I lived my childhood years in a rural community just outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. My Grandparents and other relatives on my father’s side of the family lived in Leeds, a small industrial town a few miles east of Birmingham. Back in the days before the interstates, a trip to Granny’s house meant driving through the middle of downtown Birmingham. I remember the smoke that used to boil from the smokestacks of the iron and steel mills. Some of it was bright red, like a brick. The heavy metallic smoke always hung low over the valley, making it difficult to breathe.
Much has changed since those days and in the beginning most of it wasn’t good. Years of white flight after the Civil Rights Movement left much of the central city hollowed out. The population of Birmingham proper decreased substantially over the years as much of the populace headed for the suburbs. By the early 2000’s downtown, which had once been a retail hub with department stores like Pizitz and Loveman’s, had emptied out. Once the office workers in the skyscrapers went home for the day it was like the streets were rolled up. It was a ghost town, almost no one came to downtown Birmingham after five o’ clock.
All that began to change in 2010 when Railroad Park opened. It was a beautiful new city park built in a place by the railroad tracks that had been nothing but an ugly, empty lot for many years. Almost as soon as the park opened construction began on Region’s Field. It was a brand new stadium to house the Birmingham Barons, our minor league professional baseball team. Even the Barons had fled the city for the suburb of Hoover. Getting them back downtown, actually back in Birmingham, was a big deal. Around this same time period the craft beer boom began to take hold. Good People Brewing Company was the city’s first brewery. It’s located directly across the street from Regions Field. Next came Avondale Brewing Company. This brewery not only brewed great beer but also started the transformation of the Avondale neighborhood. A neighborhood that had been long neglected was suddenly the hippest place in Birmingham with several new eateries, music venues and art galleries. Go to this neighborhood now on most any Saturday and enjoy the cool vibe and bustling activity.
Many other areas are also transforming. The Uptown area around the BJCC has brought several much needed restaurants to the northern part of downtown. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues North have become an entertainment district in their own right. Popular new places such as The Collins Bar, The Paramount, The Pizitz Food Hall, Roots and Revelry, El Barrio, Bamboo, and Carrigan’s Pub are just a few of the exiting places found in this area. The historic Lyric Theater has been restored and together with it’s across the street neighbor, the Alabama Theater, has created a vibrant theater district in the heart of downtown.
Yes, Birmingham is making a great comeback and I’m very proud to be in the business of helping newcomers and native Birminghamians alike find their living space. I’m Rod Walker, a Realtor licensed with Edge Realty Group. I would be honored to help you find your place in the new and exciting Birmingham or anywhere in our Metro area.
Edge Realty Group
* Excepts of this text is from my contribution to the book “The Future of Birmingham” by Wade Kwon.