Residents concerned with Mobile’s future came out in droves to be among the first to offer suggestions, during the initial long-range planning meeting on Monday evening.
City staff members and planners from Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood and Planning NEXT were on hand at Government Street Baptist Church to help gather information from residents on what they would like to see for the future of the city.
The community meeting marked the first in a series called “Map for Mobile: Framework for Growth,” which would begin a process that hadn’t taken place in about two decades.
“It’s the first time in nearly 20 years we’ve had a comprehensive plan for the city,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said during his opening remarks.
Stimpson said the framework would build upon previous plans and would take past ideas into consideration.
Jamie Greene, of Planning NEXT gave the crowd some examples of cities where this type of planning had taken root. He said Charleston, South Carolina put together a long-range plan that took the area’s natural resources, which are similar to Mobile’s, into account.
Another example was Norfolk, Virginia, Greene said, where planners did “terrific work” in the downtown area and in the various neighborhoods in the city. Greene also mentioned Nashville, which he said was “nationally recognized as an up-and-coming” city.
While he gave those cities as examples, Greene said highlighting Mobile’s individuality would be key in the planning process.
“Mobile should be Mobile,” he said. “What visitors and youth are looking for is uniqueness.”
Greene said a nod to job creation and a trained workforce would be important in the future plans of the city because 78 million baby boomers would be leaving the workforce and “it will be hugely competitive to replace those jobs.”
Larry Watts, with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood said a portion of the plan should be committed to continued recruitment of industry, but with that, should be a nod to “place-based” or community businesses, like coffee shops and bookstores.
Encouragement of multi-modal transportation would also be key, Watts said. This includes pedestrians, bikes, buses and personal vehicles. Infrastructure issues, like paving, sewer and wastewater would have to be examined, as part of any future plan.
After hearing from speakers, visitors were broken into small groups and asked individually to give suggestions of what could be done to make Mobile better. These suggestions were recorded and would be given to two outreach committees — one made of business leaders and one of residents — before being brought back to smaller community meetings in May, owner of Prolific Presentations Leavie King said. King will be a facilitator at five to seven upcoming community meetings.