© Leland Kent, Abandoned Southeast, used with permission
The rezoning of Carraway Methodist Medical Center will allow for the redevelopment of the property and bring new businesses to the Norwood community, Birmingham residents said, leading the city council to vote unanimously to pass the rezoning resolution, Tuesday.
Portions of the medical center are classified as single-family housing districts and health and institutional districts, according to Michael Ward, principal planner of the city’s Planning and Engineering Department. Rezoning Carraway’s 48 acres to mixed use districts would allow for new businesses to take off in Norwood, Ward said.
After taking into account the recommendations made by the Zoning Advisory Committee and the Committee of the Whole that took place during the fourth quarter of 2019, the plans were finalized for council approval.
Carraway once brought vibrant businesses like restaurants, banks, drugstores and grocery stores into the Norwood neighborhood, said James Clark, president of the Norwood neighborhood association. Clark said he is optimistic for the neighborhood’s homeowners, after the rezoning.
“When I first moved to Norwood, 75 percent of residents were homeowners,” Clark said. “Now, only 60 percent are homeowners. After Carraway is rezoned and businesses come back to Norwood, property values will go up. This will allow owners to sell their residences and make a profit or pass down family wealth.”
Clark said one of his neighbors tried to sell her house to transition to a retirement home but was unable to do so since her property was valued lower than it was in the 1970s, when she purchased it. She ended up living and passing away in the residence, according to Clark.
Susan Kennedy, a Norwood resident involved in community service during the pandemic, said she, along with everyone else in the neighborhood, agrees that something needs to be done about the medical center.
“When the virus started affecting the less fortunate in our community, we gave out 4000 bags of food,” Kennedy said. “As a neighborhood, we have come together and rallied for Carraway’s redevelopment at our civic meetings. It would be nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the hospital.”
Other Norwood residents also submitted support via email, Councilman William Parker said.
Parker said Corporate Realty Management, Inc. along with neighborhood residents have worked together for the past two years on these developments.
“For an entire year, Corporate Realty and the neighborhood residents have had meetings on the second floor of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center that were advertised on a consistent basis,” Parker said. “They were invited to participate and engage in the ongoing project.”
Councilman Darrell O’Quinn, along with Councilman Parker, said Corporate Realty has shown their devotion to helping the Carraway community through their consistent outreach efforts.
“They sent out over 2000 postcards to residents near the Caraway site,” O’Quinn said. “They have demonstrated that they want the community to be engaged with the project and have expressed interest to address issues in the surrounding homes in the Caraway communities.”
O’Quinn also cited a letter from Etna Freedman, a resident of the nearby Druid Hills neighborhood, in which she expressed her “full support of this project”.
Acknowledging the city council’s efforts to help the Norwood and Druid Hills areas, Mayor Randall Woodfin said Carraway has remained in shambles for long enough.
“Blight removal has been a priority, like Century Plaza and Carraway,” Woodfin said. “This is important to me because I was born in Carraway Hospital. When I finished college, I worked there. I’m glad to see us get to this point, on behalf of the residents.
Previously, in 2011, the Lovelady Center, a group focused on helping former women inmates recover and re-enter society, was given the medical site by supporters, but struggled to manage the vast campus and secure its buildings to prevent vandalism, according to AL.com.
Councilwoman Valerie Abbot said she was glad to see a redevelopment project coming together, after a decade of abandonment.
“The Carraway site looks like a third world country, in the midst of civil war,” Abbot said. “You want to avert your eyes because of how appalling it is. Residents have said it just brings them to tears. After Carraway’s redevelopment, we look forward to Trinity hospital’s in the near future, as well.”
The next city council meeting will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, November 17, at 9:00 a.m. and can be attended in person with the observance of social distancing guidelines, or online, at the Birmingham City Council’s Facebook page.
Edited by Hannah Warren, Ryan Michaels & John H. Glenn