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Urban Impact puts into action the vision of Birmingham's historic Fourth Avenue business district

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There are no rivals in terms of the number of meaningful civil rights sites in Alabama, and Birmingham boasts multiple locations for world-changing events. On the border of the city’s Citizenship District, now Birmingham Citizenship National Park, is 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, and Kerry Ingram Park. Each represents a crucial point in the fight for equality.The district also includes a historic 4th Avenue Business District, one of the few black commercial corridors remaining in the southeast.

For over 40 years, Urban Impact, a non-profit community-based economic development organization, has been dedicated to ensuring that these sections of Magic City remain visible, vibrant and vibrant. rice field.

Urban Impact is revitalizing Birmingham’s historic Fourth Avenue business district from Vimeo’s Alabama News Center.

“In the 1980s, the mayor wanted to ensure protection of the African-American downtown infrastructure and the historic African-American business district,” said Ivan Holloway, Managing Director of Urban Impact. Mr. says. “He brought together a few local businessmen and a few city council members to form the Urban Impact.”

Holloway highlights the importance of organizational conservation efforts. “In addition to the more famous civil rights site, there are many important buildings here,” he says. “The Masonic temple here was developed and designed by the country’s first certified African-American architect, Robert Roberson Taylor.” Also, the office work of NAACP and Booker T. Washington Library. There is also a place, and I lent a book to a black resident for the first time in the city. The area also houses the work of the second-certified black architect in the United States. “There are few buildings where these guys stand everywhere, but here in Birmingham. One of the first African-American banks is also here,” says Holloway.

Save more than space

It may have started with a push to save the actual doors, windows and walls – protect the place. But Urban Impact also protects the culture of the community. “It allows us to show our position in history in relation to the rest of the city and Birmingham’s overall economy,” says Holloway. “I also save memories related to these spots.”

Ivan Holloway is Executive Director of Urban Impact. (Contribution)

In recent years, Urban Impact programming has evolved, expanding and removing barriers, providing financial opportunities for fast-growing black and start-ups. The “Become” program is a 12-week training session that teaches aspiring black business owners basic business concepts and skills. In addition, Urban Impact supports leasing, marketing assistance, and personalized counseling for both existing businesses in the district and merchants who want to be located there.

Urban Impact is also a member of KivaHub, a national microloans program that provides interest-free crowdsourcing loans to small businesses. “We are really proud to be part of this,” says Holloway. Funding from this program (a total of $ 25,000 so far) will help coffee roasters buy the equipment they need to fill their cups, allowing children’s shoe companies to increase production and put on smaller feet. It is now possible.

Urban Impact’s internal lending arm, the Birmingham Community Impact Fund, empowers women and minorities (often inadequate services at traditional financial institutions), thanks to funds raised from partners across the city and across the country. I’m giving. Holloway said the fund marks the beginning of an urban impact journey to become a certified community development financial institution in the coming years.

Fastest forward

Urban Impact is not only protecting the heritage of the district, but also looking head-on for new and better ways to share the story of the Black Community in Baamingham. Holloway and his team tell the story, and telling it well, protects key elements of community history, while providing the resources and support needed to promote and sustain current and next success. We recognize that it can be a powerful tool for providing. generation.

This mission is probably most apparent in the Organizational Revitalization Initiative for the District. “We work with the Urban Main Program, a national main street organization, which serves small sections of big cities with unique characteristics and identities,” says Holloway. .. “It’s a big part of our work right now.”

The focus is on developing development plans that not only protect the civil rights past, but also better communicate its importance and attract new businesses. “What kind of impression do we want them to leave when people visit Birmingham? What kind of experience do we want them to have in this part of Birmingham?” Says Hollowway.

Urban Impact is currently answering these questions. “We are forming a comprehensive strategy centered on design, promotion and organization to create a truly dynamic district,” he says. Some steps include giving the area a cohesive atmosphere, adding signs to illuminate the clear historical details of the district, and sharing a richer perspective using the constructed environment. It is included. “We want people to know what happened here, teeth It’s happening here too, “says Holloway. “And this is where the relationship with the Alabama Electricity Foundation begins, proving that its support is of great value.”

With Foundation support, Urban Impact employs companies with the expertise to put the development vision into action. The plan prioritizes respect for the district by preserving yesterday’s structure and nurturing today’s businesses. One example is Greenacre, a popular restaurant that has attracted hungry wingseekers for over 60 years.

However, the same emphasis is placed on bringing the dormant place back to life. An important factor is to seduce black entrepreneurs to open restaurants, shops, galleries, entertainment options, etc. in the district, providing a creative space that enhances the vitality, prosperity and quality of life of the local population. ..

“We want more small businesses here,” says Holloway. “We want young people who are about to start something to do it here, grow here, and be excited to support the growth of the region as a whole.”

He pointed out the partnership between Urban Impact and the Foundation. He believes that this will give the organization a deeper reputation.

“It’s very exciting to set up a foundation as part of this,” he says. “It’s really widespread and has two purposes. We’re preserving history, but we’re also bringing new places to this old place-fill with fresh energy,” says Holloway. “When people visit the Citizenship and Business Districts, we not only want them to have a deeper understanding of historical stories and leave, but also the stories that are still written, the blacks who are thriving here. I hope to be inspired and enriched by business stories now. “

This story is from the newly released Alabama Power Foundation 2021 Annual Report. View the full report and visit for more information on Foundation programs and initiatives.