The City Action Partnership (CAP) is the uniformed security force which patrols a section of downtown Birmingham, in cooperation with the Police Department. Due in large part to their effort, crime within their service area is down 67% compared to 1995 (when CAP was formed); their area is safer (in terms of violent crimes) than the wealthy suburbs of Vestavia Hills or Mountain Brook. Property owners within the CAP district pay $1 for every $1000 of assessed value to fund the non-profit organization; besides security patrols, the CAP guys provide escort, tire-changing, left-the-key-in-the-car door opening, and other great services to any worker, resident, or visitor in the district–free of charge. Modeled on similar security forces in other US cities (pretty much every major city has this sort of thing), CAP feels like a win-win for everyone downtown. Levels of security have not only objectively increased, but the perception of security (often even more important than the reality) has increased dramatically in surveys of people’s opinion of downtown.
When CAP was formed, its district was aligned with major corporate and governmental entities to primarily serve a 9-5 business community (see the map of the current district). Downtown has changed in the last 15 years–and with thousands of new residents calling it home, CAP is proposing to increase its boundaries to better serve these new residents, and the businesses that have accompanied them. The new expansion would move east to add about 8 square blocks to the exiting 80-plus. Despite the relatively small size, it’s been hard to line up support because the effort involves obtaining consent of individual condo owners and small landholders, which is very time-consuming. At this point, CAP has collected support representing 60% of total expansion area land value, with the goal being 67% (as mandated by law). How to get the remaining 7%? There are 4 major holdouts, briefly examined below.
First, Lindsey Furniture, the office furniture business which owns numerous properties downtown, including in the 2200 block of First Avenue North, above. In one sense the most understandable of the holdouts–they are a conventional, 9-5 business–still, their employees and customers would benefit from CAP services.
Next is Crook Realty, again the owner of numerous downtown properties which house popular destinations in the expansion district such as Pale Eddie’s and Rogue Tavern, above. While all of the tenants have said “yes” to wanting CAP service–a no-brainer for keeping their late-night patrons feeling secure and happy–thus far the landlord has said no.
Residents would ostensibly benefit the most from CAP services–they are frequent users of streets and sidewalks in the area, they are walking their dogs in the evening, etc. Oddly, the final two major holdouts both have ties to the residential community–the first being the Ticheli family, which owns properties in the area, and developed the Gallery Lofts, above (seen in the 200 block of 24th Street North).
The Avenues, a rental apartment property shown above, was developed by the Morrow family (2300 block of First Avenue North). So far they’ve not supported a “yes” for expansion. Understanding all the benefits to their residents will hopefully change their minds.
A positive response from any two of the above four would put CAP over the 67% threshold. The relatively small amount of money required to fund the expansion is well worth the increase in security–real and perceived–as well as all the other services that come with it. CAP, and volunteers working with them, would be very appreciative if these major holdouts came around, as would the rest of us who’ve voted “yes” to support this great initiative (the other remaining holdouts are very small, often without published phone numbers or other info, so it would be much more difficult to reach the threshold that way). Onward and upward with increased CAP coverage–integral to a more vibrant city center!
[thanks to CAP for the escort image]