The Lower Monroe development began with intent to provide an office building, an outlet mall, a child care center and a parking deck. The arrangement envisioned at that time placed the eight-story parking deck in the block directly in front of the Tower. The two massive structures side-by-side that way would have produced a dismal canyon between them, normal for New York perhaps, but inexcusable in the context of Montgomery’s minimal urban density.
All this was laid out at nerve-wracking planning meetings at the RSA, with David Bronner presiding at the head of the table over the three architectural firms in attendance. The PH&J team was most disturbed over the prospect and recommended that RSA employ an urban planner to guide the locations of the various buildings with special attention to the spaces and vistas between them. Bronner dismissed our proposal out of hand and allowed that he would consider the urban aspects himself.
Fortunately, the Gods intervened and the outlet mall proposal turned out to be a bust. No commercial developer could be found who would risk such an undertaking in depressed downtown Montgomery. Not even with the RSA providing the ground, the parking and the finances. That development left Doctor Bronner with an extra city block.
Thereupon a massive campaign was undertaken by RSA to persuade the Supreme Court to allow the deck to be moved one block west. It was a difficult sell because that placed the Court’s 100 parking spaces one block further away from the Judicial Building.
The move opened up a vista of the Tower from Dexter Avenue and was so attractive a prospect that even the Chief Justice could not resist. That block was totally clear except for the “Seed & Feed” on its southeast corner, and the “RSA Activity Center” was conceived for the southwest corner to balance the view. Perhaps all this urban planning was not done in a workmanlike manner, but it worked out anyway.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)