Category: City of Birmingham

Woodlawn: Change and Challenges Define a City Neighborhood

On one side of First Avenue North, Bayles Restaurant and Catering serves everything from thick hamburgers to lentil soup for a steady stream of residents, workers and even police officers. Across the street, other people flow into the soup kitchen offered by Grace Episcopal Church. A few blocks down at Woodlawn United Methodist Church, volunteers load boxes with meat, dry goods and vegetables for a regular food distribution to needy families.

You don’t have to look far to see both the success of redevelopment and the challenges that remain in Woodlawn.

The Health Community Assessment Tool compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ranks Woodlawn among the top tier of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods in business retention and economic health. The community ranks near the bottom on public safety and blight.

Neighborhood leaders say change is coming and Woodlawn has seen rebirth in recent years – thanks to nonprofits, public-private partnerships, and a community of residents who refuse to let their neighborhood die.

“We just had to stand up,” said Donna Hall, a former officer in the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association. Read more.

Parkers Will Be Able to Pay at Birmingham Meters Using an App

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to modernize its parking system, approving a three-year contract with ParkMobile, an application that allows users to pay for parking with their smartphones. The change, officials stressed, will add to, not replace, the coin-operated meter system used by the city.

ParkMobile will charge a 45-cent processing fee for payments made through its app; 15 cents of that fee will go to the city. Read more.

Senate Panel Discusses Confederate Monuments Bill

MONTGOMERY — A state lawmaker wants to increase penalties for cities that violate the state’s law protecting Confederate monuments, but others are concerned about creating financial burdens for smaller cities and the lack of an appeal process.

Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, said he introduced the bill in order to preserve the state’s history. “How can you tell the complete story by taking away, by whitewashing, by doing away with something that really you can learn something from it,” Allen said.

Allen’s Senate Bill 127 would increase penalties for violating the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act from a total of $25,000 to $10,000 a day. Read more.

Small Fraction of Students Qualify for Birmingham Promise University Scholarships

For urban students interested in college, tuition can be a major barrier. So when it was announced recently that the Birmingham Promise would offer a full tuition scholarship to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, many praised the partnership as a way to give eligible Birmingham graduates a much-needed financial boost. But there’s just one problem: most students aren’t eligible to apply for the scholarship. Read more.

High Court Rules Confederate Monument Outside Birmingham City Hall Cannot Be Covered, Fines City

UPDATED – The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the city of Birmingham had violated state law by covering a Confederate monument outside City Hall. The decision reverses a previous ruling by the Jefferson County Circuit Court and orders the city to pay $25,000 in penalties to the state of Alabama.

The monument in question, in Birmingham’s Linn Park, was ordered covered in August 2017 by then-Mayor William Bell following deadly riots surrounding a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia. The monument, then-City Council President Johnathan Austin contended, “celebrate(s) racism, bigotry, hate and all those things that the South has been known for.”

By covering the monument, Bell said he intended to “challenge” state law, specifically the just-passed Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which prohibits local governments from moving or altering historically significant buildings or monuments that are more than 40 years old without permission from the state. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument was first placed in Linn Park by the Pelham chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1905. Read more.

Birmingham Partnering With Bloomberg Philanthropies on Early Childhood Learning Program

Birmingham in October will be launching an early childhood program designed to increase interactive talk with children as a way to foster early brain development.

The Birmingham Talks program will serve 2,500 children, birth to 3 years old, across Jefferson County over the next three years.

The city of Birmingham is among five cities selected to replicate the Providence Talks program, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through its What Works Cities initiative. Read more.

Birmingham Public Library’s Central Building to Close Monday for New Staircase

The Birmingham Public Library’s central building will close Monday as construction begins on a long-awaited staircase.

“I think we can all agree that today has been a long time coming,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday during a press conference, drawing laughter from a crowd comprised mostly of BPL staffers and board members. “I thank each and every one of you for your patience. It’s been overwhelmingly tested.”

The stairs will replace a pair of escalators that extend from the building’s lobby to the fourth floor. Both escalators have been defunct — and roped off to prevent injuries — since December 2014.
Read more.

Getting by in Food Deserts: Mobile Grocery Stores, Neighborhood Farms Help Residents Find Fresh Food

Roland Washington checked off the names of his neighbors who had come to buy groceries at the mobile store that twice a month visits his apartment complex near Tarrant, an area of Birmingham that has few to no options for fresh food.

The mini crowd-control task for which Washington volunteers his time is managing the people who come to take advantage of the wholesale-priced fresh produce, meat and other food provisions sold on a first come-first serve basis. He makes sure no more than a few people enter the trailer at a time.

For Washington and his neighbors, that mobile grocery store is the difference between getting fresh vegetables and fruits or not. The Corner Market, the mobile grocery store run through a program of the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, is an initiative aimed at relieving the difficulties faced by people who live in food deserts. Food deserts are defined as areas where at least 500 people live more than half a mile from a full-service grocery store.

The lack of access to fresh food is a problem faced by people across the world. About 23.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Nearly half of them are low-income.

Closer to home, almost 2 million people in Alabama live in food deserts, according to a 2015 report on food access by the The Food Trust. In Jefferson County, that number is 205,657.

In Birmingham, 69 percent of residents live far enough away from a grocery store to make it difficult for them to obtain fresh food, Mayor Randall Woodfin told the City Council in a meeting this spring. He said part of all nine council districts exist in a food desert.
The Corner Market and other mobile grocery stores are one way communities are trying to alleviate the difficulties for people who live in food deserts. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Approves Healthy Food Overlay District

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to establish a “healthy food overlay district,” designed to make healthy food options more accessible for the approximately two-thirds of the city’s population that lives within food deserts.

The healthy food overlay district will cover areas of Birmingham defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “low-access census tracts,” where “a significant number (at least 500 people) or share (at least 33%) of the population is greater than half a mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store.” The final version of the ordinance also establishes a half-mile “buffer” around the overlay district, within which restrictions on dollar stores will still apply.
Read more.

Is Your Pet Peeve on Birmingham’s Planned Paving Map?

View Birmingham’s planned paving map.

The city of Birmingham has released a map showing plans for repaving roads in the city.

Roads shown in green are projects already funded in the city budget. The red streets are identified as priority projects but have not yet been funded.

The map allows you to zoom in to see details of any projects, or you can search for a specific address.

These plans are part of an ongoing $5.1 million repaving project. The roads in green are expected to be finished about November. Read more.