Can our suburbs survive if Birmingham is a donut hole?

I live in Vestavia Hills—I don’t really want to live around a donut hole.

The numbers are frightening.

Birmingham’s population fell…

  • 12% in the 60’s
  • 5% in the 70’s
  • 6% in the 80’s
  • 9% in the 90’s
  • 12% in the last decade

Birmingham has lost 2,600 people a year since 1990 and soon will be the second largest city in the State.

According to the 2010 census, Birmingham has 212,237 residents and Montgomery has 205,764.  As noted above Birmingham lost 12% of its population since 2000, while Montgomery grew 2%.

Hoover, on the other hand, grew over 30% and Shelby County 36% over the last decade.

This is devastating to our region.  Birmingham can’t close schools fast enough and Shelby County students are relegated to trailers.

And Shelby County’s exploding population is mired in traffic and lack of resources to build and maintain infrastructure.

When we travel out of state, we are from Birmingham—not Mt. Brook, Trussville, or Homewood.  Do we really want the City of Birmingham to disintegrate?  If Birmingham is an embarrassment, then we are an embarrassment.

Companies won’t want to relocate here.  Our children won’t want to live here.

The City of Birmingham funds most of our necessities and amenities.  We can’t depend on the Trussville International Airport or the Midfield Museum of Art.

Do we really want a large barren area in the center of our suburbs?  We’re all in this together.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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8 thoughts on “Can our suburbs survive if Birmingham is a donut hole?”

  1. Excellent points! We moved to Birmingham two years ago, and consciously made the decision to live *in* the city, in this “hole” that is otherwise known as Joneas Valley. While we are optimistic that we can be part of the great progress taking place in the city right now, we are also realistic as these issues (population, leadership, schools, etc.) continue to plague and inhibit her potential.
    I’m so excited that you’ve both started this online dialogue, and I’m looking forward to being a part of the conversation.
    Tuned in, in Birmingham.

  2. I’ve lived in 10 states and 12 cities over my 50+ years and have adopted Birmingham as my permanent hometown. I would like to be a believer in Birmingham, but the wreckage from poor leadership, ppoor fiscal managment, infighting between municipalities for tax revenues, county bankruptcy, on-going crime, and many other ills, leave me discouraged about the future of the city. This is definately a situation where it truly will “take a village” to fix the problems… actualy multiple villages (all of our minucipalities working together). Starting with a state constitution makeover and continuing with a realignment of interests among the regioanl municipalities, will be a good beginning. Frankly, the Blueprint Birmingham document is an excellent starting point. Let’s dust that off and get to work!

  3. Structure is certainly a problem, but the Birmingham Metropolitan Area is the largest and most important in the state. Birmingham’s  metropolitan economy is larger than the combined economies of  Montgomery, Huntsville,  Mobile and Dothan!  Metro areas are the primary growth areas in the state. 

    All the more reason to address and resolve the governmental structural problems in Birmingham, the largest economy in the state. 

    1. Michael, your absolutely right about concentrating on our metro area. But as you know better than anyone a strong Birmingham and Jefferson County are critical.

  4. David,

    Perhaps what we need is a common government structure for Jefferson County. 
    Unfortunately without it I fear Birmingham is doomed. 
    I grew up in Norwood, attended Phillips High School, ate at Ed Salem’s drive through after football games.
    Enjoyed the original Milo’s.  All of that is gone now. What a tragedy.

    Today I live in Helena which is in Shelby County.  There things I would like to do in Birmingham
    but I dread going downtown. It is such a blighted area. I read an article in the Birmingham News
    and the visiting mayor from Bogota, Columbia called it the most blighted city he has seen.

    What can we do to save Birmingham?

    1. Henry, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have a very similar history growing up in Birmingham.

      However, I do think downtown is making a comeback. The Mayor of Bogota was talking about neighborhoods–not downtown.

      I’m on the City Action Partnership Board (CAP) and federal crime statistics prove that downtown is as safe or safer than Mt. Brook or Vestavia. There are currently 2,400 residential rental units downtown with only 14 vacancies; 600 condo’s which are all mostly occupied. That means that between 4,000-5,000 people live downtown.

      With the Railroad Park, the new Regions Stadium, and the new Entertainment district moving forward, we are beginning to see a rejuvenation. I have no doubt that UAB will eventually get its football stadium.

      That being said, if we want our region to prosper, we will have to completely transform our government structure.

      Thanks heartily for your comments and passion for Birmingham.

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