Not “Oh, Rats!” but “Glory, Hallelujah!”

Five years ago this spring, Historic Southview Inc. kicked off its second design charrette. Its focus was to improve the look, feel and function of Cloverdale Village, the mixed use area that runs east on Cloverdale Road from Decatur Street. This event followed the similar design process devoted to Cloverdale Five Points (East Fairview and Boultier) the year prior.

As with the Five Points charrette, a group of volunteer architects, engineers, designers and planners combined their professional expertise with the hopes and dreams of local residents and business owners to craft a new vision for the area. The result of their efforts was a master plan incorporating what was already good about the area — its walkability, the soon-to-be-built A&P Lofts project, and existing low-rise commercial structures built close to the street — with new “what can be” drawings and recommendations.

Both master plans specified massive streetscape improvements. The leadership of the two commercial district groups had learned that implementing the plans would require significant dollars that were not readily available from City coffers. Cost was known to be the stumbling block (pardon the pun). Nevertheless, the Historic Southview board, with its design team (Oliver Smyth, Sommerville Hill and Wilbur Hill), pressed forward with fund raising and defining requirements to complete engineering and landscape plans. This resulted in Phase 1’s Graham Street rebuild with sidewalks and Phase 2’s, Cloverdale Road “gateway” into the 500 block, sidewalks, parking, storm drainage, and a cobblestone intersection with all-way stops.

In 2007, City Councilor Janet May joined Historic Southview, Inc. to make this plan happen since the Village was part of her district. Working with City personnel, she promoted the project with her understanding of what it could do for this business district, the Garden District, and Old Cloverdale.

Two other community-minded neighborhood “angels” from that process also deserving mention:

•    Sieu Tang Wood graciously agreed to add a building entrance on the Graham Street side to free up her Cloverdale parking spaces for public use.

•    Charles Voltz and the Copeland family, owners of the Brass Fountain complex, agreed to keep their large driveway only along with their merchants’ support to increase public parking spaces on the street.

Visualize calendar pages turning. Days become months. Months become years. And soon it is 2009! Our national economy tanks and the Stimulus Program is passed. Sensing an opportunity, Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes and City Engineering put their heads together to formulate a grant application for the realization of this now shovel-ready project. The project ultimately was placed in line for Transportation Enhancement funds through ALDOT. Bids were advertised and the one accepted had an early February 2011 start date with completion of the respective phases in 30 and 60 days.

On Monday, February 7, Oliver Smyth called me excitedly at 7:40 a.m. The barricades are being installed at the intersection of Cloverdale Road and Graham Street. It’s beginning! It’s really going to happen! Asphalt removal began Tuesday morning.

So … if you’re one of the many who will be temporarily inconvenienced by the work in progress at Graham Street and Cloverdale Road, don’t say “Oh, rats!” Instead, shout “Glory, Hallelujah!” and support those businesses even though the streets are a bit hard to navigate.

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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  1. Intern Jack says:

    I’ve been here. Restaurants are good. People are pleasantly friendly. Traffic/parking good as well.
    But for some reason, regardless of the friendly people, the feel of the area is self conscious. Why that is I don’t know. Maybe it’s out of place with the Montgomery that surrounds it.

    This isn’t a criticism.

    It’s an observation.

    The place is uncomfortable like shoes that don’t fit even after the “breaking in ” period.

    Just is.

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