Downtown Birmingham makes a huge comeback

John Lauriello, Principal, Southpace Properties

Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on how to fix our segmented-dysfunctional regional governments.

Today’s guest blogger is John Lauriello of Southpace Properties

I’m an early bird. I come into our downtown office around 7:00 or 7:30 every morning. I see people of all ages out walking their dogs or just enjoying the morning. They live in condos or lofts, and most likely they work nearby, too. Those scenarios were unimaginable in this town 30 years ago.

For this city to still be growing and surviving after all it’s been through is amazing. I’m more positive about downtown Birmingham than I’ve ever been. Right now we’re seeing continued growth at UAB, an expansion at Children’s Hospital and development of the baseball stadium, Railroad Park and restaurant row on 2nd Avenue North. Plus, I read in a recent Birmingham News article that the Rotary Club of Birmingham will partner with the City of Birmingham and other organizations to convert an abandoned rail corridor along First Avenue South into a landscaped greenway for walkers and bicyclists.

We’ve also got all the young, independent thinkers who have started new businesses or moved their existing businesses downtown into renovated, old buildings. We’re even seeing companies who moved out of downtown years ago start to move back. That’s practically unheard of!

A new seven-floor tenant will be moving into the former Regions headquarters building that’s been vacant since Regions and AmSouth merged. A big securities firm is looking at 125,000 to 150,000 square feet downtown. Harbert Management Company sold their headquarters in Riverchase and moved to 60,000-square-feet downtown. Cadence Bank is moving their new 58,000 square foot headquarters into a Class A building downtown. A high tech company just bought an old building to renovate and will be moving their company to Morris Avenue. And those are just a few examples.

We love downtown and we love being here, even though 90% of our business isn’t even in the city of Birmingham. It’s in other markets, cities and the suburbs.

There is so much energy and interest in downtown properties from young and old, it’s really refreshing. Seeing people face-to-face because they live and work in this neighborhood and actually talking to other humans instead of texting or emailing is wonderful. We obtain business while getting our shoes shined at the Bon Ton, going to the dry cleaner, walking to the YMCA or while having lunch downtown. People rarely consider downtown to be a neighborhood, but it is becoming a neighborhood again.

Downtown isn’t for everyone, just like suburban markets aren’t for everyone when it comes to work and play. It’s what fits best for your business, employees and owners. Instead of a follow-the-leader society, we have an eclectic group of folks who are thinking out of the box and many are choosing downtown Birmingham.

We feel downtown Birmingham has a great future!

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12 thoughts on “Downtown Birmingham makes a huge comeback”

  1. *I’m very glad to see downtown Birmingham making a comeback. I bought and renovated the old Nuncie’s music building back in November 2007. I have seen firsthand how downtown is beginning to grow and thrive again. I love working and living in this town and hope that more people and companies will continue to move back down here.

    Scott Bruce

    President & Owner

    Bruce Office Supply & Furniture

  2. I work, eat and play downtown and I could not agree more with John’s comments.  Birmingham has a vibrant city center of which we should all be proud.  The new Railroad Park and basefield field, as well as the many upstart restaurants, food trucks and breweries are a hopeful sign that more progress is on the horizon.  Indeed, downtown Birmingham has a great future!

  3. *Four years ago my partner and I moved our company from Southside to the Financial Center. Being in the heart of downtown has proven to be one of the smartest business decisions we have made in many years. 

    David, my thanks to you and Phyllis for all of your efforts to promote this great place in which to live and work! 

  4. The growing positive energy of downtown Birmingham is such a plus, not just for the city, but for the entire region. I know I personally feed off the excitement. John, thanks for sharing your observations and reminding us of all the great assets Birmingham currently offers and of those just around the corner.

    1. Carla, we are so lucky to have John Lauriello in our community. Southpace has probably saved more downtown properties than all of the commercial real estate firms in town added together.

  5. *My wife and I moved to Birmingham from Atlanta five years ago, buying a loft on 1st Avenue North.  Best move would could have made.  We love living downtown, and most importantly we love the community that welcomed us with open arms.  From college students, to young families, to professionals, we’re share a dynamic community that is becoming more exciting with each new resident or business that joins us.  I can only imagine that our transition from the Big City would have been quite trying had we not made the decision to become urban dwellers.  I encourage folks to come join us downtown.

  6. As a young adult, I used to LOVE going to downtown B’ham. to shop….there weren’t many others doing that at the time (early 70’s), but I had no fear and felt very safe…I still venture downtown for some of the great restaurants and to mail pkgs. that need to get out same day! I’ve gone to the main P.O. at night with no fear and no reason for fear. I’m so proud of our downtown area making such a wonderful comeback! I’ve catered for several “Loft-Dwellers” and to those who have bought buildings and made them into gorgeous, livable spaces, elevators included!! Hooray for those brave souls willing to expand their territories!!! They’ve received, in more ways than they ever dreamed, fabulous, upscale, livable spaces with built-in neighbors, great restaurants, easy access to expressway entrances, Railroad Park and more to come! Thanks John, David and all you other visionaries for opening up the conversation and a chance to praise our very own BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA!!!! Do it more often and who knows what wonderful feedback could bring suburban dwellers back to DOWNTOWN B’HAM!!!!!

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