Standing in an empty lot on Texas Street Monday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced that Mobile will receive $1.6 million to help revitalize neighborhoods and promote economic development. The grant money from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “Innovation Teams” program will be used to hire three new full-time employees and three new part-time in employees, who will be part of an “i-team” solely responsible for accomplishing mayoral priorities, starting with the eradication of blight.
“When we cast the vision to make Mobile the safest, most business and family-friendly city in America by 2020, we knew that we would need help to achieve our goal,” Stimpson said at a press conference. “This award by Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide critical resources to help us move forward on our journey, but it’s about much more than just money. It’s a validation of our efforts to transform Mobile.”
Stimpson told reporters that the i-team approach has worked in other cities, like New Orleans, where they used it to bring down the murder rate. New Orleans was one of five cities to receive money from Bloomberg Philanthropies in a first round of awards. Mobile was one of 12 American cities and 14 internationally to receive an award this year.
Stimpson made the announcement in a foreclosed lot the city was about to takeover, with the plan to allow a private developer to build on the land. The press conference was across the street from a group of three homes in a development called Oakleigh Cottages, where a similar single-family redevelopment had already taken place. Stimpson said the city funded those homes initially, but they are currently on the market and aren’t owned by the city.
The grant money is not hard money that will be used to acquire land, Executive Director of Planning and Development Dianne Irby said, but it would help put a team in place to focus on the program. The city and its i-team will meet with Bloomberg consultants this spring to discuss the program, Planner Kina Andrews said.
“The focus is on urban vitality,” she said. “We’ll be choosing certain neighborhoods to figure out what needs to be done to bring them back.”
Irby said the city has some neighborhoods in mind for the program, but would discuss them further with the consultants. She said the money will be paid out over three years.
As part of the application process, the city had to describe some of its biggest challenges, Irby told the group of reporters. She said Bloomberg Philanthropies was interested in that Mobile had so many challenges, but was ready to face them.
“Mobile needs neighborhoods that attract and embrace residents, where citizens can live, work and play,” Stimpson said. “The support of Bloomberg Philanthropies adds tremendous momentum to our effort to achieve One Mobile.”
In addition to Mobile, grants were announced for the U.S. cities of Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, Mass., Centennial, Colo., Jersey City, N.J., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Peoria, Ill., Rochester, N.Y., Seattle, Wash., and Syracuse, N.Y. Grants were also awarded to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Yafo in Israel. Irby said the administration was told that 90 cities applied for grant funding. Cities that applied for the grant had mayors with at least two years left in office, according to a statement from Bloomberg.
Cities were awarded between $1.5 million and $3 million. The grant awards were based on the size of the cities and size of the i-teams that were needed, Irby said. Mobile was one of four cities in the group with a population less than 200,000, according to the statement.