There are many projects underway as part of the Mobile County Commission’s multi-year, $40 million parks improvement initiative that includes $35 million for increased public access to water and other improvements. Much of the funding is coming from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).
Here are some of those projects:
- Phase I of the Mobile County Soccer Complex opened to the public, a years-long effort that supporters say will help local players and create a tournament destination. It is located near the intersection of I-10 and I-65 and features three sodded and LED-lighted fields, restrooms and parking for more than 200 vehicles. Phase II will add more fields with concession stands and restrooms, working toward 10 fields. Funding for the $4 million complex is a mix of GOMESA money and county funds.
- The county is working on a major comprehensive blueway master plan to improve recreational paddling experiences and protect the county’s waterways. Public input is being gathered for potential or existing launch sites, hidden features, points of interest and more.
- The commission also approved a $4.8 million contract for Phase 1A of major renovations to Escatawpa Hollow Park and Campground, located off Highway 98 in west Mobile County near the Mississippi state line. The campground and park are closed until renovations are complete. Phase 1B will include a welcome center with a café, general store and a Black Water River System interpretative center.
Workforce training is a regional effort. Mobile County Public Schools receives top marks in the state for career technical education. Higher education facilities and local industry have worked with city and county entities to ensure that students and adults receive the education and training they need. The school system, the largest employer in the county, is heavily involved in workforce development, with a dozen signature academies that give students a closer look and training at career opportunities from coastal studies to law, arts and health services to biomedical science. Superintendent Chreasal Threadgill was recently named Alabama’s superintendent of the year by the School Superintendents of Alabama.
The school system continues to add facilities. With the support of the Barton Academy Foundation, it will reopen Barton Academy in August as the Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies, open to grades 6-9. Barton was Alabama’s first public school and has been reopened as a model for 21st century learning with a focus on global studies and entrepreneurship.
The county also is renovating the Mobile County License Commission office and undertaking various road projects.
City of Mobile
With the goal of One Mobile — a safer, more business and family-friendly city — several improvements and projects are underway.
One of the largest is the city’s partnership with the state of Alabama to purchase hundreds of acres of land along Mobile’s waterfront. Known as “Brookley by the Bay,” the 300-acre property sits along the western shore of Mobile Bay to the east of Brookley Aeroplex. Plans call for the property to include the largest public park on Mobile Bay — with more waterfront access and wetland preservation — and a new industrial park.
The Downtown Mobile Alliance is excited about the number of buildings and projects that are completed or underway under the State Historic Tax Credit program in Mobile. Since the program’s beginning in 2013, 16 historic buildings have been renovated with $50 million of private investment, 13 projects are underway with $68 million of private investment and six projects are on the waiting list with $7.7 million of private investment.
“We are focused on revitalization and we are working with other nonprofit groups for projects, such as the former Barton Academy,” says Carole Hunter, director of communications. “We have an elementary school downtown already.”
In other projects, the city is looking at a street optimization plan redesigning the Ring Road around the city that will make some one-way streets two-way and improve access to areas, she says. It also eventually will connect with greenway and blueway projects.
The city will have more than $100 million in local, state and federal dollars to use for capital projects and infrastructure improvements. And there are plans to move all commercial air service to the Mobile Downtown Airport at Brookley Field, which will include a new terminal and further economic development.
The city also is looking to facilitate the growth of affordable and workforce housing, with plans to renovate or build 1,000 homes by 2026. There also are plans to grow the city through annexation.
Two projects are planned in Africatown, a historic community located three miles north of downtown Mobile. The community was formed by west Africans who arrived in 1860 on the Clotilda, the last-known illegal shipment of slaves from Africa to the U.S. The remains of the vessel were recently unearthed and the city and county are planning two separate projects to tell the story of the ship and its people — The Africatown Heritage House and the Africatown Welcome Center.
City of Saraland
Saraland, an Alabama Community of Excellence, is one of the fastest growing cities in the state, and that has led to new retail, hotels, health care, school system growth and new housing, says Dr. Howard Rubenstein, mayor. “We have experienced quite a bit of growth, which is unusual during COVID-19,” he says. “We have added new businesses, restaurants, health care facilities and so much more.”
The Saraland school system, one of the top-ranked in the state, is growing quickly and has added a new early education center and upgrades such as a new track and training center. The school system offers several career/technical paths, as well as academic offerings.
Saraland’s medical services also are growing, with a new Mobile Infirmary freestanding emergency room and a group of orthopedic surgeons locating to the community just a few miles north of Mobile.
The city is working on a new Town Center Park, with the first phase being a splash pad and eventually a playground, gazebo, pavilion and walking path. The city also plans to build an outdoor theater for concerts, a summer movie night series and an aquatic center.
Saraland has nearly a dozen city parks and the McAuthor-McKinney Recreation Center offers a venue for young people to play sports and other activities. An active senior center holds all kinds of events.
Saraland is part of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust, a preserved scenic area that is popular for camping, hiking and bird watching. The city is looking to rejuvenate the Highway 43 corridor, one of the entrances to the city. The city also owns a former K-mart building that it plans to redevelop into a retail center.
Town of Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island has plans to reopen the west end of the island and add a parking lot, a $250,000 project that repairs damage from recent hurricanes, officials say.
The town also is working on Aloe Bay Town Center, a new mixed-use district that will create a town center with funds under the RESTORE Act, officials say. This year, a design charette was held, public hearings are underway, and work is proceeding on the plans. Phase 1 includes planning and conceptual design of Aloe Bay along with a meeting space study for the entire island. Phase II is design and engineering, permitting, determining costs and more. Phase III is the construction phase. The development will include the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo site. It is expected to be a major catalyst for community and economic development.
City of Chickasaw
The city of Chickasaw, in Mobile County, has its own school system, including an early learning center, an elementary, middle and high school and the Alabama Career Destinations Academy. The school system has partnerships with several industries, and students are exposed to STEM project-based learning, career exploration and readiness and computer science/coding.