National organization chooses Tuskegee for revitalization program

Students designed plans for downtown Tuskegee revitalization.
Students designed plans for downtown Tuskegee revitalization.

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

Tuskegee, AL (WSFA) - Right now Jakeel Sanders' assignment is an idea on paper.

"A row of townhomes to address the need for more modern housing," he says.

But his drawing could become reality "at the corner of Old Montgomery Road and Main Street."

Sanders' idea and those like it are part of a student architecture project to revitalize downtown Tuskegee.

But it's part of a bigger initiative.

"As the community prospers so does the university," says John Rosenthall, President of the National Small Town Alliance.

He's working to restore cities with historically black colleges and universities.

"The parents really don't want to carry their kids to a school where there's a problem in the community," he says.

Tuskegee is first in line for a facelift.

"We could have gone to a lot of other places, but they're not as well known as Tuskegee," adds Rosenthall.

Community leaders and students are tossing around ideas like building renovations, downtown design, and clean-up.

Students like Sanders have even taken their plans to Mayor Omar Neal.

"Oh, I love it," he says.

If those ideas become Tuskegee's master plan - then the real work begins.

"We don't have any money to work with and my theory is that once we put together a great plan, once we put together the people to make this work, it will be our job to find the money," adds Rosenthall.

"We're going to have to build the host communities for HBCUs and it's a great place to start to show that when you build a community, you build the university," adds Mayor Neal.

A steering committee is being formed to guide the project.

Leaders are partnering with national organizations like Housing and Urban Development, and the EPA to help raise funds.

If the money's there, improvements could start as soon as this spring.

The Mayor says he will start holding public forums for community input in January.

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