RSA Plaza – The Drop-Off Curb

Drop Off Curb

A Sighting Down Union Street Reveals the Drop-off Curb Protrusion Finally Permitted by Mayor Folmar; the Statehouse Protrusion Can Be Seen in the Next Block.

As might be expected, the RSA Plaza and the ACC grandeur made the original RSA office building appear rather drab by comparison.  As a result, Dr.  Bronner had us upgrading the original building even before the last hammer fell at the Plaza.  We told Dr. Bronner that a significant problem with the l975 building was a lack of foreground.  “You put too much building on too little ground,” we told him.

One solution involved deleting two or three parallel parking spaces directly in front of the main entrance and widening the sidewalk into the street at that point.  This was the same technique used at the Statehouse in the very next block of Union Street, at the County Administration Building, and even at the RSA Plaza.  Thus there was ample precedent to create a “drop-off” zone in front of a major building.

I went to see the Mayor, hat in hand, to get permission.  Mayor Folmar growled, “Hell no, the City can ill afford to lose two valuable parking spaces”.  On hearing this, Bronner flew into a rage.  “I’m building a thousand car parks for the City with these two decks, and he won’t even let us have two lousy spaces on the street!” he exclaimed.  I carried that argument back to the Mayor with a second request, and again was refused.

Then Bronner wrote to Emory Folmar’s brother Jimmy, pointing out Emory’s obstinacy, and asking help in influencing the Mayor.  His Honor took extreme umbrage at this step and sent word of his outrage.  Months went by and our plans were developed showing a drop-off protrusion into Union Street, a feature for which we still did not have permission of the City.

Then on May 3, 1991, just before the plans were to be released for bidding, Bronner called me to his office, and presented me with a letter to Emory.  I was to put it on PH&J letterhead and send it as my own.  The letter was slightly contrite, but the last sentence was the key: “…and thereby encourage his (Bronner’s) continued interest in downtown Montgomery.”  The letter was masterful, carried a veiled threat, and won the day.  Three days later we received the Mayor’s handwritten note that he would approve our plan, but that the RSA drop-off had better not stick out even one inch further than the nearby Statehouse sidewalk protrusion, and that he, Emory, would personally sight from one to the other to be sure it did not.

-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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