Mayor Bell touts progress and growth in ‘State of the City’ address

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Birmingham Mayor William Bell delivers his “State of the City” address to residents at the Pratt City library. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Birmingham Mayor William Bell delivers his “State of the City” address to residents at the Pratt City library. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

Hours after delivering his “State of the City” address to a Kiwanis Club luncheon downtown Birmingham, Mayor William Bell presented the speech to community members at the Pratt City Library.

The mayor outlined a laundry list of accomplishments from neighborhood growth to public improvements to technology.

Technology is an area that has seen growth with Innovate Birmingham and the Innovation District, he said.

“Birmingham is experiencing a unique surge in energy around enhancing the city’s innovative capacity primarily centered on the Innovate Birmingham initiative,” the mayor said. “This is a public and private partnership to advance strategies and to develop resources for the city that address physical, financial and human capital needs.”

He said the city is partnering with Jefferson County and working in collaboration with UAB and Alabama Power for submitting A Smart City – Challenge Grant.

“We would like to create a ‘Smart City’ vision and build an action plan for the better future of our city,’” the mayor said. “This will tremendously help us in achieving progress in social, economic and environmental sustainability.”

He announced that Birmingham Innovation will construct a 100 gigabyte network to bring more internet accessibility to the city.

“You have a lot of corporations that want to make Birmingham a Smart City, that want to have that interconnectivity so we can have technology for the betterment of all of our citizens,” he said. “No matter where a child is they will be able to connect to the internet.”

That will also bring more businesses to the area, he said.

“I want them to bring this network because I want you to be able to get free internet service,” he said at the Pratt City library. “I want the least of our communities to have the access.”

The mayor said the city has seen growth in the neighborhoods where building permits are up 11.6 percent and total valuation of construction is up by 50.7%, “an unprecedented increase,” he said.

One billion dollars in construction projects are underway in the city proper, “our largest number in the history of the city” and community Safe Rooms are being built in in Smithfield Estates, North and Central Pratt and Sandusky totaling $3.4 million.

He also touched on proposed developments at the Crossplex Village and Ensley Public Safety Complex and addition to the revitalization in Woodlawn, Avondale and East Lake.

The mayor said he was pleased with TopGolf expanding Uptown North, a Publix in District 7 which is “beginning to address the food desert issue that has plagued the city” and downtown developments that include the renovation of the Pizitz building, a new Publix and the Intermodal terminal.

Bell said he was also please by the job creation under his watch.

“The metro region has seen an increase of over 14,400 jobs under my administration, jobs like Kamtek, LabCorp and Oxford Pharmaceuticals but also tech industry and starter corporations incubated at Innovation Depot,” he said.

The mayor also talked about the need for the community to help reduce violence citywide.

“There are too many illegal guns on the streets,” he said. “We have to find a way to combat that if we are going to fight violent crime in our community.”

He said his Violence Reduction Initiative “is not just a stick that you beat them upside the head with and say we’re going to arrest you. It’s the carrot that we put out there. There is a hotline that they can call to get the help they need.

“The police are going to do what the police do, they’re going to serve the needs of the citizens in terms of cleaning up things,” he said.