RSA Plaza – Struggle With The City

Emory Folmar

Mayor Folmar

Even before the Plaza work began, there was this feeling that Dr. Bronner and Mayor Emory Folmar did not get along very well.  They were like two boy dogs in the same yard.  Bronner continuously complained in print and in speeches that the city downtown appeared dirty, rundown and overgrown in weeds.  He felt this seedy appearance was a turnoff to the big-time investors that were quietly coming through town to see him.   Bronner rarely missed an opportunity to get in a dig at the Mayor.

Emory found it difficult to strike back.  His best opportunity finally came when the RSA embarked on its 1988 construction program.  He knew that almost no group vocally supported Bronner in this venture; not the Chamber, not the Business Council, not the Governor.  Thus, Emory felt free to insist that this construction endeavor meet every rule, code and ordinance that could be applied.  Yours truly was the lightning rod; whipping on Bronner’s architect seemed to be as good as thumping Bronner himself.  I firmly believe that every single City Department Head had a note in his desk to screw Humphries at his every petition to them.

Perhaps all of this animosity directed toward PH&J and myself should not be blamed totally on Dr. Bronner, for I had crossed swords with Mayor Folmar on the County Jail and Courthouse projects just three years before the RSA Plaza began.

Before the Plaza, no State office building ever had to meet a literal interpretation of the City curb-side parking ordinance.  A clod of mud in the street along an RSA construction site brought an immediate rebuke from the Mayor himself.  Weeds on a construction site were an even worse sin and always elicited a telephone call from Folmar to Bronner to me to the contractor.

When we approached the City for permission to block off street parking touching the Plaza construction site, we were refused.  “This is a 7-story building” I exclaimed, “only l5-feet from the property line –parked cars cannot survive there.”  Their refusal was an extraordinary precedent but the City Building and Traffic Departments would not budge.  The job was bid with this question still hanging, and the contractor finally got permission; the City would grant it to him, but not to RSA.

David Bronner kept hitting back with his articles and speeches.  I had to read each one to see what he had stirred up next, to be able to anticipate the next blow to our project.  Bronner even gave parties with invitations which demanded every attendee bring the location of a burned-out streetlight so Bronner could harass the Mayor.

The August 1990 edition of the “RSA Advisor” featured an article demanding a “weed ordinance” for Montgomery, and a copy came to me with a note attached which read, “To help you with your relations with Emory–DGB”.  My dealings with His Honor finally hit bottom with the “drop-off  curb issue”, which is explained in another story.


-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Plaza stories. The rest can be found here.

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