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Africatown Redevelopment Corporation is Up and Running

Written by: Arthur Mack, Freelance Writer Published in January 2023 edition of Steppin' Out News

With the hiring of local attorney Karlos Finley as Executive Director, the Africatown Redevelopment Corporation (ARC) is ready to make a huge impact not only in

Africatown, but in the entire city of Mobile...and beyond.

“I’m extremely excited and honored,” Finley said when appointed to the position. “It was a pretty long and intense process they used. It was a nationwide search. There were a few interviews as well as a couple of writing samples.”

Man interviewed by tv news station
Executive Director Karlos Finley being interviewed by local media following the January 2023 board meeting

“We’re excited about Karlos (coming on board),” said Marc Jackson, ARC board president. “He knows a lot of local people, and he has hit the ground running.”

ARC was made possible with $3 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with additional money coming from the city of Mobile and Mobile County. The Corporation’s founder, State Rep. Adline Clarke, said it came as a result of working on legislation with Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood.

“We (myself and Ludgood) worked on that legislation for several years, and after I legislated services agency at the state house, they helped research legislation,” said Clarke. “The bill had to be approved by the Mobile legislation.”

Once the bill was approved by the local legislation, it went to the full house for approval. After it was approved, State Senator Vivian Figures, with the help of local state senate members, took it to the full Senate where it was approved and Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law on April 12, 2021.

Eight people conducting a meeting in the front of a room
Board of Directors at February 2023 board meeting

Besides Finley being the Executive Director, there were nine board members appointed. Two of the board members, selected by City Councilman William Carroll, had to be experts in real estate development and historic preservation; two board members, appointed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson, had to be experts in city planning and neighborhood revitalization, and banking and finance.

In addition, Ludgood had to appoint a board member who was an expert in economic development; while the House of Representatives member representing Africatown as well as Figures also appointed a member. The Clotilda Descendants Association and the Africatown Heritage Preservation Foundation also was tasked with appointing a member to the board. Both of those board members had to be members of the Africatown community.

Finley told Steppin’ Out the focus must not only be on the citizens of Africatown, but a need for unity is necessary for the ARC to be successful.

“Citizens of Africatown must be helped first,” he said. “The main thing with this initiative is that we’re an inclusive organization. What’s most needed is galvanizing and coming together, and the only way it will be successful is that people come together.”

The ARC’s main mission is complete revitalization of the Africatown community via increasing housing stock, repairing current housing as well as infrastructure, which includes sidewalks and covering ditches. Once that occurs, then there will be an emphasis on other things, such as establishing places to get basic necessities.

“Doing those kinds of things (improving housing and infrastructure) will create a better community overall when tourists come to visit,” Finley said. “When they come to the community, they’ll see something clean. Once we get things in place, we also want to get some commercial development. Right now, there’s no places to purchase food, medicine, or gasoline.

“There is a game plan — the priority is housing stock; that’s the first thing because there is a severe housing shortage in Mobile and especially Africatown.”

“There are 500 vacant and deteriorating structures in Africatown,” Clarke said. “That’s a lot, and it’s certainly not the only neighborhood that has vacancies. But there is a need to improve the community and make it sustainable to maximize the tourism opportunities in Africatown.”

Jackson told Steppin’ Out his focus was on developing the Africatown community, and said the appointment of Finley would be a big boost in doing so.

“With the help of Karlos, we’ll bring Africatown back to what it once was,” Jackson said. “We want to focus on rehabilitation development, and rehabbing houses that are currently in the community.”

“We’re not talking about housing developments (projects),” Finley said. “We’re talking about single- family homes; we don’t want to give the impression that Africatown is a new development. We see this as an opportunity to bring Africatown into the 21st century. We’re talking about state-of-the-art housing that’s energy-efficient that people will be proud of for years to come.”

With much-needed money from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Africatown Redevelopment Corporation is ready to get started with its goals. However, there are plans in place to see additional funding to keep the organization going.

“The money from ARPA will help the organization start doing the work it was created to do,” said Clarke. “But that money won’t go a long way, so one of the Corporation’s priorities will be to do fundraising.”

“Our goal now is to write for grants from different foundations, as well as purchase properties to advance the organization,” Finley said. “We have a lot of different ways to raise money, including owning businesses. At the end of the day, we’re looking to sustain the community; we know we have to reach out to many other foundations. We’ve got an opportunity to do

something that is truly transforming.”

The ARC has meetings once a month at 4 p.m. every first Tuesday at the Hope Community Center, located at 850 Edwards Street in Plateau. The next meeting is on Dec. 6., where people will have an opportunity to meet Finley.

“I’m looking forward to meeting as many people as I can, particularly from the Africatown area,” Finley said.



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