The history that has taken place on Dexter Avenue is significant for Alabama and for our country as a whole. The telegram that started the Civil War, providing orders to fire upon Fort Sumter, was sent from Dexter Avenue. The first electric trolley in the United States, called the “Lightening Route,” started on Dexter Avenue. It also served as the final leg of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. Dexter Avenue is the location of the Montgomery church where Rev. Martin Luther King preached, and it is the location of the Alabama State Capitol and Supreme Court Buildings.
By the 1970s, however, Dexter Avenue would fall into a period of significant decline and disinvestment. Despite becoming a national historic district in the mid-1980s, many of its buildings would be torn down. Others would be boarded up and stood empty for decades.
With a specific goal to spark revitalization and private investment, the City of Montgomery began to acquire many of the Lower Dexter Avenue properties. Starting in 2011, it then began to sell them to developers committed to renovations. By 2014, three were sold. By 2016, twelve different Dexter Avenue properties were sold by the City or were under renovation for new public space. In addition, other private owners on the block began to follow the City’s lead and invest in their buildings. In 2017, there has been an estimated $30 million of investment into the one, most historic block of Lower Dexter.
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Lower Dexter Revitalization Video Overview
Expecting the changes to come, we took the opportunity in 2015 to document the construction that was beginning to change the modern face of this historic street. Mayor Todd Strange and local historian Mary Ann Neeley share their views on the redevelopment in this short video.