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A new day ahead: Residents of all ages help plan the future of a new Southtown Court

The caption can say: Residents of all ages participated in planning the future of a new Southtown Court.


Residents of all ages are participating in ongoing planning for Southtown Court and the greater Southside neighborhood. The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) continues to host planning and community information meetings.


More than 30 children gathered for a recent session at the Southtown Recreation Center to offer their ideas for what is needed to enhance life in the neighborhood. The gym was transformed into a workshop filled with photographs, posters and giant sheets of blank paper where the young planners were guided in a workshop to design their new neighborhood.


The housing authority is seeking a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhood grant to transform the World War II era complex into a mixed-use, mixed-income community. HABD seeks to repeat successful revitalization efforts at Park Place downtown and Tuxedo Terrace in Ensley. Before any application is made or physical changes are begun, the housing authority is seeking the input from those most affected by the initiative. HABD will make its application in early 2016.


“Community participation at every level is essential as we envision a brighter future for Southtown,” said Interim HABD Executive Director Dontrelle Foster. “These series of meetings ensure that we as planners and administrators have the interest of our community at the forefront of everything we do and every step we take.”


With ideas focused heavily on modern housing, improved public facilities and access to nearby amenities, the young residents shared much of the same vision as previously expressed by the adults. A renewed Southtown is expected to deliver a strong positive impact throughout the surrounding community. HABD encourages Southtown residents, neighbors and all stakeholders to participate and take ownership in the community-wide conversation and planning sessions.


“It’s really important that they be involved in the process, and we get their input in making their lives better,” said Adam Rosa of Camiros, an HABD consultant facilitating the community conversations. “It’s not just a plan for Southtown Court. It’s a quality of life plan.”


Adults were encouraged to prioritize their needs in an exercise using “Southtown Neighborhood Bucks,” where they dropped money into buckets labeled with specific improvements. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded as residents spent several minutes lingering over each choice. In addition to a physical overhaul of the property, the HABD plan includes increased partnerships with nearby institutions for educational opportunities and career placement. The housing authority is preparing to release its draft plan for Southtown.


“It’s just as important as the physical part of the plan,” Rosa explained. “This plan has to stand on its own two feet, with or without the Choice money.”


Southtown intersects at one of Birmingham’s busiest corridors, which presents opportunities for both residents, nearby business and educational neighbors, officials said.


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