Porchlight is a group of like-minded real estate and construction professionals with a multi-faceted, multi-phase plan to reinvigorate urban areas experiencing blight, decay, and disinvestment within Mobile, Alabama’s historic urban core.
Urban centers across the country are experiencing blight and decay. The fabric of historic neighborhoods has begun to unravel with lack of sufficient housing, deterioration of infrastructure, lack of investment, and shrinking of the taxpayer base.
To capitalize on job growth and major investment by leading an effort to rebuild a housing stock that has been deteriorating over many decades. Porchlight will work to bring together government, public, and private resources which align everyone behind a clear plan of action. The goal will be to build new and restore existing homes that return life, vibrancy, and investment to neighborhoods. Each house must enhance the existing neighborhood, be built with quality materials, and be energy efficient. The model must be sustainable and transferable between communities, neighborhoods, developers, and cities.
The City of Mobile, Alabama was chosen for Porchlight’s first project.
At nearly 60 city blocks, the Oakleigh Garden District and Texas Hill make up one of Mobile’s largest and most well-known sections of town. The area is bounded by Government Street to the north, Ann Street to the west, Broad Street to the east, and Magnolia Cemetery to the south. The Oakleigh Garden Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and makes up one of Mobile’s six locally designated historic districts. The area boasts over 500 historically significant structures, including some of Mobile’s most well-known landmarks, the Oakleigh House Museum and Washington Square Park. Many notable establishments are in Oakleigh as well, including Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Kitchen on George, Pollman’s Bakery, and Griffith Service Station.
The Oakleigh Garden District, as the name suggests, is anchored by the Oakleigh House Museum, a c. 1833 raised Greek Revival Home surrounded by lush gardens and a grove of live oak trees. The surrounding blocks are lined with wonderful examples of Victorian, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Bungalow style homes. While large mansions are found in the northern section of the area, working class shotguns are more prevalent as one moves south. This indicates the origins of the neighborhood, which was largely settled by working class Irish immigrants.
Platted in the 1850s, the Texas Hills community is a small inner city neighborhood on Mobile’s south side, perfectly located a stone’s throw from the historic homes of Oakleigh and walking distance from the Down-The-Bay area. Named, seemingly, for the lone star state and the street’s hilly terrain, Texas Hills has an abundance of historic shotgun structures dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and a smattering of neighborhood grocery stores, which were run by the Maisels and the Taylors. Once a bustling, diverse neighborhood with working class families who made their living at the Brookley Air Force Base, City of Mobile and the Alabama State Docks. Only a few streets made up the neighborhood, Fry, Elmira and, of course, Texas. Texas Hills is a haven of opportunities, offering the historic beauty of Magnolia Cemetery to the honeysuckle that grows wildly in Crawford Park. (From City of Mobile Neighborhood Renewal Program Guide)
With the expansion of the city outward in the 1950s, the closing of Brookley Army Air Field in the late 1960s, and the subsequent decline of downtown Mobile throughout the remaining decades of the 20th century, Oakleigh experienced the challenges associated with populations movements out of the city. Today, the area bounded by Selma, Ann, South Broad and Virginia Streets has well over 150 blighted and vacant properties, many of these being vacant and overgrown lots with no existing structure.
Porchlight will work to rehabilitate existing structures within the Oakleigh Garden Historic District. Vacant lots will be infilled with new homes. Both redevelopment efforts will be focused on retaining historic integrity and ensuring compatibility. A consistent architectural character fosters a sense of pride, a sense of place, and a sense of community, all things Porchlight wishes to encourage and enhance.