Mayor Steven L. Reed, the Montgomery City Council and residents of Montgomery’s historic Peacock Tract joined leaders from Tuskegee University Tuesday to dedicate the site of a new urban agriculture innovation center coming soon to the historic Peacock Tract in west Montgomery.
“Good partners, like Tuskegee University, play a vital role in realizing our vision for a new Montgomery,” Mayor Reed said. “Our goal is to invest in and revitalize all of Montgomery, not just certain parts, and enhance quality of life across our city through creativity and collaboration. It’s just the start of our work to reduce food deserts and food insecurity in underserved areas of our community by increasing access to healthy foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Located at the former Carlton McLendon Furniture factory site, the Urban Agriculture Innovation Center sits at the intersection of Grady and Mobile Streets, a key site along the National Park Service’s Voting Rights Trail. Tuskegee University leaders expect it to become the College of Agriculture’s signature urban outreach and extension program. Community advocates and City development officials see it as the cornerstone to the City’s long-term revitalization plans for the Peacock Tract and Mobile Street area, which will also include new affordable housing, streetscape enhancements and public art guided by 21 Dreams Arts and Culture.
City of Montgomery Economic and Community Development Director Desmond Wilson grew up at 574 Grady Street in the core of this historic district. He remembers watching the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March wind past his front porch.
Wilson also recalls the vibrancy and resilience of the neighborhood, prior to wide-scale destruction of homes and businesses by construction of the interstate through the heart of this once prosperous community. Cherishing his role in working with partners, like Tuskegee University, to stimulate growth and new development, Wilson sees this project as an essential factor in the neighborhood’s successful revitalization.
Tuskegee University will prioritize collaboration with local community organizations and residents of the Peacock Tract. The project calls for a public dialogue series to help foster a better understanding of residents’ needs and desires. Building upon this input, TU’s Cooperative Extension agents and leadership from the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center will offer programs to assist the community in food security, community development and education. The Center will also improve quality of place as designs call for greenhouses, solar-powered agriculture systems and demonstration gardens featuring flowers, herbs and fruit trees — what the TU team describes as the synergy of agriculture, art and design.