The Foshee brothers are changing the face of Montgomery
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
The Foshee name has become synonymous with downtown Montgomery loft apartments, but the 50-year-old company’s mainstay has actually been garden-style apartment complexes.
The latest project – The Morgan at EastChase – is indicative of that past that included designing and building. That’s a $20 million, 216-unit project that was scheduled to start in February. It will take 14 to 16 months to complete, said John H. Foshee, an architect who owns the general contracting division of the Foshee Companies.
“We typically do apartments of this kind,” he said. “Garden-style has been our bread-and-butter for 30 to 35 years.”
Foshee Design & Construction has built different phases of the 288-unit The Reserve at Billingsley Place Apartments; phases at the 272-unit Saddleback Ridge; and the multimillion dollar Christchurch.
Golson M. Foshee, who owns the management company division, said: “I collect the rent and pay the bills.” The company was founded by their grandfather, John M. Foshee, and was later operated by their father, John M. Foshee Jr.
The two younger Foshees work closely together from the company’s headquarters at the top two floors of the eight-story 40 Four Building, which has been converted into loft apartments as well as office space. The 1975 building has housed several banks.
The Foshees collaborate on ideas and develop projects together. “His job is to be ultimately responsible for designing and constructing and my job is to make sure people pay their rent,” Golson Foshee said. Foshee Management Co. oversees 3,100-plus units in Alabama and Florida and close to 2,000 of those units are in the River Region, including Highland Lakes in Prattville; Berry Hill Place, Broadstreet at EastChase, Corner Stone, Shady Oaks and Village Green – all in Montgomery.
They purchased land from Jim Wilson & Associates for The Morgan at EastChase project. “We have a great relationship with that family,” Golson Foshee said, referring to Jim Wilson III, chairman of the board and CEO of Jim Wilson & Associates and his brother, Will Wilson, president of the company. “They are great developers. Out of some discussion came the opportunity … we really like what they’ve done in East Montgomery.”
John Foshee said the land “was a good fit for us.” Although more opportunities will come up, the Foshees “feel like we have our hands full with what we’re doing,” Golson Foshee said. “We could take on more, but we’re excited about focusing on Lower Dexter (Avenue) for the next several years.”
They made sure that the community would get excited, too. The Foshees generated a lot of buzz themselves before unveiling their plans for Lower Dexter Avenue. They had a series of four questions on a billboard. Those questions were:
“What has four lanes but no traffic?
What can take you back and move you forward?
When does closing down open up?
Where is a square round?”
“We had a lot of fun with those,” John Foshee said. “The community gets behind those and has a good time with it. You should have heard the 30 that didn’t make the cut. There were some bad ones.”
All of that was the prelude to their bombshell announcement of a development they called the Market District, a family-friendly environment that on weekends would be closed to vehicles from One Court Square to Perry Street.
At the time, Golson Foshee called Market District, which was formerly known as Market Street, “a game-changer for Montgomery.”
John Foshee told Business Alabama: “Only when we decided to move our office from East Montgomery to downtown did we feel that taking on this project was the right move and was at the right time.”
The Foshees are investing $10 million to $15 million in the project. “We want to develop a culture of cool downtown,” Golson Foshee told Business Alabama.
“The concept for Market District was to have a pedestrian mall, but that also means concerts, car shows, farmer’s markets,” Golson Foshee said. “We had a guy propose a food festival that’s very specific and they have had a lot of success all over the country. We’re excited about planning events.”
Those events would most likely start in spring 2016.
They were considering posting a new series of questions to promote the latest project on Lower Dexter Avenue – District 36, which is the old Belk building. There will be 28 units at The Lofts at District 36, which is actually four buildings and another 15 loft apartments at The Lofts at District 72, another project involving four buildings.
The Foshees hoped to announce plans for new restaurants at Market District and other businesses in February.
There are no firm plans for the historic Winter Building, which was built in 1841 and was the site of the telegram that authorized firing the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. The site – three buildings in all – could end up being office space. “That will probably be the last thing that’s done and that will be a few years,” Golson Foshee said.
The Foshees are experienced in developing and managing downtown loft apartments, including Icehouse Lofts, Gun Store Lofts, Montgomery Fair Lofts, Adams Avenue Flats, Perry Street Flats, Printing Press Lofts, and with 35 loft apartments at the 40 Four Building, that adds up to about 125 units. The Lofts at District 36 and The Lofts at District 72 will increase the number of units to nearly 170 under management.
The District 36 project is expected to be completed in November and the Foshees hope to start work on District 72 in the summer and finish 10 months to 12 months after that. They own three properties on South Court Street and will develop those after District 72 unless a client would need to open a business sooner, they said.
The Foshees are in talks to possibly develop some other buildings as well, Golson Foshee said.
“One thing we are not going to shy away from is the history of the area: good, bad and ugly,” Golson Foshee said. “Everyone knows that there were some horrible things that we did to each other in this area (slave market). What I think God is doing through this development is to redeem the buildings; help the healing process between different people and parts of Montgomery.”
That is an important aspect of his vision of the pedestrian mall – all types of people talking, especially families. Golson Foshee, who has two young children ages 10 and 7, said the region has options for family-friendly environments, but not a family-friendly destination that offers multiple options. He talked about a place where parents are comfortable bringing their children for “good food, good culture, mingling with different folks in a pedestrian-friendly environment. We want to have a dozen restaurant choices and several entertainment choices.” He tossed out the ideas of an arcade or bowling alley. “I think the community will appreciate a G-rated event,” Golson Foshee said.
He also sees Market District as a great spot for a date night, where a couple “can sit outside and have a beer and enjoy the sunset; enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship in a pedestrian mall setting.”