Weld’s “Neighborhood Voices” series features interviews with the presidents of each of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhood associations about the strengths and challenges facing their communities. If you are a neighborhood leader and would like your neighborhood to be included, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Druid Hills is located just north of Interstate 20/59, bordered on the east by Carraway Boulevard, on the west by 19th Street North, on its irregular north border by the Evergreen neighborhood. The southern part of the neighborhood includes the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and the Uptown district; it also contains part of the Oak Hill Memorial Cemetery.
According to the Birmingham Housing Study, the neighborhood has a population of 2,198 residents. Druid Hills is part of District 5, represented in city government by City Council President Johnathan Austin.
Recently, Druid Hills Neighborhood Association President Amie Evans spoke about the challenges facing her neighborhood — including urban blight and a lack of community involvement — and the ways in which she believes it can grow and become an “asset” to Birmingham.
Weld: Why did you decide to become your neighborhood’s president?
Amie Evans: I think it’s important that we have some representation in the city for each neighborhood, because there’s a great opportunity for each neighborhood to be heard. I was the vice president [of the Druid Hills Neighborhood Association] for a while, and our president had to resign, so I moved up to president. I just think it’s an honor to help serve and have a voice for our neighbors.
Weld: How would you characterize the community involvement among members of your neighborhood?
Evans: It is poor. We have about eight to 10 faithful members, and they are older than — Well, we’re all in the same age bracket. [Laughs]
We’ve tried to get in some young people. We’ve tried any kind of ideas to bring in the young people, because our neighborhood has changed so much. Like I said, most of the residents that are still [involved] are older residents, and the young people moving in haven’t taken an interest. I don’t know if it’s because they’re working and have families and they do not have the time, or if they don’t realize the value of [the neighborhood association]. And then a lot of our younger people, they’re living in a different apartment, and I don’t know if they feel they have the same connection with the neighborhood.
That’s who we’re trying to reach out to. We did a “fun day,” and we did a newsletter and went door-to-door and tried to introduce ourselves. This was last year. We couldn’t get many of our residents to even come out. It was the same people that always participate that [came to the event].
Weld: What are the biggest problems facing your neighborhood?
Evans: We would like to rebuild our neighborhood. We have a lot of dilapidated homes. I rode through here, and when I realized how bad it was, the blight, I had to almost cry when I got back home. I just didn’t realize it. We just need to rebuild because we have a lot of homes that have been abandoned and torn down.
We are in a prime location, close to the city. What we’re doing now, we’re coming up with a framework plan for our neighborhood. We hope that with this framework plan that we can have some new homes put in and maybe get a store or something out here, because we had something like that for years. We had grocery stores on this side of town.
That’s about the biggest problem, because the crime here — Every time the police officers come through our neighborhood, they say [the crime rate] is rather low. So we haven’t been this bothered with a whole lot of crime. You know, every now and then you’ll hear shots fired out, because we’re surrounded by apartments, and I think most of that comes from down in there.
Weld: What are some ways in which you would like to see your neighborhood improve?
Evans: Just [to] revitalize it. We have a few small businesses in the neighborhood. We’d like to see that grow. And just better participation with our neighbors. It’s a quiet area. It’s basically residential. And you’ve seen what all the Uptown [development] is doing, so that’s bringing in a great attraction down below us, which is still in our neighborhood. Up here, if we could just some home repairs, and some new homes built… We used to have a school here. All of that has gone down because we don’t have any children up here, like we used to. It just has declined a lot.
Weld: In what ways do you think the Birmingham city government could help your neighborhood improve and flourish?
Evans: They could help us to get in some new homes, to draw in some of the young people and people that like to get involved. And then, we would like to have a community house, so that our neighbors could have a place that they could go and call their own — to have meetings or whatever other kinds of events we would like to do. It would be nice to have one in the center of the neighborhood.
Right now, we’ve been blessed to meet at St. James Baptist Church, and they have graciously opened their doors for us, but we need our own. Then maybe we could do some after-school programs there.
Weld: What do you want Birmingham citizens outside of your neighborhood to know about your neighborhood?
Evans: That it’s a quiet area, that it’s a lovable area. It’s family-oriented. A lot of people know Norwood, but they don’t know Druid Hills. But Druid Hills is here, and we’d like for them to just come take a part, come see! It’s a good area to be in, and it’s right in the heart of the city, so it could be a good asset for people to come in and live and build up. It’s right there by UAB. If we could get something here for the students, that’d be good. We’ve got plenty of land here.
We had a grocery store up on 26th Street [North]. We need that back. Something to draw people to the area, because there’s nothing attractive. There are a few nice, well-kept homes, but then most of it’s blight, and people turn away from it. If we could build it up, it would be a great addition to the city.