New Park road could be city’s connection to the future
August 1, 2011
It is only a two-mile segment of roadway, but this short road could represent a shortcut to a new high school and an explosive development that Montgomery officials envision for this portion of east Montgomery.
From the vantage point of today's struggling economy, it is difficult to imagine that new residential developments with the potential to accommodate 27,300 people at full build-out would be successful. City officials said they see the risk, but at the same time, they are focused on the potential -- including the construction of a public high school.
"It's just one of the risks that you take on, but it's a manageable risk," Mayor Todd Strange said Thursday.
The $6.7 million road project, more commonly known as the "connector road," started this week, with W.S. Newell as the contractor for the construction work. The road, which will become known as Park Crossing, will start on Taylor Road next to the Hampstead development and connect to Ray Thorington Road.
"We should start seeing visible progress weekly," Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes said recently
Over time, the four land owners in the area, Vaughn Road Developers, Wilson, Lowder and Alfa, will repay 80 percent of the connector road's costs to the city as they begin to develop their properties. The city will be responsible for the remaining 20 percent, or $1.3 million. The total cost of the project is $6.7 million, of which $5.6 million will be construction.
Ultimately, the total developer contribution would be $5.4 million. Wilson, which has already constructed a portion of the road on the Ray Thorington Road side, would pay the largest share, or $2.6 million. Alfa would pay $1.07 million; Vaughn Road Developers would pay nearly $1 million; and Lowder would pay $750,000, according to the base contract agreement. The repayment cost is based on acreage.
This is one of the projects funded through the city's $67.5 million bond issue. If the land is not developed, the city does not recoup that $5.4 million.
Downes acknowledged that the road would not artificially change the current sluggish residential growth, but he said the thought is that this would at least offer the opportunity for growth.
Strange said Thursday that even if the area does not develop, at least the road would improve the traffic flow.
A city within a city
There are nearly 4,000 acres of land that sit off of Taylor Road like a mostly untouched, undeveloped island. Most of the land is accessible only by foot.
But city officials see this as one of the next growth spots of the city -- and some would even argue that it is the next big thing for the city. The area is next to a mixed-use development, Hampstead, that has offered a different lifestyle for Montgomerians who embrace the ideals and close quarters of new urbanism.
City officials believe that it is conceivable that in the next 15 years this land could be home for 11,880 new houses and an additional 27,300 people. an economic impact study for the road supports that belief.
"If you took Prattville, picked it up and put it in southeast Montgomery, that's what it is," Downes said this week.
Downes added that this project allows for "logical, rational planned growth that would otherwise inch along at a very slow pace."
The connector road idea is not a new one. Former Mayor Bobby Bright wanted the road constructed when he was in office, but attempts to pull it off at the time were unsuccessful. The difference now is that the city is willing to front the costs and allow the developers to repay the city later.
"By building it all at once, you open the area up for multiple developments and open the area for diverse developments, whether it be commercial or residential," Downes said. "And you improve the speed of all this development, and finally, you improve the traffic flow."
"This really addresses many concerns of the area and (enables us) to have it done relatively quickly and at once instead of incrementally. It makes a lot of sense," Downes added.
A public high school
The growth in Montgomery has been occurring in the eastern part of the city for several years, but just how drastic that growth actually was did not become truly apparent until the U.S. Census numbers were released this year.
Because of dramatic growth in east Montgomery over the past decade, there is a disproportionate number of residents in several of the districts. In the most extreme cases, District 4 in west Montgomery has 15,258 residents, or 7 percent of the total population, and District 8 in east Montgomery has 31,683, or 15 percent.
Members of the Montgomery County Board of Education did not need the new population date to understand that a new high school was needed in east Montgomery. The board has been working seriously on the high school project since last year, and now funding has been identified and a site selected.
Now that contruction has started on the Park Crossing, the work should be completed within a year. That means, the road could be finished just one year before Montgomery Public School officials hope to open the new high school.
The school would be off of Park Crossing and back up to Hampstead. Once completed it would be about 13 miles away from the future site of the public high school in Pike Road. At this point, Pike Road intends to open a kindergarten through eighth grade school in the fall of 2015 at the Waters, a mixed-use development; it plans to add a high school within eight years.
Board president Charlotte Meadows said current plans for the new high school are to have the core of the building -- i.e. the office, cafeteria and gym -- created for 1,500 students and classrooms built to accommodate about 800. That way the school is positioned for future growth.
If growth happens faster, Meadows said, officials will have to figure out how to pay for additional space.
Article written by Jill Nolin of The Montgomery Advertiser
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