Representatives from two major philanthropic foundations will come to Birmingham this summer to evaluate ways to help fund revitalization efforts in a community seeking a comeback.
City Councilman William Parker, who is currently in New York, declined to name the foundations but said officials will tour the North Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont in June and July.
The area, already the site of an intense Environmental Protection Agency cleanup, is primed for private reinvestment, Parker said.
“It’s a unique approach, but that’s the trend and the wave of the future, to marry national foundations with local foundations,” he said. “It’s a model that works.”
With a regular itinerary that includes Atlanta, New York and Washington D.C., Parker makes no secret about being one of the most frequently traveled city officials.
He defended his frequent flier status, calling it essential to drumming up support for broad efforts to improve his district. The efforts and costs will have a long term payback, he said.
No longer can programs solely come from state, local and federal government funds, Parker said.
“It’s important to be able to meet on a consistent basis with foundations and potential funding partners,” he said. “There are several initiatives where we are looking for funding for parks and also housing. Also there’s some interest in the World Games 2021, so there are conversations about potential investment. Those are the types of conversations we are having.”
For example, Parker said foundation money is available to continue the city’s current work to improve green space in the district.
The $1.5 million city project to overhaul Maclin Park includes building a new swimming pool, new sports fields and refreshed landscaping. The park is a major anchor in Collegeville.
In addition, a pedestrian and vehicle overpass for Collegeville is under construction. The $10 million bridge project is being funded with an $8.1 million mix of state, federal and local money. The city is providing $2.03 million.
Parker said private help will prove essential in the redevelopment of vacant lots around historic Bethel Baptist Church for green space, building affordable housing and recruiting commercial activity to the area.
Parker will travel to Denver on June 7 to again participate in the Clinton Global Initiative.
With an EPA environmental cleanup already underway in the Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont neighborhoods, Parker said private interest will help further long-term redevelopment goals.
The Clinton Global Initiative, he said, provides a platform for connecting with a broad range of philanthropic groups.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to brief the former president and the foundation, it is not only good for North Birmingham, but it is good for the city of Birmingham,” he said. “We’re going back to the conference to update the former president on the progress in North Birmingham.”