The competition for the future of Africatown

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A community meeting brought up new ideas for the future of Africatown. The meeting focused on the Africatown International Design Competition, showing what could come to the community following the discovery of the Clotilda.

Plans bringing Africatown into the future have been talked about for more than a year now, but finding the Clotilda is giving the whole community new excitement for what this area could be.

President and CEO of M.O.V.E. (Making Opportunities Viable for Everyone) Gulf Coast CDC. Vickii Howell said, The journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step.

Africatown’s own journey is spread over thousands of miles and nearly 160 years. Howell said, “I’ve been here all my life and I never really knew the story of Africatown at all.” Now that the Clotilda is unearthed, Howell hopes its history, and the stories of the people it impacted, will be brought to life.

Howell said, “16 sites across three cities on four venues that’s a master plan community that is really going to rock this area.” Howell’s non-profit M.O.V.E. is working with a master urban planner from Birmingham, bringing something similar to the Civil Rights Trail there, and using ideas from the Lynching Museum in Montgomery.

Howell said, “the economic impact from the Lynching Luseum in Montgomery generated an economic impact of 1.1-billion-dollars from 400,000 visitors, so can you imagine what that would look like in a community like Mobile, but specifically in an under-served community like Africatown.”

The four venues are the Welcome Center, the former Josephine Allen public housing site, the new Africatown Connections Blueway, and finally the Africatown USA State Park in Prichard.

The museum is just one of the changes Howell hopes to see. Part of that idea includes a full scale replica of the Clotilda with underwater sculptures paying homage to the people who lost their lives in the transatlantic slave trade. People would be able to walk below water level and see the ship.

Howell said, “One ship benefits not only the original decedents. Not just one community, but three communities, and the entire Mobile area.”

M.O.V.E. will launch the website with the ideas for the future of Africatown on September 19. The Africatown International Design Competition will open shortly after. Architects from around the globe will submit their renderings for what the project could look like.

LIST OF SITES AND SUGGESTED USES:

  1. Site #1 includes the Welcome Center, already funded in part by money from the BP Oil Spill (which could be designed like the African Burial Ground site in New York City), an expansion of the Mobile County Training School, 30 different housing prototypes on vacant lots and a gateway that honors the ancestors facing the Africatown Cemetery;
  2. Site #2 is the former Josephine Allen public housing site that could feature a boat house and full-scale replica of the Clotilda in its floodplain, underwater sculptures that pay homage to those lost in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, an interpretive museum surrounded by maritime residential housing, and a second gateway;
  3. Site #3 is the new Africatown Connections Blueway along Three Mile Creek, the Mobile River and Chickasaw (Chicksabogue) Creek, to feature the proposed Africatown Yacht Club (to teach swimming, sailing and boat-building boats), interpretive signage, rest stops and kayaking along the waterway, plus a water transit system designed to transport people up and down the creeks and rivers, and then a third gateway;
  4. Site #4 is the Africatown USA State Park in Prichard featuring the Benin House project, which includes another interpretive museum focused on the history of Africa, a spa hotel, convention center, and technology and environmental workforce training center, and finally a fourth gateway of return to Africa.

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