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City Scape

MHA Affordable Housing Plan 2040

This Synthesis Studio project is an outcome of the MCP program’s partnership with the Montgomery Housing Authority (MHA) on their Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CHI) grant. MHA received this $450K grant from HUD for planning the redevelopment of its affordable housing projects in Montgomery. MCP faculty Dr. Jay Mittal has been collaborating with the MHA since the inception of the grant application over a year ago and developed the studio projects with the MHA staff.

23 students in 4 groups worked for developing a 2040 housing development plan for the city of Montgomery with each group working on a specific project. Among 4 groups, 3 groups studied sites with existing residents and 1 group studied a vacant lot. This studio consisted of a detailed analysis of housing, allocation of funding, and relocation of residents with the promise of new development.

The final presentation was held at MHA with the staff and the County Mayor present. New ideas were highly appreciated and will be considered to address some of the key challenges faced by the residents within the City of Montgomery. Thank you to the Montgomery Housing Authority and Prof. Mittal for coordinating this project, and a HUGE thank you to the students for such a productive semester!

City Street

Peacock Tract Revitalization

The Spring 2020 CPLN 7200: Urban Design Studio was designed to provide a basic understanding of urban design and physical planning theory and practice to first-year Master of Community Planning students. Students learned the vocabulary, methodology, and techniques of urban design including urban form and scale, urban design measurements and metrics, and ways of thinking about and communicating the goals and objectives of urban design planning. The course also taught hand drawing and computer-based graphic skills required in the field.  The primary goal of the studio is to learn the programmatic process of urban design, but also developing design thinking skills to analyze and envision the city across scales; learning the design paradigm and its application in urban place-making; and developing graphic design and communication skills to express complex systems, interrelationships and environments through writings, sketches, and presentations.


Co-taught by Jocelyn Zanzot and Binita Mahato, the studio worked in the City of Montgomery, Alabama on developing a Neighborhood Urban Design Plan – Peacock Tract Revitalization on Mobile Street. The students worked directly with the City of Montgomery Planning, Economic and Development Staff. The students started by learning about Urban Design Plans, concepts, and the different ways of perceiving cities as Garden of Ideas. The studio had a field trip to Montgomery guided by the faculty and “More than Tours” giving students an overview of the history of Montgomery and its connection with the Peacock Tract. Thereafter, each student analyzed the given project circumstances, tested possible scenarios for future development and adopted the best possible scenario to create their individual revitalization plan proposals.  


The studio started as a regular studio course. However, due to the pandemic, post Spring break, the class was held online. The students presented their work to the Master of Community Planning faculty and the invited staff members of the City of Montgomery Planning, Economic and Development office.

Peacock Tract Revitalization

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.

Montgomery Synthisis Studio
Complete street

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 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 the city’s growth and development in the forms of housing, transportation infrastructure, and employment locations. 

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Peacock Place

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 classroom 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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