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Book details
  • SubGenre:History / Contemporary
  • Language:English
  • Pages:174
  • Hardcover ISBN:9781667860763

History of the 60 Commercial Buildings Developed by

The Retirement Systems of Alabama

by Mark Fagan

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The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) is a defined benefit plan for public teachers and public employees in Alabama. The RSA manages around $54 billion and has investments in 24 countries and in all asset classes. The RSA has developed $2.8 billion in commercial real estate buildings. This book is an historical account of the commercial real estate developed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) as RSA assets.

The RSA has constructed or refurbished 60 commercial buildings since 1977. These 60 buildings include 15 office buildings, 1 industrial building, 14 parking decks, 8 hotels/6 spas, and 22 golf buildings. The total space of these buildings is 15 million sf (11 million sf in Alabama and 4 million sf in NYC). The total space in Alabama includes 3.6 million sf in office buildings, 3 million sf in parking decks, 2.2 million sf in industrial buildings, and 2.2 million sf in hotels and golf buildings. The RSA has developed 10 buildings, 10 parking decks, and 1 hotel/convention center in Montgomery from 1977-2011.

In 1993, the RSA acquired the largest private office building in New York City and then renovated it. The RSA built 20 golf clubhouses/maintenance buildings and purchased 2 more from 1992-1999. The RSA developed 5 hotels (in addition to the ones in Mobile and Montgomery) around the RSA's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail) in Alabama from 1999-2008. From 2006-2016, the RSA developed 4 office buildings, 4 parking decks, and 2 hotels in Mobile.


The major topics for this book are the RSA and the RSA's investments, the RSA's 55 Water Street building in New York City, the RSA buildings in Montgomery, the RSA buildings in Mobile, the RSA buildings and hotels on The Trail, and the RSA's Railcar Plant in The Shoals (Alabama). There is a chapter on each major topic with chapter one, an overview of the RSA and chapter 7, the conclusion. A summary for each chapter follows.

Chapter 1, The Retirement Systems of Alabama, provides an overview of the RSA mission, membership, benefits, contributions, income, and funds under management. The RSA's investments and asset classes are detailed including alternative investments and economically targeted investments.

Chapter 2History of the RSA Building at 55 Water Street in New York City, is the history of the RSA's 55 Water Street building in New York City. It covers the initial developers, how the RSA acquired the building, and the RSA's renovations since 1993.

Chapter 3History of the RSA Buildings in Montgomery, details the RSA's office buildings, parking decks, other buildings, and parks in Montgomery. The history of how each building came about and all development issues.

Chapter 4, History of The RSA Buildings in Mobile, covers the RSA's office buildings and parking decks in Mobile. The history of each building includes the RSA's agreement to develop the building and previous uses of the building if purchased by the RSA.

Chapter 5History of The RSA Hotels and Buildings on The RTJ Golf Trail,  gives information on the buildings developed by the RSA on The Trail. It also covers the RSA hotels.

Chapter 6The RSA’s Railcar Plant in The Shoals, explains the RSA's railcar plant in The Shoals. The detailed history and description of the building is presented.

Chapter 7Conclusion for The RSA’s Buildings,  provides summarizing information and tables on all of the RSA's buildings, parking decks, and hotels. There is summarizing information on the cost to the RSA for developing the RSA commercial real estate.

Sources for This Book

This book was compiled from the RSA newsletters, the RSA reports, and media reports about the RSA’s activities. I began receiving weekly newsclippings about the RSA in 1992 as part of my involvement with promoting The Trail. Since 1991, I witnessed the development of the RSA buildings on The Trail, Montgomery, Mobile, and The Shoals. I visited each one of the RSA’s commercial real estate properties and photographed most of them.

Dr. David G. Bronner, CEO of RSA, shared with me his copies of The Advisor (the RSA monthly newsletter) and RSA Annual Reports dating back to 1974. He allowed me to review his 64 books of press clippings dating back to 1973. We discussed activities at RSA for developing the RSA’s commercial real estate assets. I interviewed some of the RSA staff members for information for this book. I used the knowledge I acquired about the RSA’s commercial real estate while writing articles and books about these RSA assets. I included information from the late Charles Humphries of PH&J architects (worked on 6 RSA buildings and 2 RSA parks) that was compiled by his grandson, Cyle Conoly.

I searched the databases for historical newspapers and reviewed newspaper articles from 1850 to the present about the RSA’s commercial real estate assets. Below is a list of the specific newspapers with articles about the RSA’s office buildings and properties before development by the RSA: The Alabama Beacon (Montgomery, AL); The Cahaba (AL) Gazette; The Vicksburg (MS) Daily Whig; The Natchez (MS) Weekly Courier; The Mobile (AL) Daily Times; The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune; The (New Orleans, LA) Times -Democrat; The New Orleans (LA) Republican; The Mobile (AL) Daily Tribune; The Jacksonville (AL) Republican; The Baldwin (SL) Times; The Montgomery (AL) Times; The Birmingham (AL) News; The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser; The Fairhope (AL) Courier; The Foley (AL) Onlooker; The Chicago (IL) Tribune; The Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram; The Alabama Journal (Montgomery, AL); The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer; The Robesonian (Lumberton, NC); The Pensacola (FL) News Journal; The Atlanta (GA) Constitution; The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN); The Alexander City (AL) Outlook; The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY); The Standard Guage (Brewton, AL); The Leighton News (Leighton, AL); The Park City Daily News (Bowling Green, KY); The Huntsville (AL) Times; The Jackson (TN) Sun; The Mobile (AL) Journal; The Macon (GA) News; The Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, TN); The Birmingham (AL) Post Herald; The Mobile (AL) Press Register; The Associated Press; The Anniston (AL) Star; The Magnolia Messenger (Mobile, AL); The New York (NY) Times; The London (England) Daily Telegraph; The Baltimore (MD) Sun; The San Francisco (CA) Examiner; The National Post (Toronto, Canada); The Courier (Waterloo, IA); The Daily Times (Mamaronek, NY); The Daily Item (Post Chester, NY); Fort Myers (FL) News-Press; Hartford (CT) Courant; Newsday (Hempstead, NY); The Los Angeles (CA) Times; The Statesman Journal (Salem, OR); and Newsday (New York, NY).

Statement on the Photos in this Book

Each photo in this book has a caption underneath with the photo credit in parentheses. I took many of the photos in this book. The RSA provided many of the photos in this book. Historical photos in this book came from several newspapers, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the University of South Alabama, Troy University, The Mobile Public Library, and The Fairhope Single Tax Corporation. There are photos from some of contractors who worked on the RSA buildings as well as some from Google Earth.

About the author

I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in psychology and a minor in economics at Jacksonville State University (JSU). I received my Master's in Social Work (MSW) Degree with an emphasis on psychiatric social work practice in 1977 from the University of Alabama (UA). In 1981, I received my Doctor of Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy, Planning, and Administration and a doctoral minor in Human Resources Management in the School of Commerce and Business Administration at UA. In 1981, I began employment at JSU as an Assistant Professor of Social Work in the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

I joined a multi-disciplinary team from JSU from 1985-1989 to produce individual reports (economic best-fit analyses) for 13 counties and municipalities in East Alabama. I was the contributor for retirement development as a strategy for economic development for these rural entities. I lobbied for the development of a statewide program to attract retirees to Alabama and was released half-time from JSU from 1988 to 1992 to assist in the implementation of this initiative in the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). I assisted in providing technical assistance to 94 local communities for developing local efforts to communicate with potential visitors and retirees. I advocated for advertising and lead development as well as brochure development and Retirement Guidebooks for Alabama communities. I assisted many local communities with their organization for implementing retirement development efforts.

The (RSA) launched in 1990 a series of public golf complexes to attract tourists, attract retirees, and attract industry to Alabama. It was named The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail). In 1990, ADECA began to recruit developers of large retirement resort/communities to develop planned retirement communities in Alabama. I met with Dr. David G. Bronner, CEO for RSA, in 1990 to see if the RSA would finance a large retirement community (2,000 acres) in Alabama. Bronner agreed with the strategy and encouraged recruitment of such companies as Del Webb in Arizona and Cooper Communities in Arkansas. ADECA's efforts were not successful at getting a large developer to locate in Alabama, but development of The Trail ensued instead.

I have assisted the RSA since 1992 with The Trail. This work includes negotiations for 3 sites; projected economic impact studies for 5 sites and access roads for 4 sites; booklets on RSA's 2 resort communities; 35 articles; 11 professional presentations; 17 topic encyclopedia entries; 24 news stories; 10 TV programs; and 4 radio programs.

I was awarded tenure at JSU in 1986 and Professor in 1992. I retired from JSU with 32 years of service which included teaching 13 different courses, serving as Social Work Program Director and Department Head for Social Work and Sociology for 14 years, and serving as a Consultant to JSU's CED for 23 years. I assisted JSU with hosting the American Association of Retirement Communities for five years. I was awarded Professor/Department Head Emeritus at JSU in 2012.