Kress architects, city development director reach out to Montgomery’s young professionals

View of the Alabama Capitol and upper Dexter Avenue from the roof of the Kress building

Members of EMERGE got a glance of what is hoped to become their next great hang-out spot within the next two years.

Today, the S.H. Kress building looks like what it is: An old, vacant building. But Mike Watson and his architectural firm 2WR have ambitious goals of turning the building into a mixed-use development with a performance venue, an eatery offering nearly 50 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches and pleasing views of downtown.

“You’re standing in – you may not realize it – what will soon become Montgomery’s premier, small-scale performance hall,” Montgomery Director of Development Chad Emerson said to the EMERGE group during the special presentation Wednesday.

EMERGE members take photos of one another on the roof of the Kress.

“In this building, you are going to see some cool concerts,” Emerson added.

Wednesday’s presentation, which was a special version of the development department’s “idea factory,” was an example of the city reaching out to the people who are statistically most likely to live in an urban setting.

“A strong young professional/creative class is the linchpin of what makes revitalization work,” Emerson said.

Watson’s development team reflects the project’s target group, including 2WR architect Johnny Veres. 2WR has not yet acquired the building, but it is still in that acquisition process.

“This is a dream project for me,” Veres told the group. “That says something about Montgomery – that we have something that’s keeping our young professionals here. Obviously, all of you are here for a reason.

Birds (or bats?) fly above the buildings on lower Dexter Avenue on Wednesday evening.

“We’re excited to make this place even more enjoyable for you,” Veres added.

But in case Wednesday’s presentation didn’t impress the city’s young professionals, Emerson left them with this:

“We have a lot of haters and a lot of doubters. They’re the ones who said AA baseball would never work here, that people would never eat or drink in an alley.

“There are a lot of folks who say (lower) Dexter Avenue will never become a premier destination. It’s about to become that because of projects like this and others.

“There’s enough negativity in this city to fill plenty barrels of negative fuel. We need positive thoughts.”

Go here to see what a developer in nearby LaGrange, Ga., did with the Kress building there.

2WR architect Johnny Veres talks about the proposed design of the Kress building. He is standing where the performance hall will be.

The rehabilitation of 78 Dexter Ave. is ongoing just across the street from the Kress.

About JillNolin

Jill Nolin is a city/county government reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser. She can be reached at or follow @jillnolin.
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One Response to Kress architects, city development director reach out to Montgomery’s young professionals

  1. Andrew Dexter says:

    Why is everything being said about YOUNG PROFESSIONALS?
    Mike Watson, the guy putting up the MONEY for the Kress Building (and the Alley Bar) is 60 YEARS OLD.
    What are the young professionals going to do? Shout “hooray”?
    There are plenty of OLD people in Montgomery who remember when Dexter Avenue was the “premier destination” for a 100-mile radius. That status existed for about 150 years, from 1820-1970.
    I hope Dexter Avenue revitalization works. I hope more OLD Montgomerians get a chance to participate in ways other than providing the capital.

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