It’s easy to predict the future of Birmingham.Birmingham’s usually the last to do just about everything. So if you want to see what’s about to happen, all you have to do is look elsewhere.When I was Chairman of Operation New Birmingham (ONB) in 1995, CBS42 was desperately trying to build viewership for their newscast. They were practicing “guerilla journalism” to try to shock and surprise people to build audience.One day at a public ONB function, a news reporter from TV42 unexpectedly thrust a microphone in my face and asked, “Would you or your wife live downtown?” Of course the reporter knew what my answer would be—at the time virtually no one lived downtown.
Today there are 3,000 residential units in our city center with more than 4,000 residents. There is practically no vacancy—only people moving in and out of units.
According to a May 17 piece on al.com, Tide of skepticism recedes as Birmingham City Center rebounds, ”Downtown lofts are nearly 100 percent occupied, and bars and restaurants dot First and Second Avenue North. Businesses, including an apparel company and a new brewery, are snapping up buildings around the new Regions Field baseball stadium.”
A $33 million 245-unit and a $21 million 237-unit apartment complex are planned next door to Railroad Park and Regions Field. Bayer Properties recently announced it will feature 145 residential apartment suites in the Pizitz building.
Other likely buildings to be developed for residential are the The Thomas Jefferson Hotel (Cabana) and the A.G. Gaston Building across from the Lyric Theatre. Expect others because there are more potential renters than inventory. It’s called supply and demand.
According to a recent an article on U.S. News on NBC, “New census estimates show that most of the nation’s largest cities further enhanced their allure last year, posting strong population growth for a second straight year. Big cities surpassed the rate of growth of their surrounding suburbs at an even faster clip, a sign of America’s continuing preference for urban living…”
It doesn’t take a fortune teller to see that the neighborhood around Regions Field will be transformed. Look what happened to those areas around Montgomery, Chattanooga, and Memphis when each built minor league baseball stadiums downtown.
Though a good school system would be nice, Birmingham schools won’t be an impediment. Many young people, empty nesters, and retires want to live in our city center.
It’s happening in every other city and it will happen here.
As David Silverstein of Bayer Properties often says, “Birmingham’s not the moon.”
David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).