Mayor William A. Bell, Sr.’s RISE initiative – an acronym for Removing Blight, Increasing Property Values, Strengthen Neighborhoods, and Empowering Residents – was launched in the Pratt Community in 2013. The four components of strengthening code enforcement; creating and launching a land bank authority; targeting demolition efforts; and educating citizens on and providing wills and trusts for estate planning were coordinated in Pratt to create conditions for renewed investment and revitalization. RISE is well positioned as part of the Community Framework Plan implementation tools to be used to help communities around the City of Birmingham.
“On April 27, 2011 a massive tornado hit the Pratt community of Birmingham, Alabama. The human and physical impact was extensive. Lessons from this tragic event provide an opportunity to enhance the community to become one that is safer, more resilient and with an improved quality of life.”
“Long before the tornado devastated a large swath of the Pratt city community, a significant portion of the community’s housing stock and economic vitality had been devastated by neglect and under investment. On the one hand, the tornado dramatically increased human misery and instantaneously accelerated the rate of devastation. On the other hand it raised the focus on the community’s challenges from background to the foreground. This elevated focus provides a unique opportunity to systematically address the community’s structural deficits which account for the ongoing deterioration while at the same time responding to residential stakeholders who are distressed as a result of the storm.”
“The Pratt community, both historically and today, faces disparities in poverty, education, environmental hazards, and health issues. The April tornado put additional stress on the community. Focusing on community health and quality of life provides a unique benefit for the new Pratt city community. Among other things it may serve as model of the way in which other communities in Birmingham may be transformed.” (Rebuilding the Pratt Community, AIA Communities by Design, October 2011)
As part of the on-going recovery efforts the City, through CDBG – Disaster Recovery funds, has already invested in a number of projects focused on creating a sound infrastructure and quality of life for the residents. The Pratt Library was reconstruction and now severs as a digital hub for the neighborhood. A new, state of the art Fire Station was constructed to better serve the community. Dugan Avenue, from Columbia Street to Pratt Hwy, is currently being reconstructed in a complete street model to facilitate multimodal transportation. Custom design and fabricated bus shelter are being planned for Dugan Avenue to increase the accessibility to transit. 60+ assisted living units have been constructed and occupied while another 84 residential units are currently under construction.
Smarter Cities Challenge Grant
The City of Birmingham, Alabama, was one of 16 cities selected to receive a Smarter Cities Challenge® grant from IBM in 2014 as part of the company’s citizenship efforts to build a Smarter Planet®. During three weeks in July 2014, a team of five IBM experts worked to deliver recommendations on a key challenge identified by Mayor William A. Bell, Sr. and his senior leadership team: food insecurity.
Much of the City of Birmingham suffers from limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores and affordable healthy food options. In other words, they live in “food deserts.” The lack of high-quality food choices leads to major health problems for people in every age group and particularly for youth and the elderly in Birmingham’s most impoverished neighborhoods.