Montgomery Metamorphosis: Downtown Montgomery Revival

Downtown Montgomery looks to be on the verge of a revival with forward-thinking brothers Golson and John Foshee helping foster historic Dexter Avenue redevelopment with their newly opened 40 Four Building loft and commercial midrise. The Foshees say they and their partners alone are investing up to $5 million in the eight-story 40 Four.

The Foshees are also investing in several nearby Dexter Avenue buildings, all part of the newly rebranded Market District, which they will redevelop in part this summer. The Market District will include additional lofts, commercial space and restaurants. After redevelopment, the area will be limited to pedestrian traffic on the weekends. “We’re foreseeing a family-friendly destination with all sorts of fun events, including car shows, ” Golson Foshee says.

Home to several banks over the years, the refurbished 40 Four Building originally opened in 1975 as First National Bank. It’s now the new headquarters for Foshee Management, including Foshee Residential Management Co., run by Golson Foshee, and Foshee Design and Construction, run by his younger brother, John.

“We’re enjoying being downtown, including taking advantage of the great views. And we could have never otherwise afforded the marble and mahogany finishes they could back in the ’70s, ” Golson says.

The Foshee brothers’ father, who still has some involvement with the family business, is a retired general contractor and property manager. “We’re the third generation, ” Golson says of his brother, who is an architect, and himself. “Our grandfather built and sold apartments in the 1970s. Then my father built and sold until 1990, when he held on to his first property. Managing other people’s properties soon followed. Now we build and manage our own properties and others, including about 2, 400 to 2, 500 units.”

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In addition to the Foshee enterprises on the seventh and eighth floors, the 40 Four Building houses 35 lofts on its fourth, fifth and sixth floors, each unit to be leased for about $700 to $1, 100 per month. A new restaurant and several commercial businesses are planned for 40 Four’s ground floors. “Pricing was carefully considered and targeted in the central range of what’s available downtown, ” Golson says. “The lofts are designed to appeal to young professionals, empty nesters, those with second homes and retirees from Maxwell Air Force Base.”

Although the building is several decades old, the newly refurbished loft spaces look completely modern, with the latest finishes, including granite countertops and up-to-date lighting fixtures.

“The biggest strengths of the building are the magnificent windows and the views of the city through these windows, ” says architect brother John. “Although this building is small in comparison to buildings in larger cities, the height of this building affords views of Montgomery that are incredible. The layout of the apartment units allows each tenant to gain a unique perspective.”

Because the building was originally designed for banking services and administration, the conversion required extensive work. “One of the major hurdles for the architecture and construction of this building is that it was never intended to be anything except a cubicle-filled office building, ” John says. “The infrastructure of the plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems had to be completely reworked in the conversion of the building into multifamily dwelling units.”

The Foshee brothers are also behind additional loft and commercial redevelopment along Dexter Avenue within several blocks of the Court Square fountain, as well as the rebranding of the area as a dining and entertainment destination called the Market District. “We want to develop a culture of cool downtown. Our goal is to keep more of our young people interested in living in Montgomery, as well as drawing others to our area, ” Golson says. “The future health of our city depends on it.”

While the Foshee brothers, who both graduated from Auburn University, returned to their hometown to settle down and work, many of their contemporaries have established themselves elsewhere, Golson laments. “Montgomery invests a lot in educating their young people, but so many leave because they don’t see a lot going on here, ” he says. “By improving downtown, we’re giving young people and others another reason to stay.”

Momentum has definitely begun to build for Montgomery’s image as a happening place. The city is now promoting itself with a “Capital Cool” campaign, as well as making downtown redevelopment strides. The Alley, another relatively new entertainment district, has also helped create interest in downtown.

Mac McLeod, director of business and commercial development for the city of Montgomery, says the Foshees and several other developers’ investments — in addition to city efforts — are helping redefine Montgomery. Dexter Avenue in particular, including the planned Market District, is expected to be transformed by next March, the 50th anniversary of the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. The city will be improving infrastructure and streetscaping all the way up Dexter from the fountain to the Capitol building at the top of the hill.

The new loft midrise and the Market District will be signature features of reinvented Dexter Avenue, which had fallen into disuse and disrepair in recent decades as downtown retailers moved to outlying malls. “The Foshees are an integral part in our downtown redevelopment efforts, and were the ones that approached the city of Montgomery with the idea for rebranding the area, which we eagerly embraced, ” McLeod says.

Investing in the 40 Four Building and the Market District has been a leap of faith, but one that both Foshee brothers think will pay off handsomely. “There is inherent risk with development in general, and we try to be as careful, conservative and calculated as possible, ” John says. “Only when we decided to move our office from East Montgomery to downtown did we feel that taking on this project was the right move and was at the right time.”

Most of the Foshees’ rental developments are in suburban areas, but they began taking a greater interest in downtown in 2005 when a client asked them to manage 10 loft spaces. With the new lofts they will be managing a total of 150 lofts downtown.

The Foshee brothers say they plan to continue to invest in downtown Montgomery because they believe its revival will be good both for the community and for their bottom line. “There’s a real sense of excitement about what the future has in store, ” Golson says. “They want a vibrant city to live, work and play in.”

Kathy Hagood is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Homewood.

text by Kathy Hagood • photo by David Bundy

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