The Spring 2020 Synthesis Studio, led by Dr. Retzlaff and Dr. Mahato, focused on investigating and interpreting the history and culture of Montgomery, Alabama through the creation of Historic Interpretation Plans. The students closely worked with the community members in Montgomery and the Montgomery Planning Department and created individual Interpretation Plans. These plans included the interpretation of civil rights, schools, industrial, civil war/slavery, natural history, and overall Montgomery history.
As part of the studio, the students collected, surveyed, and analyzed historic data, and proposed Historic Interpretation Plans that could strengthen the city’s rich history and contribute to its future planning. Emphasis was given on the plan-making process as part of the applied backbone to all planning, non-traditional planning practices including advocacy groups and social movements, and on the inclusiveness of many individuals and groups that have been left out of the planning process, including people of color, indigenous people, and low-income people.
The project “Race, Power, and Parkspaces: African American Recreation Interpretation Plan” by Joe Nisbett won the 2020 Distinguished Leadership Award for a Planning Student from the American Planning Association –Alabama Chapter.
Complete Streets Redesign, Montgomery
In Fall 2014 Dr. Byahut's Sustainable Transportation Planning class collaborated with Dr. Mittal’s Urban Economics class to assist the City of Montgomery in developing revitalization strategies for the Peacock Place neighborhood. This effort was supported by the Competitive Outreach Scholarship Grant. Students developed a strategic community revitalization plan for this inner city neighborhood, an area of national historic significance, as it forms part of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic trail. The broader objectives of these two class projects were to develop strategies that can help the community overcome decline in an inclusive and sustainable manner, celebrate local history and culture, regenerate local livelihoods, restore local economies, & build community pride.
Students studied 3 miles of the national historic trail and other streets in the neighborhood and developed complete streets designs for the Oak, Jeff Davis, Holt, and Mobile streets, and proposed improvements around the intersection of two interstates that considerably damaged the neighborhood during the urban renewal era. Proposals include improving bicycle and sidewalk facilities, intersection improvement, street and intersection design, improve connectivity and access to properties, transit facilities, environmental solutions to mitigate highway noise pollution, and innovative use of dead spaces under the freeways through urban farming, bioswales for stormwater management, and urban art. Their objective was to develop options that would improve the walking and biking experience not only along the streets but also beneath the two freeway overpasses, and improve neighborhood’s physical appearance and perception of safety. The multidisciplinary teams of students enabled them to collaboratively pool their knowledge of urban planning, GIS, engineering, land use, transportation, urban design, and landscape architecture. Students met with officials from the planning department, which helped them understand specific neighborhood constraints and receive feedback. The city provided access to their GIS database, hosted a kick-off meeting and tour for students, and reviewed final presentations.
Understanding the City of Montgomery
In Fall 2012 the Urban Economics class of Professor Jay Mittal did a project on the City of Montgomery where the class studied the city at two scales : neighborhood-level scale and at city-level scale. The purpose of this study was to develop understanding among the MCP students’ about how cities grow and shape up their spatial forms. The aim of the study was also to understand how historic events, various market and political forces, and individual choices on business and housing locations together form the spatial patterns of land uses that we see today in the cities. Students recorded historically critical events that triggered growth and facilitated city’s growth and development in the forms of housing, transportation infrastructure, and employment locations.
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Area Revitalization Plan Peacock Place, Montgomery AL
In spring 2013, Dr. Jay Mittal’s Real Estate Principles class undertook a study with the City of Montgomery, Alabama centered on the Peacock Place neighborhood. The focus of the students’ work was to identify strategies for redeveloping this inner city area with national historical significance into a vibrant neighborhood and addressing the needs of the current population, and future residents. The class was structured as a combination of classroom instruction—where theories, methods and cases were shared—and a field-based study where real time application of the class room learning could be applied. The field trip included students visiting the City of Montgomery’s Planning Department, interacting with city officials and developers, and visiting the Peacock Place Site and its surroundings to make pragmatic recommendations. The class also reviewed selected past studies such as historic preservation and other area planning studies, and analyzed socio-economic, demographic, consumer expenditure and other market data using Business Analyst. Along with the faculty, city officials and developers were involved in reviewing student’s work progress.
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