Almost a decade after the last families left its walls bare and buildings empty, a former Mobile Housing Board (MHB) property is coming down.
At a meeting two weeks ago, the Mobile City Council voted to declare the complex known as Josephine Allen Homes a nuisance and ordered it demolished. Council Vice President Levon Manzie, who represents the area, is happy to see the long-time eyesore disappear.
“It’s 10 years overdue,” Manzie said. “The citizens of Happy Hills have had to live with this indignity for a decade.”
The District 2 councilman credits an agreement between the city and the MHB for moving this forward.
“This was a top priority,” Manzie said. “Wouldn’t have been in support of the agreement if it hadn’t been.”
Senior Director of Community Development Jamey Roberts credited the agreement between the two entities as well. Roberts said the city — through the nuisance abatement policy — can more quickly move to tear the complex down than the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could. The city worked with the regional HUD office in Birmingham throughout the process, Roberts said.
The city will now go through the normal nuisance abatement process by contracting the work out, Roberts said. Demolition should start by September, he said. There are currently no plans for the property, he said.
Without specific plans, Roberts said, the property would be free of additional federal restrictions, which could allow for options to remain open.
As for plans for the property, Manzie said he’d be in favor of more low-to-moderate-income housing to replace the units lost 10 years ago. He’s against selling it to industry, if that comes up.
“I will vehemently fight any attempt to rezone it from an industrial standpoint,” he said. “I want it to go back to its original purpose.”
MHB Executive Director Michael Pierce said the agency shares a desire with the city to remove blight in its neighborhoods. The apartments should be completely demolished by mid-December, Pierce said. Community Development Block Grants would be used to pay for the demolition, he said.
Redevelopment on hold
Pierce confirmed that the board “has put the brakes” on the multi-million-dollar redevelopment plans that had been underway. The agency is currently trying to increase occupancy and pull itself out of a “troubled agency” designation. Until further notice, Pierce said these focuses would prevent the agency from moving forward with the redevelopments.
“We’re working with HUD very closely to work on agency compliance,” he said. “We need to enhance our income through the leasing of properties.”
Redevelopment plans going back to 2014 had called for sweeping renovations of old MHB property to include mixed-use, mixed-income complexes throughout the city worth more than $750 million. The plan initially included redevelopments of Roger Williams and Thomas James Place, as well as construction of off-site, low-income housing.
Roberts said the board has increased occupancy in recent months. As for developers involved in the redevelopment process, Pierce said they understand “the pause button has been hit.”
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here