YWCA Receives National Planning Award for Woodlawn Revitalization

February 13, 2013

The YWCA Central Alabama is honored to be the recipient of the American Planning Association's (APA) 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff. The award comes as a result of a multimillion dollar urban neighborhood revitalization effort implemented in the Woodlawn community. 

The mission of the YWCA is eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. While for years we've operated transitional and permanent housing for women in downtown Birmingham along with elderly housing and housing for those with special needs in nearby communities, the YWCA prepared the YWoodlawn Plan, a collaborative empowerment effort intended to reduce poverty and homelessness within an underserved area of Birmingham by reinvesting in the neighborhood; providing innovative housing for families experiencing homelessness; introducing affordable transitional housing for families; bringing health, education and employment-based services to the community's doorstep and reintroducing homeownership opportunities in a stable, growing community.

"The YWoodlawn plan is a catalyst for the broader community in Birmingham and illustrates what happens when a group such as the YWCA brings its organizational might and commitment to tackle a problem," said Ann Bagley, FAICP, 2013 APA Awards Jury Chair. "They raised $10 million dollars in a weakened economy so that they could empower families and ensure their safety and stability."

As of 2007, 43 percent of Woodlawn residents lived below the poverty line and 30 percent of the housing stock had been abandoned and demolished. Between 2007 and 2012 the YWCA completed three major components of the YWoodlawn project, which included:

  • The YWCA's Interfaith Hospitality House, congregate housing for families experience the crisis of homelessness.
  • A permanent housing initiative with 58 housing units, eight of which are entire ADA accessible rental units.
  • The Family Resource Center, a community center located at the gateway to YWoodlawn offering assistance and supportive services to those seeking social and economic empowerment.

"Woodlawn was a neighborhood with thriving businesses, schools and resources, but over the years it had become an example of many of the challenges we are facing in urban areas across our country," said Sally Macklin, Executive Director, Woodlawn Foundation. "The YWCA saw a need, tackled it head on and is making a very tangible difference for so many individuals and families in our community."

YWoodlawn has raised the community's self image while also attracting outside interest in investing in the neighborhood such as - the Woodlawn Foundation, the Dream Center, Christ Health Center and others. This has led to the creation of Woodlawn United, a partnership of merchants, the YWCA, a local Main Street organization, resident, area schools, churches and nonprofit organizations all working together to holistically revitalize Woodlawn. Thanks to the many generous capital campaign donors, the YWCA's well-planned and executed YWoodlawn project has proven to be an essential catalyst in the rebirth of the community.

 "We are grateful to all those who have supported our vision to create a community that will socially and economically empower individuals and families. Because of many generous contributors, we're bringing hope where there was no hope," says YWCA Capital Campaign Co-Chair and YWCA Board President Kathryn Harbert. "We have the experience and the resources to supply the support services these families need for a safe, stable place to live and to develop skills for success. We are truly committed to this neighborhood and the people who will call it home."

The YWCA would like to thank the APA for selecting us to receive The National Planning Excellence Award for Advancing Diversity & Social Change Honor of Paul Davidoff. The awards luncheon will be held during APA's National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

To learn more about the YWCA Central Alabama or to donate, please click here.