montgomery to work, to play—everything.”

    They decided to put the house up for sale and see what happened, and when it quickly sold, they took that as a sign. After looking around downtown, in September 2016 they chose a one-bedroom flat at the Printing Press Lofts, owned and managed by Foshee Residential.

    “We really fell in love with the Printing Press—the brick walls, wood floors. One thing that impressed me about Foshee is they really utilized the space. We liked how they kept the integrity of the structure.” she said. “Plus, now I’m less than a mile from my work, my husband less than three miles from his. What better thing on weekends to walk to all these great restaurants or a Biscuits game. There’s nothing you’re not close to here.”

    Rebecca Cornwell grew up in Montgomery but moved to Boston after earning her degree at the University of Alabama. She lived there for nine years and fell in love with living in the heart of the city. When she decided to move back to her hometown in November 2014, she knew she wanted to live downtown. But she had her heart set on buying, not renting. Through a childhood friend, she connected with Williford and discovered her dream loft at 246 Court.

    Having lived in Boston, where the cost of living is much higher, she was thrilled that she was able to make an investment in her loft, and in herself and her future. She says she can’t imagine living anywhere else in Montgomery. “There is always activity around you. I have my window open most of the year and I can hear people talking on the street. That part just makes me feel like this is a city,” she said.

    The surge in residential development feels like its turning a corner in downtown revitalization, Cortell says. While big economic development projects like the stadium and the Convention Center were catalysts, residential and mixed-use development is about sustaining revitalization. “It’s exciting that we are turning into this phase,” Cortell said. “When you have residents downtown, the business opportunities follow, because they need services. These services for residents are a whole other phase of downtown development. This is a whole untapped area for entrepreneurs.”

    Expanding the offerings in the city center and in the neighborhoods just outlying is important to continued growth, Cortell said. “I fully believe a range of residential options in downtown will be critical to making sure we’re inclusive and growing and healthy and diverse,” she said. “Maybe that’s also the next phase.”

    Bright Spot

    Facing the prospect of an empty nest when the last of his five children left home, Trey Starke was attracted to the vibrancy of downtown. But instead of securing a spot in one of the many multi-family properties springing up, he wanted his own space—and lots of it. He purchased an existing building located next to the Renaissance Hotel, and created a unique downtown dream home.

    Starke purchased the former Reinhart Toyota parts building, encompassing 5,000 square feet. The first floor was developed for office space. The second floor, approximately 2,500 square feet, was completely renovated into a spacious loft. The property also includes a 1,500-square-foot rooftop deck.

    He was able to design every room and select each fixture, enlisting the help of Jeffery Paulk from Paulk Construction and interior designer Lisa Woolard. They kept interesting architectural details including 15-foot ceilings, concrete floors, steel trusses, wood floors, exposed brick and exposed ductwork. A custom spiral staircase leads to the rooftop deck.

    “I felt moving to downtown Montgomery was a way to minimize that fear of being lonely when all my kids have gone. I feel I’m near a vibrant scene. I can walk to restaurants, shows, concerts. My office is downtown so I can walk to work. There’s a Montgomery down here that, even being from Montgomery all my life, I never knew existed,” he said.

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