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Africatown Hall & Food Bank Opens

Posted on: Jun 26th, 2024 | News and Announcementsfeatured newsPress Releases

 

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MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. -- Officials from Mobile County, Alabama state legislature, the City of Mobile, Africatown Redevelopment Corporation, and other organizations, participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Africatown Hall & Food Bank on June 26, 2024.

About 100 people attended the ribbon-cutting event. 

“This building will provide a central location for residents and the public to access information about revitalization efforts. It is a tangible symbol of the community’s resilience and its efforts to reclaim the vitality it once enjoyed,” said District 1 Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, who has spearheaded this project.

Located at 2201 Papermill Road, Africatown Hall & Food Bank is the new home of the Africatown Redevelopment Corporation and a community food pantry operated by Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church and the Africatown Community Development Corporation. The building also provides office space and communal meeting/training spaces for the Africatown Heritage Preservation Foundation, Clotilda Descendants Association, and the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition.

The Mobile County Commission constructed the $2.4 million, approximately 5,300-square-foot building on land owned by the City of Mobile and leased to the County.

Africatown Hall & Food Bank is the first new construction in the community to feature an Afro-centric design, including the colors of the West African nation Benin’s flag and traditional African patterns.

About half of the building will be spaces for organizations, and the remainder will be a food bank with office space, walk-in cold storage areas, and open space for storage that will support existing food programs within the Africatown community. The Yorktown/Africatown Community Development Corp. collaboration has been providing this service for about 15 years, distributing about 500 food boxes each month to people within the Africatown community.

Africatown is considered a food desert because there are no grocery stores nearby and people cannot easily access quality food,” said Pastor Christopher Williams of Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church. “This new facility will benefit not only the residents who receive food boxes each week, but the organizers as well. We’ll be able to store more, different kinds of food, and we’ll be able to serve more people more conveniently. We greatly appreciate Mobile County Commission’s listening to community needs and providing this important new resource for existing efforts in Africatown,” he added.

Africatown Redevelopment Corporation, an organization created in 2021 by act of the Alabama legislature, will be headquartered in the new building and it will manage the facility on behalf of the Mobile County Commission.

Teresa Fox Bettis, Africatown Redevelopment Corp. Board Chair, said: “We are excited about the opening of ARC’s headquarters in the heart of the Africatown community, which will make ARC accessible to the community and help us better fulfill our mission to preserve, revitalize, and bring commerce to the historic district of Africatown. We’re grateful to the Mobile County Commission for their continued support of our organization and the Africatown community.”

Africatown Redevelopment Corp. is also a recipient of Mobile County Commission American Rescue Plan Act funding, through which it is making an impact on local housing stock. Two new homes were recently constructed, and other historic homes in the area will soon be rehabilitated.

Africatown Hall & Food Bank is the second new structure built by the Mobile County Commission in the Africatown community of Mobile since the ship Clotilda was found in 2018 and verified by experts in 2019. Africatown Heritage House and Clotilda: The Exhibition opened with much fanfare last summer.

The City of Mobile acquired the former Scott Credit Union building in 2021. It was to be refurbished for its new purpose by the Mobile County Commission. The costs to refurbish/adapt the building to become offices and a food bank far exceeded what its value would be after the work was done. In 2022, Mobile County Commission decided to demolish the existing structure and build a new construction specifically designed for its intended purposes.

The facility’s dedicatory plaque highlights the Mobile County Commission/City of Mobile collaboration that made Africatown Hall & Food Bank possible.

"We are delighted to have contributed to the creation of another remarkable asset for Africatown and grateful for the County Commission and Commissioner Ludgood’s continued leadership,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “The Africatown Redevelopment Corporation is doing great work, and the City of Mobile is proud to support them. We are also excited that partners like the Africatown Community Development Corporation and Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church will have such a beautiful facility for their food distribution efforts in the community.”  

Dedicatory ceremony speakers included:

  • Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, District 1, Presider
  • Rev. Lamar Brady, First Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Invocation
  • Rep. Adline Clarke, Alabama House District 97
  • Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson, District 2
  • Mobile Mayor William S. Stimpson
  • Mobile City Councilor William Carroll, District 2
  • Teresa Fox Bettis, ARC Board Chair
  • Rev. Christopher Williams, Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church, Dedicatory Prayer
  • Rev. Melvin Hitchens, Pine Grove AME Church, Benediction

The architects were Watermark Design Group and the contractor was M.W. Rogers Construction Co., with additional design consultation by Studio Rotan. Project oversight provided by Mobile County’s Facilities Design & Construction department. Africatown Hall & Food Bank is designed to withstand wind gusts over 160 mph.

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