By Sarah Kuper
Organizers from the Homewood GreenSpace Initiative said 105 people showed up to the group’s first public forum at the Homewood Library on Sept. 12.
Members of the initiative spoke at a City Council meeting in August to introduce the idea of replacing the old judicial center in downtown Homewood with a pocket park instead of selling the property when the new jail is built in West Homewood.
Since the idea was publicly presented, group members have been spreading the word about the idea and even getting local economic and urban development experts to collaborate.
That’s why members such as Betsy Hunter Maguire were pleased to see the auditorium full of interested residents.
“Even on a rainy and cold evening, we had great turn-out,” she said, “It went the way we hoped it would go. It seemed people were enthusiastic about the opportunity and recognized what a privilege it is to be in this position.”
The speakers were Henry Hughes, vice president of education at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Julie Price, manager of sustainability at UAB; Jane Reed Ross, senior landscape architect at GMC; and Lindsay Puckett, principal planner of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
Each one spoke to the economic, environmental and community benefits of having a public greenspace downtown.
Puckett gave an introduction to the newly launched planning process for the Homewood Central Business District Master Plan.
Several City Council representatives attended to listen in on the discussion: Jennifer Andress, Peter Wright, Britt Thames, Andy Gwaltney, Mike Higgenbotham and Patrick McClusky.
After presenting case studies, statistics, research and possibilities, the group opened the floor for questions and comments.
According to Maguire, individuals from business leaders to neighborhood moms voiced their support for the park.
A few questions were raised about parking and logistical issues such as park maintenance.
From here, initiative members plan to take the idea back to the council, including outlining a potential funding mechanism.
Organizers said they left the forum feeling optimistic that, not only will the park be built, but it will lead to the further “greening” of Homewood. ❖