Woodlawn Foundation: Comprehensive Revitalization
Woodlawn Foundation has come a long way in its brief history, pursuing the revitalization of its Birmingham neighborhood in a holistic way. When BBVA Compass offered to sponsor them for a NeighborWorks capacity assessment, Executive Director Sally Mackin and her board saw an opportunity to have an objective, informed analysis of the organization at a critical time in the implementation cycle for their strategic plan.
Since its formation in 2010, Woodlawn Foundation has worked to break the cycle of poverty and help to build the local asset base. The organization’s approach features mixed income housing, “cradle to career” education initiatives, and community wellness, by applying the “purpose built communities” model. Broad-based collaboration at the community and city level has been central to pursuing these objectives.
“The assessment process made the entire staff and board reflect,” Mackin said. “The questions that NeighborWorks asked helped us to really see where we were and to take the information from the many lessons learned and use that to work smarter and more intentionally going forward.”
An early project was the purchase and redevelopment of a commercial structure in Woodlawn. It’s now Social Venture, a building where the organization shares offices with REV Birmingham and several other non-profit groups focused on initiatives that support neighborhood revitalization.
The first new construction project was the development of 64 affordable, townhouse-style rental homes designed to fit well with the historic character of the neighborhood through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Then Woodlawn Foundation began to build single-family homes with ten sold by mid-2017 and more planned for buyers who have a mix of incomes. Ongoing housing rehab has served over 75 established homeowners, enabling current stakeholders to benefit as revitalization progresses.
The OAS assessment encouraged the Foundation to begin a process to create a more detailed strategy specifically around real estate and the current properties that they own. Birmingham based BBVA Compass saw the value of building nonprofit capacity by sponsoring OAS assessments for promising, productive community developers in the bank’s markets. Melodi Morrissette, community relations executive for the bank’s east region, approached Mackin regarding OAS, seeing Woodlawn Foundation as a perfect fit. The NeighborWorks OAS assessment in early 2017 was one more element provided with the help of a local partner to assist in the organization’s growth.
“True collaboration,” said Mackin, “is critical to the success of this complicated work. Many factors have contributed to blight in our neighborhoods over the course of many years, and no one organization can correct the wrong. We all have to work together and stay hyper-focused on ensuring that the residents are the ultimate benefactors of any revitalization.”
"The assessment process made
the entire staff and board reflect. The questions asked helped us to really see where we were and to take the information from the many lessons learned and use that to work smarter and more intentionally going forward."
- Sally Mackin, Executive Director, Woodlawn Foundation.