In a Nation Searching for its Identity, Montgomery Matters

City of Montgomery Planning Director, Robert Smith (left) and Planning NEXT Senior Planner, Kyle May (right) poses at the July 2020 City Council meeting.
City of Montgomery Planning Director, Robert Smith (left) and Planning NEXT Senior Planner, Kyle May (right) posed at the July 2020 City Council meeting. City Council unanimously voted “yes” to the approval of the plan. The vote represented the culmination of a two-year process to develop the city’s first citywide plan in 57 years.

Earlier this month Montgomery, Alabama’s City Council voted 9 to 0 to approve the Montgomery 2040 Comprehensive Plan. This follows a unanimous vote of approval by the City’s Planning Commission. The vote represented the culmination of a two-year process to develop the city’s first citywide plan in 57 years.

The completion of the plan comes at a special moment in time for the city. The opening of the National Peace and Justice Memorial in April 2018, the election of the city’s first African-American Mayor, Steven L. Reed, and the broader societal awakening around racial inequality and injustice, are the special moments that have once again placed a spotlight on the city and its story. The Comprehensive Plan will transition into implementation during a particularly hopeful moment for the community.

Following adoption, energized Montgomery Planning Director, Robert Smith said, “We’ve got some unique challenges in Montgomery, no doubt, but this process has also revealed opportunities that we both knew of and never knew we had. I’m excited to get started on the Plan recommendations and to strengthen partnerships that will move the city forward. Our city can serve as a model for inclusive growth and reinvention but it’s going to take sustained commitment to the principles of our Envision Montgomery 2040 Comprehensive Plan.”

Envision Montgomery 2040, the process to develop the plan, was unprecedented in terms of community participation. More than a thousand people contributed to the plan and more than 500 attended the Community Summit in 2018 at Alabama State University. The high levels of diverse community involvement helped shine a light on the most pressing issues.  In any planning, it is so important to reflect the voice of the community. The citizens of Montgomery realized the significance of their opportunity to provide input and contributed in such meaningful ways.

For a community the size of Montgomery, the 57-year gap between plans posed a challenge. The city changed significantly over this period, adding 40,000 new residents, more than 100 square miles of land area, and diversifying the economy, demographics, and land use. Montgomery also played an outsized role in broader societal change through the 1960s, serving as a backdrop for numerous punctuating events of the American Civil Rights Movement. This includes the Selma to Montgomery March led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. These changes represent a remarkable transformation and take on increased relevancy now, while our nation struggles to move through issues related to racial injustice.

Montgomery has the opportunity to emerge as a leader in reconciliation and progress. Despite the obvious setbacks related to the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest, city leaders have demonstrated their support for the Envision Montgomery 2040 plan and are committed to building a movement around its realization. In a city that marked so many of the positive and negative moments in American history, Montgomery matters now more than ever.

The final adopted plan can be viewed here.