Leaving a legacy, not a burden

By James Roberts, Senior Director of Neighborhood Development

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Without a will, many homes are left with no clear owner and become an heir property — a property that has been inherited by relatives of the last property owner.

The Problem

Heir property is one of the greatest contributing factors to blight in any medium to large size City, Mobile included.  Although most consider crime, poverty, lack of commercial development, and a high unemployment rate to be the leading contributors to blighted properties, heir property is the most significant.  While all cause the downward spiral of a neighborhood, the spiral begins with an heir property.

These types of properties are often not transferred properly or are transferred to multiple heirs. This is particularly a problem when the heirs include multiple generations and are long distance. The once vibrant home becomes forgotten, abandoned and unmaintained.

Whether it is having no will in place at time of death or having the best intentions of leaving each child with a piece of the house, heir property leaves open the door to cause a fight for the property, for heirs to withdraw equity and walk away, or for the heir with the least resources to move in because it is “free”. All of these issues, in turn, lead to higher tax defaults and deferred maintenance costs that put the property under water with no way back for the family.  The problem is also sometimes compounded when the heirs recognize the potential issues early on and choose to ignore them for too long because of the sentimental value placed on the property, usually relating to the former owner and what once was.  Too often, we see homes demolished because the heirs let the property go so far that there is no way back.

The Solution

Because this issue is so common, the City of Mobile is introducing a will program to reduce blight and revitalize our neighborhoods. Facilitated by Legal Services of Alabama, LLC, the “leaving a legacy” program will provide wills free of charge to those who qualify.  As this program takes shape, the City will require that all housing assistance applicants have a will in place by the time of assistance. The goal is to have as many residents with wills as possible so that the multi-generational loss of wealth is not passed down to future generations.

This program is one more piece to the puzzle to restoring our historic neighborhoods and leads us farther on the path to becoming to becoming the safest, most business and family-friendly City.

Why we go to Paris

by Mayor Sandy Stimpson

Why do we go to the Paris Air Show? One word: Jobs. You can’t be any more specific than that.

Mobile has a generational opportunity because of Airbus and we are 100 percent focused on making the most of that opportunity. Aerospace jobs are some of the most highly-skilled, highest paying jobs in the world, and the competition for them is fierce. To get them to Mobile, we must come here to recruit them.

Our mission is simple. Business is all about relationships. To be successful, we must build upon our existing relationships and while constantly working to establish new ones. The great thing about the air show is that it’s a unique opportunity to network with top-level executives from the world’s leading aerospace firms. Mobile has a great story to tell, and this is the best possible audience to share it with.

Just because Airbus is in Mobile and assembling planes, our work is not done. In fact, it’s just beginning. We are actively recruiting additional aerospace companies with a particular focus on potential Airbus suppliers. The good news is that the interest level is high, our brand is strong and our leadership team is in sync.

One of our primary targets is Airbus itself. Part of our strategy is to continue recruiting Airbus because there are tremendous opportunities for Mobile beyond assembly of the A320 family. The great thing about that is, nobody knows what we’re capable of in Mobile better than Airbus.

Our momentum is stronger than ever. The recent decisions by Amazon and Wal-Mart to build distribution centers in our community are being noticed around the world. The Port of Mobile already was named one of the fastest growing ports in America even before those investments. We are continuing to add jobs in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology. Tourism is growing, entrepreneurship is booming and, of course, our quality of life is improving every day.

We have a busy schedule of meetings at the air show and we have great support from our state delegation led by Gov. Kay Ivey. While I won’t give away anything to our competition, I am looking forward to engaging with industry leaders such as Airbus, ST Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation. We will make sure they know that Mobile is open for business.

We like to say that, when it comes to aerospace, even the sky is not the limit for where Mobile can go. Future generations will look back at this time in our history and hopefully be able to say that we made the most of the opportunity we were given. Paris is just a step on that journey.

 

4,000 reasons to say YES

When I joined Mayor’s Stimpson’s administration, the vision was very clear: we will become the safest most business and family friendly city in America by 2020. It is up to each staff member to ensure that vision is a concrete reality. Well, business is booming. Capital improvement is happening all over the City and we have put measures in place in our court systems to stop punishing poverty.

What about our young people?

Their voice was missing but not their actions. In 2016, we saw a spike in violent youth crime. Why? We asked young people from ages 14 to 24, and they all had the same response; we need activities and we want to work.  In October 2016, we created the Youth Empowered for Success (YES) Initiative. Through this initiative, we wanted to provide our young people not only what young people wanted, but by also looking at data to see what they needed to learn, grow and thrive including safety, economic security and outreach through education and mentoring. In order for our youth to be empowered, we as a City wanted our youth to constantly be reminded of our initiative’s core values: love, hope, respect, protection, opportunity, resources and most importantly fun.

How are we ensuring success?

Our recreation staff has been diligently working to ensure activities are in our community centers for the young and the young at heart. We have created an interdepartmental initiative where our fire and law enforcement recruits are engaged with the community as a part of their training. Once training is complete, every recruit will have already established relationships with the community they will serve prior to receiving their badge. We are consistently monitoring positive and challenging youth activity, and are looking at strategies to remove barriers and increase access to evidenced based approaches and best practices. You will begin to see YES Zones all over our City that ensure safe and youth friendly spaces and places. Our professional athletes are stepping up and providing summer camps that provide rigor to the body and mind. We are actively seeking over $3 million in grant funding to build the capacity of young people in our community.

Job growth in Mobile is increasing, and we want youth to be a huge part of the City’s workforce. Through the YES Initiative, we are providing opportunities for evidenced based job skill training and creating awareness that our youth are ready to work. We made funding available for businesses to hire two or more youth this summer. We have assisted the Mobile County Public Schools and the Mobile Housing Board in securing additional businesses to work with their summer job internship programs. We have also partnered with the City of Gulf Shores and Baldwin County hospitality companies to provide jobs for our youth in Gulf Shores. Not only are we assisting businesses and organizations with hiring young people, we are hiring more than 90 youth in our City departments as well.

Do kids really want a job?

Well, the City received more than 4,000 applications this summer! 4,000 reasons to say our youth want opportunities. Our youth want to be productive. 4,000 reasons why you should invest your time, talent and energy into their current potential and future possibilities.

So how can you say YES?

Hire a young person this summer. Ask the managers where you spend your dollars how they are investing in youth. Empowerment begins the moment you decide to take the first step and turn a vision into a reality. Use your power of one to continue the momentum of change. Say YES to the vision of ensuring success for our youth.

2017 State of the City

Think about it!  The population in Mobile hasn’t grown in over 50 years! For years, the City had been losing the race, lagging behind our peer cities despite the fact that we had the talent to win. The city’s cheering section, which is its citizens, had grown quiet—until something changed. Slowly at first, Motivated Mobilians became more engaged and started creating momentum all across the city. One of those individuals is Lynn Oldshue who created a video which tells the story.

Metaphorically, when applied to sports teams, momentum means the team is on a roll – a winning streak. Building upon our past economic development successes and our downtown revitalization, today, we are a more exciting city, one that is on the pathway to its destiny.  We are becoming a fun city – a place with fun things for you and our visitors to do; a place with multiple great dining experiences. Visit Mobile will build upon this as it tees up to double the number of visitors to the city. Just as the momentum can shift in a sporting event based on one play, Mobile’s momentum started gaining speed as more Mobilians started engaging in improving our city, and as they started talking enthusiastically about the great things happening.

In the beginning only a handful believed that we could unite as One Mobile to become the safest, most business and family friendly City in America by 2020. Today there are tens of thousands, both in and outside of the city, who think we’re heading in the right direction.

Our Build Mobile team brainstorming with the Innovation Team.

To become business-friendly, we started cutting red tape three years ago, and we’re still cutting it.  Two years ago, we started the City’s first robust, proactive Supplier Diversity program. And last year, we established Build Mobile as a City department to lay the foundation to serve everyone who wants to do business, create jobs and grow Mobile.   The Build Mobile team has already made major strides, but those strides in improvement will become gigantic steps over the summer as we complete the implementation of the Tyler software system and launch an online permitting application process that will provide customers more accessibility and transparency.

Welcoming back the Carnival Fantasy.

These changes combined with many others have signaled to companies that Mobile is open for business.  Last year, Carnival made its triumphant return and is now making weekly excursions from Mobile, all of which are filled to capacity.   Airbus delivered its first plane made in Mobile to JetBlue and closed out 2016 by delivering its 17th plane – one more than their goal for the year.   To date we have announced that 19 aerospace suppliers have located at Brookley.

Commissioner Ludgood and I celebrating after the Walmart Distribution Center announcement.

Recently, Walmart announced that its sixth import distribution center would be built in Mobile.  In and of itself this is huge. However, after building a similar distribution center in Savanah, 52 other companies followed suit. Surely, it’s just a matter of time before others will be announced in Mobile.

Our focus on becoming a destination for IT-based entrepreneurship has not gone unnoticed. Late last year, the White House named Mobile a TechHire Community — a designation given to cities committed to connecting its citizens to well-paying tech jobs.  Mobile is only one of 72 communities across the United States to receive this prestigious designation. When combined with our Advanced Manufacturing Community Designation, we are one of only 16 cities in America which have both designations by the US Department of Commerce.

Just a couple weeks ago, we hosted a delegation of top technology executives from Silicon Valley including founders and chief executives representing Reddit, iCracked, Bellhop, Weebly, Arka, and Fuel Capital.  The outcome of their interested in Mobile is hard to predict, but they were blown away by what we are doing and by our hospitality.  More will surely follow.Innovation and technology are two of the key pillars in our plan to create high-paying jobs in Mobile.  In this pursuit, City government will continue to be a facilitator and convener and work vigorously to create a city where smart, talented young people want to live.  We will embrace the culture of innovation just as we have embraced advanced manufacturing.

Leading the Silicon Valley executives on a tour of Mobile.

To become family-friendly, we had to improve the quality of life in Mobile. With leadership from our Bloomberg Innovation Team, we began understanding the process of revitalizing our neighborhoods. Because of their work, Mobile achieved a 12 percent reduction of blight in 2016, which will ultimately result in safer neighborhoods and increased property values across the city.

Crews pouring concrete for new sidewalks.

Through collaboration with the City Council, we spent $21 million on fixing broken infrastructure and improving our parks.  Mothers and fathers can finally push baby strollers down smooth sidewalks, and youth finally have access to better and more recreational opportunities. Just last week, after 30 years of being a dream, we finally broke ground on the Mobile Greenway—the  next step towards creating a 12 mile biking and walking path which will connect Langan Park to Downtown Mobile and Mobile Bay.

Breaking ground on the Three Mile Creek Trail.

Additionally, last year, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the City a $14.5 million Tiger grant that will connect to the Mobile Greenway and reconnect divided neighborhoods by creating bike and pedestrian lanes and landscaped medians. The initial design for this transformational, family friendly transportation project has begun.

The road to becoming the safest city has been the most challenging. After years of grossly underpaying our first responders, our police officers and firefighters finally received significant pay raises for their service.  Our officers are no longer driving worn out police cars. Our paramedics are driving new emergency sprint trucks and new ambulances.  And, our firefighters have safer, more modern gear plus new fire trucks.

We continue to transform our criminal justice system to ensure that we are punishing crime, not penalizing poverty. Our changes to Mobile’s Municipal Court system have been hailed by the Department of Justice as a model for the state and nation.

Announcing the Youth Empowered for Success initiative.

While the rise in teenage homicide is a national trend, we want Mobile to be the trendsetter that finally puts an end to these senseless tragedies. In January, we launched the YES Initiative – Youth Empowered for Success.  Our plan is to reverse the effects of violence and secure a bright future for all of our children.The YES initiative provides our most vulnerable youth access to available resources to assist in life and job skills training, and employment opportunities.  As this pilot program grows, we will reverse the trend of youth violence in Mobile and empower our youth to succeed in life.

Mobile continues to increase its momentum. Last Friday we announced a new Fire Chief.  On Monday, we announced a way for our police officers to spend more time on major crime issues.  Yesterday, we announced a partnership to connect our youth to jobs this summer in Gulf Shores.  Tomorrow, we will break ground on a new fire station in Crichton.   And on Friday, we will establish a new location for the 2nd Precinct bringing law enforcement closer to the community it serves in the Tillman’s Corner area.

Breaking ground on the new fire station.

It has been suggested that maybe we should rest on the 7th day.  Rest?? – maybe! but we will never stop thinking about or seeking ways to improve our city – every aspect of it and every part of it.

At the beginning of my remarks I asked you to think about it – to think about how Mobile has been for the last 50 years. No growth, but surrounded by growth. Now I ask you to think about the last 3 years and the momentum you have created.  I ask you to think about all that the City Council has accomplished. They care. They listen. Their hard work and your hard work combined with our collaboration with regional, state and national stakeholders and leaders has put Mobile right on the cusp of true transformation and growth. We’ll continue to take risks and try new things if it means a safer city; if it means more jobs; if it means a cleaner and greener Mobile.

Not only are we catching up with other cities, we are passing them. We are leading the pack in court reform, community policing, repairing infrastructure. The state of the city is sound and getting better. God willing and we live, we will eventually lead the state in job growth and population growth.  One Mobile will happen.

Joe Cain leading a second line on the new Celebration Trail.

Citizens aren’t just cheering us on anymore. They’re running with us – opening new businesses, mentoring and hiring youth and cleaning up our City. There are no try-outs to join Team Mobile. We have no plans to slow down. In fact, we’re picking up the pace. We have found strength in numbers, and as our momentum grows, so will our community.  As we do so, you will have opportunities that can’t even be envisioned. Your property values will increase, your businesses will grow, and your children will start moving back home because this is where they choose to live.

I don’t know if you picked up on the last lines of the video, but it said – “Mobile’s potential depends on you. Her potential depends on us. This city is ours and the best of us is still to come.”  Think about it! Let’s go get ‘em!

A Cleaner, Greener Mobile

by Bill Harkins, Executive Director of Public Works

The City of Mobile is entering a new era of litter and recycling through a multi-pronged approach.  This takes coordination and teamwork from City Departments, volunteers, organizations and citizens. By doing so, we’ll become a cleaner, greener Mobile and improve our quality of life. Why change?  After listening to our citizens, there is a strong demand to solve the litter problem and to offer more recycling opportunities.   Though on the surface recycling and litter may not seem connected, they are.  Research and common sense both show that the more we recycle, the less we litter.

For decades, the City has had a Keep Mobile Department (KMB) that has worked closely with the KMB Commission and KMB Inc. to set a foundation for recycling and litter efforts in Mobile.  Despite these efforts, our diversion rate from our landfills is only 6 percent.  The reported state average is 24 percent and the national average is 34 percent.  We not only want to finally meet the national average for recycling, we want to exceed it!

With this in mind, we developed an operational plan that increases opportunities for our citizens to recycle that are more accessible and less confusing.  This not only helps people move away from a littering mindset, but reduces landfill use and costs.

Mayor Stimpson announcing our new litter and recycling agenda

At the same time, we organized a more focused section of City employees to address our litter issues directly.  We combined two small City Departments, the Spill Crew and Keep Mobile Beautiful, renaming the department:  Cleaner, Greener Mobile.  We’ve also purchased specialized equipment allowing our employees to clean up litter at a faster rate.  This group is responsible for coordinating the City’s litter eradication work and implementing our robust recycling program.

Mayor Stimpson taking one of our new Vactor trucks for a spin. These trucks allow our employees to swiftly remove litter from our sidewalks.

There has been a lot of buzz about recycling in Mobile lately.  Yes, we are shutting down the old recycle center at Government Street and setting up multiple recycle drop off locations throughout the City.  Why?  The old center required citizens to sort their recyclables, and place them in separate bins or other holding areas at the center.  Our recyclables will now be delivered to a single stream material recovery facility just 57 miles away that uses state of the art technology to process all recyclables without manual sorting and separation.  Citizens will no longer have to sort recyclable materials.  Plastics, bottles, cardboard, paper and metals will be gathered in one container at home or in the office and then placed in a single stream bin at one of the drop off locations.  We’ve converted to single stream recycling at the old recycle center for several weeks and it’s been a huge success.

Accepted Recyclable Materials include Glass, Newspaper & Inserts, Cardboard, Magazines & Catalogs, Junk Mail & Envelopes, Paper Bags & Phone Books, Colored Papers, Aluminum Cans & Lids, Tin/Steel Cans & Lids, Metal Pots & Pans, Pet Food Cans, Plastic Produce Clamshells, Plastic Milk Jugs, Cereal Boxes, Foil Baking Pans, Cardboard Egg cartons, Dry Pet Food Bags, Pizza Boxes, Tin Foil, Plastic Bottles and Plastics No. 1-7.

We refocused our mission and goal to double the collection of recyclables within one year.   We will no longer be a redistribution center for items such as packing peanuts, old clothes, wooden pallets, plastic bags, and other items that are not recyclable.  We are directing our patrons to other organizations who will accept these items.  We are no longer holding and redistributing oversized pickle jars and other items that are now a part of the recycling stream.  Additionally, plastic shopping bags and coat hangers can be returned to your retailer.

As we demobilize the leased Government Street location, we’re establishing more drop off locations at the Western Administrative Center, across Museum Drive from the Mobile Museum of Art in Langan Park (bright green box on  map below).

We’ll also place a single stream drop off bin behind the Police Headquarters near Public Safety Memorial Park.  This one will be accessed from Pinehill drive (bright green box on  second map below).  Within months, there will be drop off locations in every Council District.

We’re excited about our new recycling and litter programs.  I encourage you to try the single stream recycling process at a drop off location near you. We think you’ll like it and you’ll be helping to clean up Mobile too!

Mobile Kicks Off Alabama Bicentennial

Alabama became the nation’s twenty-second state on December 14, 1819. During the course of the next three years, our state will support, create, and execute events and activities that commemorate the stories of our people, place, and path to statehood.

Mobile Alabama will be hosting the kick-off festivities for the Alabama 200 Bicentennial celebrations in honor of being the oldest city in the state. During 2017, communities are encouraged to create activities that “Explore Our Places.”  Mobile opened its first event at the Mobile Museum of Art with Alabama Artist of the Year, William Christenberry: Christenberry: In Alabama exhibit. Christenberry has long been associated with his native state, and his work has been consistently, and lovingly, collected over many years by each of Alabama’s major art museums. The exhibit honors William Christenberry’s creative lineage, his legacy, and the enduring love he had of Alabama.  This exhibit will run through June 4, 2017. Also showing at the museum is Contemporary Alabama Photography by guest curator Richard McCabe, Curator of Photography at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Mobile Delta: Glass & Light by artist Rene Culler.

On May 5, the community celebration will begin at 6:00pm at Mardi Gras Park with children’s activities including face painting and balloon art. The History Museum, Mobile Carnival Museum, and the Fort of Colonial Mobile will all be offering free admission during this time. The celebration will move to Cooper Riverside Park at 8:00 pm for a concert and fireworks on the river.

There will be many upcoming events this year as we continue to celebrate and encourage our community to Explore Our Places. Up next is Explore Mobile. On June 4th, the History Museum, Gulf Quest, the Exploreum and other downtown attractions along with the Mobile Botanical Gardens, Mobile Museum of Art, and Japanese Gardens at Langan Park will offer free admission as well. To keep up to date on all events and exhibits, go to Alabama200.org or follow us on Facebook at Alabama200.

 

Mobile is a home for the homeless

By Michon Trent, Senior Director of Civic Engagement

After joining the Mayor’s staff last year, I was tasked with working with homeless agencies in Mobile to gain an understanding of the role homelessness plays in individuals’ lives, as well as what role it plays in the continued growth and revitalization of Mobile.

I am now a member of the homeless taskforce, which is comprised of organizations, residents, business owners, members of the Mobile Police Department and other city employees who are concerned and want to provide the right services for our most needy residents.

The focus of the taskforce is to provide the best services our community can offer to the homeless. To do so, we identify who the homeless are in our community and establish what their needs are and what services exist to address those needs. This is an unprecedented effort to identify every available resource and bring immediate help in the most compassionate way to every homeless person who will accept it.

Recently, the taskforce led a communitywide point in time count in Mobile and Baldwin Counties. The purpose of a point in time count is to determine the number of sheltered and unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness in our area. Now, our community has the ability to measure Mobile’s homeless population.  Following the count, Project Homeless Connect offered free services for the homeless including medical, legal, veteran services, employment services and mental health.

Right now, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create an atmosphere of change that lifts people out of homelessness. To become more involved with ending homelessness in our community, I encourage you to seek out community service opportunities with our partner agencies including Salvation Army, McKemie Place and Penelope House. To become One Mobile, every citizen must be able to truly call Mobile their home.

2016 Year in Photographs

 

It’s hard to capture in words the momentum Mobile experienced in 2016. Because a picture is worth 1,000 words, I am presenting to you my year in photographs.

Carnival
Waving good bye to the Carnival Fantasy on its inaugural cruise from Mobile.
The Second Annual 1065 Music Festival with Party Animal
The Second Annual 1065 Music Festival with Party Animal
Airbus
Airbus delivers the first Mobile made A320 to JetBlue , the BluesMobile.
Riverside Ice
Lacing up my skates before taking a spin at Riverside Ice, Mobile’s first outdoor ice skating rink.
Celebrating the grand opening of Mardi Gras Park with the Excelsior Band.
Celebrating the grand opening of Mardi Gras Park with the Excelsior Band.
Mardi Gras
Leading a Mardi Gras parade with the MPD mounted unit.
Celebration Trail
Second lining down the new Celebration Trail with Joe Cain
YES
Launching YES (Youth Empowered for Success) – our plan to reverse the effects of violence and secure a bright future for all of our children.
That time I scaled a building for charity.
That time I scaled a building for charity.
Welcoming home Demarcus Cousins, Mobile's very first Olympic gold medalist.
Welcoming home DeMarcus Cousins, Mobile’s very first Olympic gold medalist.

Keeping the City Running

by Bill Harkins, Executive Director of Public Works

Even before the sun creeps over the bay, dozens of Mobile’s Public Works employees are providing key services to our citizens. Our Sanitation Department picks up household garbage, those tan and black garbage carts, at 72,000 residences each week.  Not to be outdone, our Trash Crew removes tree limbs and other such material throughout the City.  These are key pieces of the intricate mix of departments that work diligently to keep the City running.

Not only do our Trash and Garbage teams pick up and properly dispose of tons of material each day, they flawlessly adjusted their routes throughout the City a few months ago. As anticipated, we’ve seen a higher rate efficiency and productivity as a result.  This, along with the purchase of several new vehicles for these sections, has reduced overtime costs alone by over $70,000 this year.

public works

Other Public Works crews are patching holes in the street, repairing curbs, cleaning our 35,000 storm drains, sweeping streets and clearing ditches.  With agility, they move from routine work to emergency situations at a moment’s notice.  The worse the weather, the more work these professionals attack with the goal of helping Mobile function as smoothly as possible.

If a traffic light malfunctions or streetlight is run over, the Traffic Engineer and Electrical Departments are en route to correct the problem.  If a neighborhood group is planning a cleanup, Keep Mobile Beautiful is quick to provide assistance in the form of “litter grabbers” and other equipment. No City department could accomplish their critical tasks without the skilled support of the personnel in the Garage and Motor Pool. They keep the fleet maintained and ready for the personnel on the streets who accomplish the wide variety of tasks many Mobilians take for granted.  The Equipment Services team is famous for their ability to adapt to any situation as they work diligently to keep the City’s vehicles on the road.   public works1

Besides the day to day work, Public Works is a critical part of preparation for and recovery from the many special events conducted in our City.  The pinnacle of this is observed directly during Mardi Gras.  If you want to witness an amazingly efficient and well-orchestrated operation, step back when you see the fire truck coming at the end of a parade this year and enjoy the show!  Tons of material are swept and picked up from the streets, sidewalks and parks, keeping this litter from clogging our drainage system and polluting Mobile Bay. Thousands of heavy steel barricades are moved back and forth before and after the parades, providing a safe environment for everyone having a good time.  Supervisors make adjustments on the fly, ensuring a smooth process amidst all the noise and flashing lights.  Like the support services provided at the Super Bowl, no one notices how great they are unless a problem pops up and is not resolved quickly.

Public Works is proud to be an integral part of the team helping Mobile become the safest, most business and family friendly city in America by 2020. Our employees work in all kinds of conditions, seeking to provide top notch services to our citizens, we do our part to keep the City running – full speed ahead!

We Are Evolving – From Vision to Implementation!

By Shayla Beaco, Senior Director of City Planning Contributors: City Planning Staff

Everywhere you turn, Mobile is showing positive signs of growth in each corner of our city. A new Publix grocery store in Midtown, an improved Bel Air Mall, a hotel at McGowin Park, and the Federal Courthouse   construction on St. Joseph Street in our downtown are just a few examples of the many projects that adorn our great city. These new developments represent confidence in our local economy, expanding business opportunities, and underscore flourishing local market conditions. While Mobile has greatly benefitted from a number of key community and economic development wins in recent years, what we’ve lacked during the last several decades is a long-range growth plan that provides a clear course for development and reinvestment.image02

Beginning in March of 2015, the City initiated efforts to formulate the Map for Mobile: Framework for Growth. During this process, we received input from almost every area of Mobile, ranging from very organized neighborhood groups to active involvement from our development community. The Map for Mobile is the first all-inclusive plan initiated in over 20 years. It identifies core critical needs for Mobile, shaping a long-term vision of the community, while offering practical growth solutions that align with our core development principles.

Designed to function as a living document, Map for Mobile outlines a multi-year action plan. The associated action plan outlines four planning horizons: ongoing, near-term, mid-term and long-term horizons which help us to ensure progress as well as to stay in concert with the City’s capital improvement plans and other focused planning studies and district plans. Many of these studies and special plans are currently underway – providing specific strategies to achieve Mobile’s vision for growth. This plan is updated on an annual basis to review strategies and actions for implementation and is then presented to the Mobile Planning Commission for approval.

Led by the City’s long-range planning team, our many department heads along with key staff meet on a regular basis to review the progress of implementation. This cross functional team tracks over 71 initiatives identified in the plan to ensure measurable results and outcomes. One of the very first steps in implementing the vision and principles set forth in the plan now focuses on the reform of City codes and ordinances, particularly land use, zoning and subdivision regulations – most of which date back to the 1950’s and 60’s. In June of this year, the City engaged White & Smith, LLC, a nationally recognized planning firm to conduct a complete overhaul of our development regulations. Organized as a law firm, White & Smith has completed over 150 planning and code projects in 36 states across the country.  Understanding our changing market conditions, particularly as we benefit from new growth opportunities in this post-recession era, it is evident that our primary objective should now focus on creating realistic planning Map for Mobile – Focus on the Future Workshop: March 30, 2015 outcomes that will support our local market. Ultimately, we look to create a simplified user experience that is easily navigable, offering predictability in the overall regulatory review process.

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Source: AL.com

As an “early win” for this 24-month process, the City is in the process of reevaluating our current landscaping requirements. Known as a “Tree City” we are certainly proud of the heritage oaks that line our historic corridors. However, they create very costly challenges in our efforts to maintain our already crumbling infrastructure. In short, our sidewalks, storm water systems, and in some instances road conditions, are compromised by the root systems of aging trees. To ensure that we are now making the right long-term decisions regarding tree selection and placement, the Right-Tree Right-Place Taskforce was established by Mayor Stimpson to inform decisions regarding enhancements to our current landscaping ordinances. When completed, this newly revised code will precede the adoption of the zoning overhaul to address current landscaping issues, but will also illustrate the City’s efforts to ensure an all-inclusive and practical decision-making process.

We are also committed to continuing our efforts to ensure ongoing citizen and stakeholder engagement as this expectation has been set by the many Mobilians that have participated in the Map for Mobile process thus far. As a 300-year- old city, quality urban design is a very important component of our plan. Citizens throughout Mobile have stressed the importance of preserving our unique character and neighborhood identity; therefore, our final product will reflect this community priority. Stay tuned for neighborhood workshops to be held in November. Visit www.mapformobile.org for forth coming meeting details and announcements

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We consider this overall effort to be a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity for our community in that we are currently living with the decisions of our planning leadership made over 50 years ago. With community input and buy in, our planning team has now been given the responsibility of creating policies and regulations that will impact our community for years to come. We do not take this task lightly and look forward to the opportunity to bridge our efforts to grow and build a better Mobile!