3 min read
Several benches on pavement in Linden, Alabama

LINDEN, Ala. — A vacant lot in downtown Linden is on deck for some major development thanks to the High Obesity Program Cooperative Agreement (HOP 1809).

The current space shows crumbling walls and overgrown grass. However, through funding provided by HOP 1809, a community coalition hopes to inject life into the once vibrant centerpiece of the city, transforming it into something the whole county can enjoy.

The Plans

HOP 1809 is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University. As a part of the overall project, Pam Stenz, the Marengo County Extension coordinator, and Tammy Glass, the SNAP-Ed educator for Marengo and Choctaw counties, said there are several improvement items on the list. The project looks to accomplish the following:

  • stabilize the walls in the 5,000 square-foot space
  • plant several trees
  • put up sun shade sails
  • paint two murals
  • add an additional partition with the name of the space

It is hoped to use the space for farmers markets, food trucks, local musicians, high school recitals, pre-prom dinners and, potentially, the beloved Linden ChiLLy Fest.

“The potential for the space is enormous, and we are really excited about it,” Glass said.

Former Linden resident, Banks Compton, has initially agreed to paint both murals at the lot. Compton has already completed one mural in Linden a couple of blocks down from the lot, which Stenz said has garnered a lot of attention.

Stenz and Glass plan to apply for additional funding opportunities to complete more improvements, including lights and a stage.

The Story Behind the Space

Plans on redeveloping the space have the green light. However, the project almost ran into a big red light during the planning stage.

The original building in its place was demolished because of safety reasons. One of the owners of the building passed away, and his wife moved out of the area. As a means to utilize the space, the Heart of Marengo Chamber of Commerce received permission from the owner to plant flower beds and construct benches for residents to enjoy. However, part of that agreement was that the city couldn’t place anything permanent in the space.

A coalition was tasked with identifying projects to support with available funds. This coalition was made up of Extension employees, city employees, residents, business owners and religious leaders. The vacant lot was a perfect fit. However, without permission or ownership to redevelop it, the project nearly met its end.

After a recent election, newly-elected Linden Mayor Gwendolyn Rogers made a series of phone calls to the lot’s owner, who was hesitant to sell. After learning of common acquaintances and the fact Linden’s city attorney was also the lot’s owner’s attorney, all parties were able to come to a deal.

The city attorney was also a member of the Linden Industrial Board, which struck a deal with the city to split the cost of the lot for its appraised value.

According to Stenz, the city will provide electricity and insure the space. The Linden City Council must approve any projects designated for the lot by Extension.

Making a Difference

Mayor Rogers said it makes a big difference when people in the community want to improve their hometown.

“They want to do it because they want to see the city progress and see good things come into the city,” she said. “It makes a difference when you have citizens like that — who are really working to make a difference to beautify and to revitalize. That’s really important.”

Rogers said she was behind the project 100 percent from the start.

“I see what they see and their vision for Linden,” she said. “It’s not just talk. I see both of their passions for this place. I believe they truly want what is best for our town.”

Other Improvements

Stenz and Glass were busy improving areas of Linden before identifying the vacant lot.

During the early stages of the funding cycle, they partnered with Alta. Alta is a transportation company that is dedicated to creating active, healthy communities. Alta identified a need for road striping along Shiloh Street near Linden Elementary School. The project resulted in about a mile and a half of striping. This included bike lanes, center lines, safety signage and bus lane for students to load and unload.

Read more about these improvements in the news article Safety in the Paint: ALProHealth Funds Street Improvements in Linden at www.aces.edu.

More Information

For more information about Alabama Extension, visit www.aces.edu. To contact Stenz, call 334-295-5959 or email her at stenzpa@aces.edu. To contact Glass, call 334-295-5959 or email her at tgg0005@aces.edu.

Did you find this helpful?