Friday, 19 October 2012

Montgomery turns development focus to Faulkner area, Atlanta Highway 'nodes'

Referencing the city development mantra ?never let the money get in the way of the vision,? Montgomery officials trumpeted long-term plans Wednesday to improve the look and access at key points along Atlanta Highway while praising Faulkner University?s role in those plans.

The city will focus on three ?nodes,? or connection points, along Atlanta Highway: the Ann Street intersection, the Perry Hill Road intersection and Faulkner, where university and city leaders gathered on the steps of the Jones School of Law to discuss the area.

?If you?re here at Faulkner and you want to go to the dinner theater across the street, there?s not a logical way to do that on (foot),? said Chad Emerson, the city?s director of development. ?You have to drive 100 yards. We?re going to transform this environment so that the cars will still flow freely, but that pedestrians will also walk safely and comfortably.?

The plan, created with the input of residents, is meant to help increase the economic viability of the area by creating sidewalks, bike paths, green space and street trees ? an atmosphere that would be functional to pedestrians and attractive to residents and shoppers. It will serve as a guide for future projects along Atlanta Highway.

While it could take years for the vision to lead to major development and a full transformation, no one questioned the importance of setting it in motion.

Montgomery City Councilman Richard Bollinger was one of those who referenced the motto that was coined by former city planning guru Ken Groves.

?We?re not going to let that money get in the way of that vision that we?ve created,? Bollinger said. ?It?ll be some good connectivity, not just for the campus but for all of the neighborhoods to enjoy.?

City officials also praised the economic development role of Faulkner University, which they said draws students from across the state and nation.

Mayor Todd Strange said he recently spoke to a group of about 250 incoming freshmen, asking them how many were not from Montgomery.

?I just thought there would be a scattering of hands,? he said. ?Almost 90 percent of the individuals that were in that room were from outside of Alabama. From an economic development standpoint, that is meaningful.?

Students at Faulkner?s law school regularly pass the state Bar exam on their first try at a higher rate than students from any other state school ? including the most recent exam, which was administered in July. Jones School of Law associate dean Tim Chinaris said its students have led all state law schools in success rate among first-time takers on four of the past six administered exams.

That?s a source of comfort to Ashley Norgard, the editor-in-chief of the Faulkner Law Review, who is originally from Kentucky.

?It makes me feel like my family is making a good investment, not only in my own education but in this community because we plan to stay here,? she said.

Strange pointed to a potential influx of new businesses that could lead to an even brighter future for the city. He said that the city currently is actively recruiting 55 companies, representing a potential 11,500 jobs and $202 million of investment.

?We may be No. 1, 2 or 3 on some of those lists,? he said. ?We may be (No.) 14 or 15 and we?re just not getting eliminated, but we?re now having an opportunity to win.?

Strange said during such recruitment processes, city officials point out that Montgomery is 3,700 people away from becoming the state?s largest city, that business confidence is high and that 1,200 more people are employed in Montgomery than at this time in 2011.

?We do not hide the other facts, the challenges that we work on day in and day out, but we want to celebrate (the successes),? he said.

View the original article here

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