Right up front I admit that our dealings with the City on this round ran much smoother than before, especially with our supposed champion and liaison, Roy Boudreaux, in the equation. However, that does not say that things ran perfectly.
Because the Union project was in the initial thrust of the Monroe Street development, it benefited greatly from the new city attitude. Yet, even the Union work encountered a few “Emory episodes”. The first one was a fight over parking deck size. As noted earlier, Emory made a terrible mistake in allowing the huge Persons Building to be erected with no parking provisions, and its occupancy created a parking nightmare in the zone behind the Capitol. Thus His Honor, knowing the Union would be erected adjacent to the Persons Building, was standing ready to demand every space stipulated by the zoning ordinance and then some, as if to alleviate his earlier faux pas.
On the other hand, Dr. Bronner was still seething about the oversized parking deck demanded by the City for his Alabama Center for Commerce (ACC) building. You should recall that Folmar had extracted from the RSA the full measure of the zoning code on that deck, despite our protestations that the code was flawed and demanded too many spaces in that application. By 1992 the ACC was occupied and it was obvious that nothing but pigeons would ever occupy the top three levels of the ACC parking deck. Bronner was looking for a quid pro quo.
The two Titans, Folmar and Bronner, went at it through their emissaries, and Folmar must have blinked first, because the RSA was allowed to build a reduced size deck. I think Bronner threatened to go public with the pigeon roost story, and Emory and the Board of Adjustment caved in. We received a waiver for 891 parking spaces in August of 1992, but there was no cause for gloating–the RSA was still required to build a six-level parking deck of some 300,000 square feet to serve the Union.
The old codger, Churchill Marks, was still chairman of the board which officially granted the variance. Churchill was incensed over the fact that all the RSA decks already built were arranged for private parking and he was not allowed to park in them. Ergo, his letter of waiver for the 891 spaces contained a codicil which demanded RSA go back and provide public spaces in its Plaza and ACC decks. The RSA ignored the codicil, but Churchill never forgot, and yours truly got burned over the issue some years later when I appeared before Churchill and his Board of Adjustment on some other RSA matter.
Later, in a second episode when our plans for the Union were nearing completion, we received word that the Mayor was reneging on an earlier approval by the City of our proposed drop-off curb protrusion directly in front of the Union Building main entrance. It was the exact same design device that had been employed in front of the RSA Plaza, the Alabama Center for Commerce, the Alabama Statehouse, the RSA Executive Building, and the County Administrative Building. And it was the exact same fight that had gone on between Bronner and Folmar previously. Likely as not, Bronner threatened to pull the plug on the whole RSA investment over the threat, and Folmar folded again.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)