Talking about 100 Houses — the UAB student-produced documentary short about Norwood — could easily have been a Welcome to the Neighborhood piece. After all, the film includes historical fact, shots of architectural detail, and a compelling argument for this local community. But we realized that the story this film tells is bigger than Norwood. It’s the story of what it takes to stage a neighborhood revival.
After all, says 100 Houses interviewee Chris Hatcher, “Neighborhoods, like humans, they go through a maturation stage and a decline stage.” Unlike humans, that cycle can repeat. “If you think about the 1980s in Crestwood, that was a very grandmotherly neighborhood,” agreed Richard Dabney, also interviewed in the film. “But look at it now. It’s splendid.” So whether you’re looking at Norwood or another area that needs extra love, here are three things to consider (with handy film quotes for reference):
Are there signs of value in the area’s architecture and location?
“There’s affordable housing here that could have really nice bones that could be really big, nice houses for some people that’s a mile away from downtown.” – Keely McCown.
“We still have a wealth of value in the housing stock that remains over there. …They were built well, built to test the time, and I think we need to save them before they deteriorate to the point of no return.” – Chris Hatcher
Is there a structure for community revival in place?
“There are certain ingredients that are essential for a neighborhood to begin the revitalization process. I think, first and foremost, you have to have a common vision. An essential component is leadership. You have to be organized, you have to have neighborhood leaders and others willing to work on the neighborhood’s behalf.” – Chris Hatcher
How does it feel to spend time there?
“I think the big struggle is everybody has one perception about the neighborhood, but the perception is not based in fact. And just getting people to spend time here they kind of change that perception. …I tell everybody once you spend 30 minutes on our front porch looking at Norwood Blvd, you’re pretty much ready to move in. It’s just finding the right house. I haven’t lived in a neighborhood since I was a kid where I knew everyone on my street. That perception of neighborhood and community is not something that’s known outside of this neighborhood, and as people have figured that out, that’s really helped them change their perception.”” – Mary Jean Baker LaMay
Norwood may not be fully resurrected yet, but we’d stake our money on the value of its community. Click here to watch the film in full.