We don’t watch a ton of TV.
But one of the shows we did plow through (thanks to Netflix) was the popular ABC show “Lost.” If you’re unfamiliar with the show, we commend you. If you’ve seen the show, you understand how mass produced popular entertainment can pollute your mind to the point that when you are walking around downtown and you see a giant column of smoke, you think of the mysterious smoke monster.
This is the first view, taken August 2nd, from near downtown Troy State:
Then, I got a bit closer and this is the view from over by the Post Office:
Turns out, it’s some old abandoned apartments (housing projects?) that are on fire. I get a little closer, but it’s a bit dicey back there with broken glass and weeds and, well, a giant inferno. Firefighters have closed off several of the roads and there are hoses connected to hydrants and it’s overall quite a big scene:
Cruising the news the next day, I learn that the fires were actually intentionally set by the Montgomery Fire Department as a training exercise. They were/are called the Caroline Street Apartments and I certainly support our city’s first responders having the very best training possible, with realistic simulations and everything. But there’s also something sort of sad about these apartments downtown, owned now by the city, being torched. The article says they were/are an “eyesore” and that’s certainly true. I’d honestly be afraid to go up there and poke around too much. It’s not like the surrounding neighborhood is all that much better. But there was a time when people lived there, and the city didn’t own it, and it was nice to be downtown, by the river.
It’s sort of like those weed-covered lots, where there are brick retaining walls and sometimes even steps … that lead up to nothing. Downtown revitalization is a popular phrase, and progress has been undeniable. We love everything from the Biscuits Stadium to the Train Shed to the Urban Farm and the proposed Cypress Pond Park project. But there are also places like the Caroline Street Apartments and all of the mansions (and shacks) there on the hill — some hurting areas and neighborhoods that could use a grocery store and a park and some bike lanes. And we don’t see a lot of promise for the Chamber of Commerce slogan, “Montgomery: Come See Our City-Owned, City-Torched Downtown Abandoned Housing Project Fires.” And it’s not like the place is gone now, burned into ash that drifted away on the river breeze. It’s still there, still abandoned — just with scorch marks on parts of it now.
Somebody somewhere will be a better historian of the Caroline Street Apartments than me. Nobody is going to be living there again, although the property might get redeveloped into something good, provided the city can find a buyer with some money and a vision for downtown living.