Mobile Gas has owned the 7-acre patch of land at the intersection of Broad Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue since Andrew Jackson was president of the United States. Friday morning, the company officially dedicated a park on the parcel called Caldwell Field, named for company founder James Henry Caldwell.
“This is where we got our humble beginnings,” Project Community Liaison Keeshia Davis said. “This is where we became a good corporate citizen … ”
Plans for the project have spanned 24 years and three mayors’ administrations, but culminated with the opening of the green space, complete with benches and a half-mile walking trail. The park includes six markers, which detail the history of Mobile Gas and recognizes community partners that helped in the guidance and transformation of the site. The park is bordered by Earle Street to the north, One Mile Creek to the east, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Broad Street to the south and Marmotte Street to the west.
Before the park could be open to the public, Mobile Gas had to clean the site it used as a manufactured gas facility until 1933, Project Manager Peter Keegan said.
The company did a site inspection and assessment of the site, he said. Workers found and removed underground structures. The company removed a tar well made of cypress that had been at the site since 1836 and three gas holders.
“There were a couple of hot spots we had to remove,” Keegan said. “We did grading of the site, installed drainage and added grass.”
Former Mobile Mayor Sam Jones, who said he grew up near the site in the Orange Grove community, said he spoke with Mobile Gas about the project several years ago, adding that he was happy to see the progress.
“I can say I’m very proud of what I see here,” he said. “I’m so thankful to have this happen.”
Jones said the park can become a catalyst, as the entire community moves forward.
Councilman John Williams said the park will connect all communities and become a focal point, as plans to revitalize areas of downtown progress. Williams specifically mentioned the Bring Back Broad initiative, started last year and plans to make Water Street more pedestrian and bike friendly.
The Broad Street initiative was buoyed in August by a $14.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to spruce up the downtown corridor. The grant includes a $3 million match from the city.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson was invited to attend the dedication, but couldn’t, as he was leaving Friday for the Paris Air Show, along with other local and state leaders.