Rev. Dr Morrell Todd Homes
The Rev. Dr Morrell Todd Homes, originally the Kingston Public Housing Project, later known as Morton Simpson Homes or Morton Simpson Village, is a 456-unit public housing project operated by the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD). The community is located at 4600 8th Court North in the Kingston neighborhood of the East Birmingham community. Eldridge Knighton is president of the community's resident council.
The project was constructed in the 1950s to provide 500 units of public housing to African American families at a cost of $4.5 million. It was dedicated in June 1960 in honor of Morton Simpson, a former vice president of Burger-Phillips who had served on the Housing Authority and was recognized as, "one of Birmingham's most well-known slum fighters."
Development of the public housing coincided with the Avondale Urban Renewal project, the second such project in Birmingham after the clearance of slums for Southside's Medical Center. The new project would accommodate 500 families, most of whom were displaced from substandard houses in the urban renewal area two blocks south. Compared to the Southside slum clearance, the Avondale urban renewal project met with less resistance. The HABD appointed a Citizens' Advisory Committee headed by John Streeter which supported the project. Some residents of the existing neighborhood objected to its characterization as a "slum," despite their own efforts at improving properties, and others questioned why the city chose such unwholesome districts for black housing. The Birmingham Real Estate Board supported urban renewal, but opposed public housing on the principal that it competed unfairly with private development.
Two-thirds of the overall project cost was funded by the federal government through its Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA). The city intended the project to widen and improve the appearance of the primary approach to downtown from Birmingham Municipal Airport along Georgia Road. Additionally, a new high school for black students would also help relieve overcrowding at Parker High School across town and a new elementary school could be built to replace the outdated Thomas School in Sloss Quarters.
The redevelopment area had been officially reserved for black residences since at least 1926 under the city's racial zoning code. Like other black neighborhoods, it was isolated from other neighborhoods by physical barriers: Central of Georgia Railroad to the north, 1st Avenue North to the south, and industrial areas to the west.
Birmingham's lack of planning capacity made it difficult for the city to demonstrate compliance with the Housing Act of 1954 which attempted to reduce wholesale slum clearance projects. As part of its attempt to fulfill those requirements, the city had hired its first urban planner, George Foss, in 1955.
Birmingham had trouble raising its own portion of the project funds, but capitulated to pressure from civic booster like James Head who desperately wanted to tidy up the airport approach for visiting business leaders. Funding was tied to a September 1955 bond referendum, which passed by a 5,952 to 5,365 vote. The HHFA approved $3.64 million in federal funding for the project on March 28, 1956.
As many as 2,600 people lived the area that was torn down for the redevelopment. Of those, 92 percent were black. Most of the 740 homes affected were in poor condition with more than three fourths characterized as "dilapidated" and many of them lacking indoor toilets.
In the late 1980s, the Birmingham Police Department staffed a police substation at Morton Simpson Village.
Some funds from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009 were applied toward repairing a leaking roof at the project's gymnasium. In 2018 HABD announced plans for interior and exterior upgrades and repairs in the complex, including potentially removing some units.
- "For Negroes— Simpson housing project dedicated" (June 12, 1960) The Birmingham News - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Connerly, Charles E. (2005) "The Most Segregated City in America": City Planning and Civil Rights in Birmingham, 1920-1980. University of Virginia Press ISBN 0813923344
- Norris, Toraine (March 24, 2009) "Cooper Green Homes to get federal money". The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (February 21, 2018) "Birmingham's Morton Simpson Village to undergo makeover." The Birmingham News