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Forgotten neighborhood set to become a community for homeless veterans

By Ashlyn Mitchell

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    PRICHARD, Alabama (WALA) — Cotton Mill Village, an abandoned neighborhood in Prichard, is set to become a community for homeless veterans.

On Saturday, folks made their way through the vacant property. Until now, it’s sat forgotten for years.

“It was a booming industry because of the industrial businesses that were here but when those industrial businesses left, you saw the population decline and you saw the people started to leave,” said Rodney Clements, founder of the Prosperity Community Development Council and vice president of Veterans Corps. Clements is spearheading the project.

“Years of neglect and years of abuse and people dumping here. They spent a lot of time here cleaning all this up,” added Arizona Stone, a partner in the project.

FOX10 News also walked the route, getting a first look at the future of the community for homeless veterans.

The inaugural walk marked the historical groundbreaking.

“There’s about 2,500 veterans that we know now that need some type of shelter. They want to take them out of facilities and they definitely want to put them in single-family dwellings to make life a little bit easier to live,” explained Clements.

“The City of Prichard- I was born and raised here so everything about here is home for me,” he added.

Clements dubs the abandoned area a ‘diamond in the rough.’

“The property is 22 acres. It’s 57 properties currently or dwellings on this property but there’s 86 lots. Just because there are 86 lots though- there’s no intent to always build 86 homes. We want to have some parks, we want to have recreation, we want it to be a fulfilling community that gives back, truly,” said Clements.

Clemens is a veteran himself. He says the project is a team effort.

“Shoutout to all the nonprofits that partnered- Vision Land definitely being a big one and then also Veterans Corps, so just a community effort altogether,” he said.

The endeavor is off to a strong start. The first home has been renovated and completed, and it only took 30 days.

“The unity is how we were able to do it in 30 days,” said Tyrone Pettway, general contractor for the project and CEO of Kingdome Renovations in Mobile.

Pettway is bringing the vision to life.

“I want to say numbers didn’t matter,” stated Pettway. “It was close to my heart being that it was in the city of Prichard and it was bringing this community back it needs to be.”

“We want to build and remodel the [houses] back to the way they looked before they were damaged. However, we know we’re not going to be able to do all of them like that, but for the most part we’re gonna do it to the most of the homes that we can,” he added.

Sunday was merely the beginning of a growing miracle.

“Let this be an example of what can happen when a community comes together and know that there’s strength in unity, and we’re better together,” stated Pettway.

Clements says the crew will assess their next steps in the project. He said next steps will likely including building and improving infrastructure. The rough estimate for the infrastructure is $17 million.

Meanwhile, Prichard residents are urged not to dump in the newly-cleared area.

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