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Comprehensive Understanding of the City of Montgomery

Understanding Montgomery

In Fall 2012, Professor Jay Mittal’s Urban Economics class undertook a project on “Understanding the City of Montgomery, Alabama.” The purpose of the project was to teach students to develop a comprehensive understanding of cities, and to answer questions such as: why do cities exist, how do they function, and how do cities spatially grow and develop their urban spatial structures? Students documented historic evolution of the city and learned how location choices of housing and business locations are made, and how various market forces and public policies interact and form urban spatial structures. The City of Montgomery, Alabama was chosen as a laboratory case, and the City and its staff provided support for the project. This project was completed as a group exercise, and the outcome was a research paper and report with maps, illustrations and tabular data.

Urban Economics Comprehensive Understanding of Montgomery presenationThis project dealt with two geographical scales: at neighborhood scale and at city/metropolitan level scale. The city council district boundaries were used for the neighborhood level analysis. At this scale, a detailed investigation was conducted to understand the distinctive characteristics of neighborhoods for each of the nine city council districts in the city. Later, these neighborhood- level project findings were combined to analyze data at the city level. The project documented current conditions of all the nine city council districts from demographic, social, land use, and economic perspective. The analysis included population, racial composition, income, educational attainment, employment, housing characteristics, land use, zoning, business activities, and strategic employment locations. The class learned to establish potential causes of development at those locations and the cause of spatial growth patterns by identifying critical triggering points. The students compared spatial growth patterns within and between the neighborhoods and recorded critical events (such as the development of electric streetcar system, establishment of Maxwell Air Force Base, development interstate highways, establishment of an automobile company) and people (key visionaries) who might have brought critical changes in the urban characteristics and spatial organization of the city. The class produced ward-level and city-level reports and generated posters to document the study.