Southtown Court

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Aerial view of Southtown Court from the west

Southtown Court or the Southtown Housing Community is a 455-unit housing project owned and managed by the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District. It is located on a 25-acre site is bounded by 23rd Street South to the west, 10th Avenue South to the south, Red Mountain Expressway to the east and University Boulevard to the north.

The community, which originally had 480 1-to-3-bedroom units, was completed in 1941 with funding from the United States Housing Authority. It was designed by Warren, Knight & Davis architects, and consists primarily of 55 two-story brick-clad, gable-roofed buildings spaced around alternating paved parking lots and grass-covered lawns. The total construction cost was $1,977,233.23.

Each unit was furnished with hot and cold water, natural gas and electricity, all included under the rent payment. The Southtown Community Center, leased to the Community Chest of Birmingham operated as one of the first public day cares in the city.

In 1981 the concrete retaining walls on the south edge of the project were painted by artist Vance Wesson. His series of murals depicts mainly flowers and trees against a blue sky. Between 2001 and 2003 the housing units were renovated in a $15 million project that included new air conditioners and gas furnaces as well as street paving and other improvements.

As of 2017, Southtown Court is 96% leased, with 436 of its 455 units occupied. The complex is managed by Bessie Word. The Southtown Resident Council is presided over by Irene Johnson.

Redevelopment proposals

In 2008 Birmingham mayor Larry Langford proposed partnering with the Daniel Corporation and Magic Johnson's Canyon Johnson Urban Fund in a $28 million project to redevelop the Southtown site as a mixed-use commercial district. The projects 730 residents would be relocated to newly-built condominiums or residences, move to other housing projects, or receive Section 8 vouchers for rent assistance. New homes could be built at the Trinity Steel site in Titusville, and some assisted living and mixed-income apartments could be constructed as part of the redevelopment.

At a March 31, 2009 meeting Langford asked current Southtown residents to vote on their support for the idea. In April the Birmingham Housing Authority Board rejected Langford's proposal by unanimous vote.

In September 2015 HABD announced that it planned to apply in 2016 for a $30 million federal "Choice Neighborhood" grant to redevelop Southtown as a mixed-income community, similar to the Park Place and Tuxedo Terrace redevelopments. In January 2017 the authority selected the Southside Development Co. as a development partner.

Resident council president Irene Johnson expressed her opposition to the proposed plans, noting that HABD has not provided specific plans for how current residents would be accommodated during and after redevelopment. Attorney Richard Rice met with residents

References

  • Housing Yearbook 1940. Chicago, Illinois: National Association of Housing Officials
  • Norris, Toraine (April 1, 2009) "Southtown residents to vote on razing complex and moving." The Birmingham News
  • Garrison, Greg (June 28, 2009) "Residents stay steadfast on Southtown despite crime." The Birmingham News
  • Garrison, Greg (June 28, 2009) "Southtown still lives in violent shadow." The Birmingham News
  • Godwin, Brent (September 30, 2015) "Huge mixed-use project planned at Southtown Court near St. Vincent's." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Godwin, Brent (January 17, 2017) "Birmingham heavyweights chosen to team as developers for Southtown project." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Owens, Cody (June 19, 2017) "Southtown Update: A Conversation with HABD Director Michael Lundy." Weld for Birmingham
  • Owens, Cody (June 30, 2017) "Fear of displacement in Southtown." Weld for Birmingham

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