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UrbanMain team’s mission: Equitable entrepreneurship in Woodlawn

Woodlawn UrbanMain facilitator Alycia Levels-Moore speaks at a February 2018 community meeting at SocialVenture.

Even well-meaning community planners sometimes neglect to stop and ask, “What do you want to see in the place where you live?” Diving into that question is the basis of a new Main Street America place-based revitalization initiative designed for urban communities.  

In a city like Birmingham, where multiple commercial districts must coexist, each historical district’s revitalization strategy may look quite different. Each community needs to find its own niche, its own voice and its own identity – in ways that feel right for all the different people who are invested in it. 

That’s exactly what UrbanMain is intended to do. The initiative, a partnership of the community, Woodlawn Foundation, Woodlawn Business Association, Main Street Alabama, the National Main Street Center and REV, is still in pilot mode and is being put into place by a diverse group of stakeholders in Woodlawn, with hopes of advocating for the community to be as creative as possible as they help carry out the plans for revitalizing their home.  

Alycia Levels-Moore, a Woodlawn resident of five years, serves as the facilitator for the Woodlawn UrbanMain initiative. She was led to the position by her community involvement and desire to make Woodlawn a more inclusive place where people are proud to live. 

“When I moved here, I didn’t see much vibrancy and diversity, but I saw an opportunity to form Woodlawn into a more eclectic and diverse melting pot,” said Levels-Moore. “I want to live in a community where I can use my money to benefit the many people with great minds that will, in turn, benefit the community.” 

An UrbanMain community transformation strategies meeting at Woodlawn First Methodist in October 2017.

Woodlawn community partners recently received recommendations from the National Main Street Center for working toward their goal – to achieve equitable entrepreneurship through the recruitment of new community-based businesses in the business district. Community members will utilize the recommendations alongside the Main Street Four-Point Approach to community revitalization to meet their goal. Recommendations include the addition of more family-friendly businesses, creative arts businesses and home-based food businesses to appeal to the wide age range of Woodlawn residents. 

Woodlawn UrbanMain consists of three committees – promotion, design and economic vitality. Each committee plays a significant role in the path to revitalization.  

  • The Promotion Committee is charged with telling the story of Woodlawn’s businesses, matching face to place.  
  • The Design Committee is responsible for façade improvements as well as taking Woodlawn’s vacant spaces and using them to host entrepreneurs through pop-ups, letting them get a feel for what having a business in the community is like.  
  • The Economic Vitality Committee works to strengthen Woodlawn’s existing businesses while finding community entrepreneurs for new ones. 

Above all, Levels-Moore wants the residents of Woodlawn to understand that they are vital to this initiative. “This is for you, this can’t happen without you, you have a voice in what is happening,” said Levels-Moore, urging the community to get involved in any way they can. 

Woodlawn residents and Woodlawn business and property owners that would like to get involved with the initiative to help bring change to the business district can contact Alycia Levels-Moore at alycialevels@gmail.com. 

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