City plans Riverwalk extension to Maxwell
The new lanes of Maxwell Boulevard are under construction. The road widening project, which is expected to be complete by August, is only the first step in planned improvements to improve the corridor to the base’s front door. (Air Force photo/Chris Baldwin)
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
2/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- As the Montgomery Riverwalk and downtown development progresses, the next phase of the plan may directly affect base personnel.
"The city's vision is for the eventual (extension) of the Riverwalk to connect downtown with Maxwell. Thus, residents at Maxwell will be able to walk or bike via the Riverwalk into downtown," said Tyler Caldwell, planner at the Montgomery Department of Planning and Development.
The extension is part of the larger revitalization and redevelopment of downtown. The Maxwell Boulevard construction, which is part of the initiative, is aimed at increasing vehicular access, efficiency and enjoyment.
"This reconfiguring of the boulevard will create a more desirable place to walk and drive, especially for those entering the base. There will be a raised grass median with sidewalks on both sides. Street trees will shield the pedestrian from the vehicles, and dedicated turn lanes will be integrated into the median," Mr. Caldwell said.
After contacting the Alabama Department of Transportation, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the boulevard project, which was moving quicker than expected, may be finished by August.
Mayor Strange offered his assurances that the security of the base would be a top priority during Riverwalk construction efforts.
"We will do nothing that compromises security in any shape, form or fashion. Anything we do will be in concert with the wing," Mayor Strange said.
Michael Allen, director of the Civil Engineering Squadron, said improvements to the area surrounding the base would provide more security.
"Once the area is developed the way the city wants it to be developed ... you'll have traffic, security and visibility. In my mind, I think it will be a much more secure area," he said.
The Riverwalk project is still in the early stages of development and will require the city to acquire a portion of land that Maxwell currently owns. To do this, the city and the base will have to enter into an agreement to trade properties.
"We can't just give them land, and they can't just give us land. There has to be an equitable swap. We are in the very early stages of trying to identify other parcels of land that would be of value to us," Mr. Allen said.
When the public planning process, known as a charrette, looks at the Riverwalk extension to propose new activities, entrances and routes, the city will be counting on Montgomery residents.
"The charrette will take place Feb. 28 to March 4, and public participation will be instrumental," Mr. Caldwell said.
City residents, as well as Maxwell personnel, have responded favorably to the ongoing renovations.
"The public has been very positive about the city's involvement on this corridor. Whether it is the removal of blighted housing projects or the improvements to the streetscape, feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive of the city's actions," Mr. Caldwell said. "Leaders at the base have been pleased with the city's commitment to working on the boulevard and holding the visioning charrette."
Beyond the current project, Mr. Caldwell said new and substantial improvements are in the pipeline. The city is beginning the process of public planning for the land surrounding Maxwell Boulevard. This will address the development of vacant land and spur redevelopment of occupied land.
"These planning efforts will create aesthetic and economic improvements for the corridor," Mr. Caldwell said. "The plan will create a vision for a beautiful and desirable Maxwell Boulevard community, along with a roadmap and timeline on how to build the vision. The community will be a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly area that maximizes adjoining assets: Maxwell, downtown, river and interstate."