10 months ago

$24 million American Life building renovation kicks off Birmingham’s opportunity zone initiatives

One of the most prominent vacant buildings in downtown Birmingham is about to get a $24 million transformation into 140 workforce housing apartments thanks to opportunity zone funding and a new initiative by the city of Birmingham.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin used the redevelopment announcement of the Stonewall/American Life building at 2308 Fourth Ave. N. to unveil the Birmingham Inclusive Growth (BIG) Partnership, a two-pronged effort to identify potential opportunity zone projects in one of the city’s two dozen designated opportunity zones, and to work with a separate investment board to find opportunity zone dollars to fund those projects.

“We believe that this innovative vehicle can help drive investment in Birmingham’s 24 opportunity zones – guided by community voice, bolstered by city resources and elevated by respected leaders in the investment community who believe in Birmingham’s potential,” Woodfin said.

Although the opportunity zone projects announced in Birmingham thus far have been mostly downtown, Woodfin noted that potential exists in almost every part of the city.

“They touch 77 out of 99 neighborhoods,” Woodfin said of the 24 opportunity zones in Birmingham. “That is a major, major opportunity – pun intended – to invest in the entire city, not just the central city.”

Woodfin said the city is working with Opportunity Alabama on an educational program that will see 500 residents trained by June 2020 in identifying and presenting opportunity zone projects.

Alex Flachsbart, founder of Opportunity Alabama, said Birmingham is prepared to be a leader in how opportunity zones are designed to help elevate communities.

RELATED: Alabama, Birmingham preparing for economic impact of Opportunity Zones

“We have been excited for months now about releasing to the public the city of Birmingham’s incredible vision for opportunity zones, which Opportunity Alabama has been an integral part in creating and now bringing to life,” Flachsbart said.

“Where we see the greatest potential is in Birmingham’s 77 neighborhoods that are all in opportunity zones and that all have the ability to surface projects just like this one,” he said. “That’s why over the course of the next two months we’re putting together a first-of-its-kind-nationally educational curriculum designed to help communities understand how this program can benefit them and raise projects up in all the neighborhoods so that we can see opportunity zone capital flowing out to the entire city and not just downtown.”

Woodfin said the American Life building is symbolic.

The Stonewall/American Life building has been vacant for 36 years. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)
“If you drive along on any highway that surrounds downtown, you can’t help but notice the 12-story, blighted building that we’re standing in front of right now,” Woodfin said. “At the top of this building, above cracked windows and shuttered doors, are painted words ‘American Life.’ For the last four decades, these words suspended on an eyesore in our city center have hung over Birmingham as a constant reminder that even though we enjoy pockets of prosperity, hardships still persist in Birmingham and all of our Americans’ life. But today we are announcing that the American Life building is once again going to be filled with life.”

Ed Ticheli is the owner and developer of the American Life building.

“We’ve owned the building since 2004 and we’re about to put her into service with 140 units of workforce housing,” Ticheli said.

Ticheli said the apartments will not be low-income housing that requires a separate approval process. Rather, rents are designed to provide affordable apartments for the working class who desire to live closer to their jobs.

Ticheli said rents will run from $700 per month to $1,200 per month and will average 750 square feet. He said the units will be small as 350 square feet and as large as 800 to 1,200 square feet duplexes on the first floor.

Five of the units will be reserved for placements by the Dannon Project, which helps people reintegrate into the workforce after prison or other obstacles.

Demolition and abatement work will begin in the next 45 days and the project will take about 14 months to complete. PNC Bank is financing.

Ticheli said it was the opportunity zone designation that helped make the project a reality.

“It’s been a godsend, not just for our team, but for the city of Birmingham because now the people who commute and hour and a half each way will have affordable housing here,” he said.

Ticheli said although the building has most recently been known as the Stonewall Building, he is leaning toward using the American Life name.

“I really do like ‘American Life’ because it symbolizes what we’re doing here,” he said.

Ticheli is eyeing an additional project next to the American Life building.

“Hopefully we will get the other 400 units up next door in time to come, with retail and a 600-space parking deck,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a game-changer. You’re right by the highway. If we put a nice little grocery story in here, I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Woodfin was joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, both of whom serve on the advisory council of Accelerator for America, which has spearheaded the opportunity zones initiative across the country.

“Our signature work that brings us here to Birmingham is opportunity zones – this moment to say to any community that your ZIP code is not a debit, it is an asset,” Garcetti said. “That it will attract investment, but we will make sure that that investment brings the community with it – listens to, comes from and hand-in-hand, that’s what we see here. That is exactly what is happening in Birmingham.”

Benjamin, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said “Birmingham is very much on the leading edge” when it comes to adopted opportunity zone policies.

“We’re here because opportunity is here in Birmingham,” he said. “We’re here in Birmingham right now because we are learning from Birmingham. The reality is that Birmingham is a leader in this movement.”

That’s music to the ears of Flachsbart, who has been singing the tune of opportunity zones in the state for the past year.

“When you go back to the policy goal of opportunity zones, it wasn’t just to do the big buildings downtown, it was to do the little things in neighborhoods,” he said. “And, more importantly it was to facilitate investment into businesses, into startups that are located in communities across the U.S. Here in Birmingham, we have a comprehensive strategy for building a pipeline, both on the real estate side and on the active business side, to service those opportunities, bring local capital to those opportunities, and help to see a whole new wave of additional growth. While we’re all standing here today talking about this and while we’re all incredibly excited about it, I think the real story is going to come over the next two or three months as this effort starts to roll out on a citywide basis.”

While real estate projects have been the biggest beneficiary of opportunity zone investment so far, Flachsbart said there is some clarification of the opportunity zone regulations underway now that should see more investment flow into startup companies and active businesses.

“We’re very hopeful, based on initial guidance that we’ve gotten publicly from Treasury, that that is going to throw the doors wide open for investment into the exact kinds of startups and operating companies in neighborhoods that this program was supposed to promote in the first place,” he said.

David Fleming, CEO of REV Birmingham, said Birmingham saw it important to be an early adopter of opportunity zones so the city could capitalize once investors were ready.

“Having an intentional strategy is really important and then having projects like this one announced today in Birmingham as a potential recipient of that shows that it does have an impact,” Fleming said.

The American Life project could be the first of many examples.

“This is a great project,” Fleming said. “We’ve been hopeful for years that the right thing would happen here. Really, the planets lined up between getting the state historic tax credit a few years ago to twin with the federal, and then now the opportunity zones is going to help make this project happen. Hopefully this will be a model that a lot of people will replicate around Birmingham.”

Josh Carpenter, director of Birmingham’s office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, said opportunity zones are a great tool the city can use for growth.

“The BIG Partnership is another way that Birmingham is telling the nation that we are open for business.,” he said. “The BIG Partnership could become a model public-private endeavor that harnesses the investment expertise of our investment committee, the convening power and resources of the city and neighborhood-level expertise to drive inclusive growth in our community.”

Garcetti said Birmingham will be held up as an example to others.

“Folks, take it from Accelerator for America. We’re working with 30 cities right now across America in opportunity zones and to all of them and to every city in America we say, ‘Look here at Birmingham,’” he said. “We have been blown away by the partnership, by the success of state and local folks across party lines coming together and do what’s right. Revitalizing an iconic part of this city – this metaphor for an American life and what America’s life can be like in the future – and making sure there is a return for investors while there is a return for community. It can be a win-win and Birmingham is showing us that way.”

The website for the BIG Partnership is www.birminghamoz.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

32 mins ago

Mooney for Senate endorsed by 10 state legislators

State Rep. Arnold Mooney’s (R-Indian Springs) campaign for the U.S. Senate has received an endorsement from 10 of his colleagues in the state legislature with less than two weeks to go before the primary election.

The endorsers include many of the most conservative members in the Alabama statehouse, like State Rep. Mike Holmes from the Montgomery area and State Rep. Tommy Hanes from Northeast Alabama.

The state-level endorsements fall in line with the prominent national conservatives who have endorsed Mooney previously. Conservative Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), along with conservative television host Mark Levin, and Alabama’s own Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) are among those who have thrown their support behind Mooney.

402

The full list of state legislators, as follows:

  • Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals)
  • Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens)
  • Rep. Ritchie Whorton (R-Owens Cross Roads)
  • Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant)
  • Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka)
  • Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa)
  • Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville)
  • Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Florence)
  • Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham)
  • Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road)

In addition to those legislators, Mooney has gotten the personal endorsement of Eunie Smith, the president of the Eagle Forum. The Eagle Forum is a deeply conservative group with a strong presence in Alabama.

Many of Mooney’s coworkers in the state legislature called him a “friend” in their statements. They praised Mooney’s passion for conservative values, his commitment to pro-life policies and Christian values. The group of legislators that endorsed Mooney on Friday is viewed by many as having similarities to members of the Freedom Caucus in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Dan Roberts said in a statement, “Arnold Mooney is a true conservative and has the record to prove it. Over the years, I have witnessed Arnold stand up to the establishment in Montgomery, fight for the life of the unborn, and ensure that the voice of the people he represents are heard. Arnold is a family man, a true conservative, and a strong Christian. Alabama needs him in Washington.”

“Representative Arnold Mooney is a tremendous friend and colleague who is well suited and very capable of representing Alabama as a United States Senator. He is the true conservative in the race and has the record to prove it,” Rep. Andrew Sorrell advised.

Mooney’s supporters will be hoping the endorsements generate enthusiasm for a campaign that has lagged in recent polls.

Yellowhammer reported earlier Friday that Mooney has $350,626 cash on hand for the remainder of the election. Fundraising is one area where the Mooney campaign’s success has surprised many political observers. The candidate has consistently been able to pull in funds at a level that outpaces his relative standing in public polls, seemingly from small grassroots donations.

(FEC) Totals from the entire race up to Feb 12, 2020.

Mooney will compete at the ballot box on March 3 with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Sessions is punching in all directions — that shows the status of the U.S. Senate race

The race for the United States Senate seat from Alabama has gotten pretty contentious this past week. The knives are out, and it’s about time.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made his presence felt by going after both Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Sessions joined WVNN on Thursday to highlight his concerns with the other major contenders for his old Senate seat.

405

Sessions hit Byrne for abandoning the president only weeks before the general election against Hillary Clinton.

Sessions explained on “The Dale Jackson Show,” “Well it’s a huge mistake. It would have guaranteed the election to Hillary Clinton.”

Sessions wants voters to know that he was on stage with now-President Donald Trump wearing a red MAGA hat while “my own Congressman was saying he was unfit to be president and should resign.”

“That would have split the party and been a disaster of monumental proportions, so it is a big deal, I just have to say,” he added.

The attacks pointed towards Tuberville are far more pointed.

Sessions hammered him on his Florida residency, pointing out that Tuberville claimed his homestead exemption in Florida and has never voted in Alabama. He also pointed out that Tuberville did not donate a cent to the Trump campaign, while millions of average Americans did.

“He filed for homestead in Florida in 2018, and he hasn’t voted in Alabama. He voted in Florida in 2018, it appears. I’m not sure he even voted for President Trump, I’m not sure, he certainly didn’t give a contribution to the Trump campaign, he never once spoke out in favor of the Trump campaign. So, now he waltzes in tourist-like, I think it’s a fair word, to say now I want to be Alabama’s senator, and go up there and defend Alabama’s values.”

Sessions in the interview also hit Tuberville on immigration, vets and trade.

My takeaway:

These are all fair arguments. Tuberville filed his homestead exemption, which you file on your primary residence in Florida in 2018. He paid his taxes there. He lived there and admitted to me that he moved here to run for U.S. Senate because he knew his name ID in the state would work.

Tuberville did talk about amnesty for illegals.

Tuberville did say he was blaming Trump for veterans’ health care.

Tuberville did say Trump was putting a noose around the neck of farmers.

The attacks show that Sessions knows he is in a dogfight for his former seat. He is not walking away with this like many thought he would. Polls indicate he is in first or second, so as this race continues to heat up, look for more attacks on his opponents’ records from Jeff Sessions.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

3 hours ago

Mo Brooks, colleagues introduce bill to protect travelers with firearms

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), along with 13 original cosponsors, introduced the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act on Friday.

According to a press release, the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act would “expand the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) ‘transport’ definition to include ‘staying in temporary lodging, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, or any other activity incidental to the transport.'”

In addition, the bill clarifies that the ability to transport a firearm also applies to  ammunition and  detachable magazines, which are essential to the function and purpose of a firearm.

365

“‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ means that Americans do not relinquish their Second Amendment Rights by simply traveling across state lines,” Brooks said. “All Americans have the constitutional right to self-defense whether they are at home or traveling.”

He added, “My bill, the Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act, would bar freedom-hating, anti-Second Amendment states and localities from prosecuting firearm-transporting travelers who are passing through on the way to their destination who engage in travel-related activities.”

The press release also noted that FOPA currently prohibits state prosecution of “persons traveling from one place to another for any state firearms offense if the traveler is merely passing through on the way to their destination as long as the firearm is transported in a locked container other than the vehicle glove compartment or console.”

“Despite FOPA protections, a disturbing trend has emerged wherein anti-Second Amendment states and localities increasingly seek to criminalize the possession of a firearm or ammunition,” the release stated. ” These freedom-hating jurisdictions continue to seek ways to prosecute travelers merely for the possession of an otherwise lawful firearm. This bill seeks to safeguard otherwise law-abiding gun owners traveling the country from overcriminalization by anti-Second Amendment states and localities.”

“Malicious state laws  unconstitutionally  criminalize  what would otherwise be considered  law-abiding activity  for the explicit purposes of making gun ownership, possession, and transportation more difficult,” said Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of Federal Affairs. “The Lawful Interstate Transportation of Firearms Act complements the Second Amendment in its mission to protect Americans from governmental infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.”

Johnston added, “I hope every member of Congress supports this simple legislation that protects gun owners while they travel.”

Original cosponsors of the bill include Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36), Congressman Steve Watkins (KS-02), Congressman Steve King (IA-04), Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-AL), Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03), Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10), Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05) and Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01).

Follow Kyle on Twitter @RealKyleMorris and Facebook.

3 hours ago

Auburn University announces A-Day kickoff time, ticket sales

Auburn University announced Thursday that its popular A-Day game, presented by Golden Flake, will kick-off at 1:00 p.m. CST at Jordan-Hare Stadium on April 11.

Tickets for the annual spring football game are on sale now through the Auburn Ticket Office for $5 to the general public and free for AU students who have an Auburn Ignited Card.

158

Tickets for the event can be purchased here or in-person at the Auburn Ticket Office located at Auburn Arena from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

A press release for the event said a pre-game “Auburn Legends” flag football game will be held in Jordan-Hare Stadium with participating players being announced at a later date. A post-game autograph session will also be held after A-Day. Fans will be limited to one item per person.

A-Day Weekend will also feature the softball and men’s tennis teams competing at home. The softball team will host Ole Miss at Jane B. Moore Field on Friday, April 10 at 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday, April 11 at 4:00 p.m. In addition to the other events occurring, the Auburn men’s tennis team will host Arkansas on Friday, April 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

4 hours ago

Alabama legislator files bill to ban transgender meds, surgeries for minors — ‘It is irresponsible to permanently mutilate them’

MONTGOMERY — State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) on Thursday filed the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, HB 303.

The legislation would make it illegal for doctors to prescribe puberty blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. Allen’s HB 303 would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors. Violations would constitute a Class C felony.

In a findings section of the legislation, the act states, “The long-term effects and safety of the administration of puberty-blocking medications and cross sex hormones to gender incongruent children have not been rigorously studied. Absent rigorous studies showing their long-term safety and positive benefits, their continued administration to children constitutes dangerous and uncontrolled human medical experimentation that may result in grave and irreversible consequences to their physical and mental health.”

The bill has been referred to the House Health Committee.

316

“I was shocked when I found out doctors in Alabama were prescribing these types of drugs to children,” Allen said in a statement. “This is something you hear about happening in California or New York but it is happening right here in Alabama and it’s time we put a stop to that practice.”

Allen noted that he recognizes that there are children who are struggling with psychological disorders, such as gender dysphoria. A release added that “he believes that we should help those children with therapeutic treatment from qualified mental health professionals, not allow these children’s bodies to be permanently mutilated.”

“Gender dysphoria is a real disorder. It’s listed in the DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association, which lists all recognized mental disorders,” Allen remarked. “These children are suffering from a psychological disorder, just as someone who is suffering with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia but we treat those patients and try to help them. We should treat these psychological disorders as well.”

Allen’s release further stated that many of the puberty blocking medications and opposite gender hormones being prescribed to Alabama children “have irreversible consequences including sterilization, liver disease and increased risk for cancer.” Allen advised that the FDA has never approved the use of puberty blocking medications for the treatment of gender dysphoria.

“These patients are children who have not reached physical or mental maturity. It is irresponsible to permanently mutilate them at their request or at the request of their parents. We don’t allow minors to enter into contracts, buy alcohol or get a credit card because they aren’t capable of making those decisions and we should not allow them to do this either,” he concluded.

The introduction of this legislation came the day after the House State Government Committee gave a favorable report to the “Gender is Real Legislative” (GIRL) Act.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn