A $1.25 million dollar fund for buidling affordable housing and community projects at the former site of Ensley High School passed unanimously through the Birmingham city council, in a meeting on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the high school itself cannot be salvaged, but we are looking to utilize a lot of the existing property to pay homage to how much Ensley High School meant to the community,” said Tab Bullard, a representative of Zimmermann Properties, the company behind the project.
Bullard said Zimmerman Properties requested funding from the city’s Housing and Urban Development HOME Investing Partnership, which is aimed at providing grants to affordable housing opportunities in the area. According to Bullard, the remaining amount of the $55 million project would be allocated by Low Income Tax Credits from the Alabama Housing Finance Authority.
The site would include 244 units of affordable housing, a fresh food grocer in the former gymnasium of the high school, an on-site community center and a new neighborhood park according to Bullard. Bullard said there will be multiple types of housing, including a three-story apartment building, carriage flats and two story stacked flats.
Bullard said one of the company’s main goals was to make the finished complex feel as though it has always been a part of the community by designing homes of the same height as those already neighboring the site as well as creating a new avenue to allow for through traffic.
Councilmember John Hilliard said he was very impressed with the thoroughness of Zimmerman Properties’ research of the community and the discussions they have had with the members of the area.
“I believe it will work, the community believes it will work, the neighborhood president believes it will work,” Hilliard said, “So with that, I just want to lend my support and ask the council to pass this out of committee.”
Council president pro tempore Wardine Alexander said she was pleased the presentation given by Bullard about the project and what all it will bring to the Ensley community.
“I am excited to see the component of commercial as well as the grocery store and those type of things that are giving opportunity for groceries to be bought in that area,” Alexander said.
Councilmember Valerie Abbott said she was impressed with Zimmerman Properties’ targeting of people within the $16,000 to $45,000 annual income range with new and nice living units.
“If I made $16,000, I would love to move into a new apartment, so thank you,” Abbott said.
Councilmember Steven Hoyt was the only person who said he was not impressed by the development with double stacked flat-style homes as he thought the project included plans with single-family housing.
“That concept [double stacked flats], I don’t know that it’s a good fit for that community,” Hoyt said.
Despite his questions, councilmember Hoyt voted with the rest of the council to approve the funding from the city for the development of the affordable housing complex.
“We’ll have to see,” Hoyt said, “I can be proven wrong.”
In other business, the board approved:
- A resolution granting Operating Authority Permit with 37 Certificates of Public Necessity and Convenience to Groome Transportation of Alabama LLC.
- Funding up to $1.5 million to Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs CARES Act for projects that will prevent and prepare for complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Funding up to $440,000 to Bethel Ensley Action Task Inc. to use HOME funds for construction of three single-family homes.
- Funding up to $1,000,000 to Community Shelves LLC for the improvement and support of inventory changes for the Save-A-Lot Food Store located at 873 Dennison Avenue SW.