Category: Alabama

Councilmember Velma Johnson on the importance of community in Midfield, AL


Midfield, AL’s Splash Pad. Photo by City of Midfield via Facebook.

In the increasingly technologically connected, fast-paced, global economy-driven world of today, it can be hard for even the small towns of America to retain their ‘small town’ feel. And yet, that’s exactly what Midfield, AL is striving to maintain and preserve.

Located just outside of Birmingham, AL, Midfield, with a population just over 5,000, is known as “the Convenient City”. It’s a place where residents make it a point to “eat, shop, and do all of their business right in the city,” says Councilmember Velma Johnson, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

Those who live in Midfield say they have a sense of belonging—of knowing and being known by so many others in the community. “As humans we want to connect to one another,” says Johnson. “In Midfield, we’re fortunate to live in the type of community where police officers know children by name.”

Posted in Alabama, Blog, Local, Local Leaders Council | 1 Comment

Take Action: Help Valley, Alabama redevelop their textile mills

When the Langdale and Riverdale textile mills closed in the 1990’s, the residents of Valley, Alabama, not only lost a major employer. They lost part of their heritage.

For years the mills have stood as a reminder of what the town lost. Residents, however, saw potential for transforming the historic buildings into a vibrant, walkable neighborhood. The City agreed—but industrial contamination stood in their way.

Now, a federal brownfields grant is helping Valley clean up the land and achieve their vision, and a bill in Congress could help towns like Valley achieve similar goals.

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Valley, AL finds a new use for old textile mills with the help of brownfields redevelopment

Langdale Mill in Valley, AL
The Langdale Mill in Valley, AL. Photo via The City of Valley, AL.

After operating for more than a hundred years, the Langdale and Riverdale textile mills were a central part of Valley, AL’s heritage and economy. With the help of a Brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Valley is working to make the former mills part of life in Valley once again.

The Langdale and Riverdale Mills were built in 1866 along the Chattahoochee River on the eastern edge of Alabama. The city that is now Valley, AL was built up around the mills, and they served as the economic heart of the area for over a century.

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County Commissioner Sheila Eckman on building better in Auburn, AL

“When I first got on [the City] Council there was just a mindset of, ‘Annex, annex, anything you can just grab it.’ One night we annexed 1,600 acres at one time. And since that time, in our 2030 plan, it …

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Creating streets that work for everyone in Montevallo, AL

Montevallo, AL
On the campus of Montevallo, AL. Photo by Larry Miller, via Flickr.

This is a guest post written by Ryan Parker, of our coalition partner Conservation Alabama.

Montevallo, AL is preserving its unique blend of college culture and country charm by making intentional decisions about expansion and development.

The small town of 6,000 residents in the heart of Alabama has a vibrant downtown, a Greenway National Recreational Trail, three beautiful parks, an art gallery, and Alabama’s only public liberal arts college, the University of Montevallo.

Over the last several years the City and the University have worked together on projects to make downtown Montevallo an even better place to live and work. “The very best colleges in the country, most of them have lively, attractive downtowns,” said John Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “We literally want Main Street and the campus to blend into one plan.”

Posted in Alabama, Complete Streets, Members and Main | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Introducing LOCUS state chapters

LOCUS is proud to formally announce that we are expanding our efforts to six key regions across the country with LOCUS state chapters. LOCUS state chapters, working closely with LOCUS members in these states, will complement and enhance our ongoing national work to promote walkable development through education, advocacy, and technical assistance.

We have already begun work in the chapters states of Alabama, California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington. Thank you to the LOCUS members and allies who have met with us in these states thus far.

LOCUS members are invited and encouraged to join the work of these state chapters. If you are not yet a LOCUS member and are interested in joining, submit a membership application today.

Posted in Alabama, California, Georgia, LOCUS, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington | Leave a comment

Using complete streets to fight obesity in Jefferson County, AL

In 2007, over 100 organizations in Jefferson County, Alabama formed the Health Action Partnership, a collective effort aimed at making local neighborhoods healthier places to live, work, learn and play.

Reducing obesity was the Partnership’s main objectives from the outset, as Alabama’s obesity rate is the second highest in the nation. Recognizing that lifestyle change is critical in achieving this goal, the Partnership wanted to increase activity levels in the everyday lives of Jefferson County residents.

The organizations soon realized one answer to reducing obesity had been right beneath their feet all along: Complete Streets.

Making improvements to streets, sidewalks and paths would promote physical activity by making it safe and convenient for residents to walk outside for recreation, and would also makes it easier for them to incorporate functional walking and biking into their day-to-day lives.

Jefferson County’s streets are not currently friendly to pedestrians: most of the county’s sidewalks haven’t been updated in the past 50 years, and many are torn up or unsafe. Birmingham, the state’s largest city, also is just beginning to get back on its feet after a series of destructive tornadoes in 2011, which caused more than a billion dollars of property damage. Street safety is no minor problem, either: Alabama ranks fifth in the country for pedestrian deaths.

Since the Partnership came together, it has sought to leverage funding from a variety of sources to address local issues of public health and safety. One of the largest funding sources thus far has been a $13 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded in 2010. A portion of this grant is dedicated to fighting obesity in Jefferson County’s 35 municipalities.

Posted in Alabama, Complete Streets, DOT, Smart growth stories | 2 Comments

Community involvement, local leadership lead Notasulga, Alabama’s comeback

“I’ve been in this town 10 years, and I love this little town,” said Juanita Syljuberget, a resident of Notasulga, Alabama, who works as a contract and grant specialist at nearby Auburn University. “There’s nothing fancy about it, but it’s a quiet little place, and everyone is very nice.”

“But it’s going to dry up and go away unless we do something.”

The plight of Notasulga and its 850-some residents in rural Macon County is not unlike hundreds of other small communities across the country. Years of changing economic and development patterns limited growth opportunities, and the very nature of remote towns left local businesses and municipal services more vulnerable than their counterparts in busy urban centers.

But while the story of a “Small Town USA” grappling with tough financial decisions has been played out countless times nationwide and even in emotional books and films, there is something that sets Notasulga apart: strong local leadership.

Posted in Alabama, Featured Content, Leadership Institute, Technical assistance, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment