There are two important dates in the history of Birmingham: 1871 when Birmingham was founded and 2010 when Birmingham found itself.
I’ve lived in Birmingham my entire life. I’ve always hoped for a better Birmingham, but I never imagined the Birmingham that is being created today.
Five years ago, except for UAB, Birmingham was frozen in time.
It was generally accepted that we could do nothing right—so why try?
Then on September 18, 2010, Railroad Park opened to the public. It took more than twenty years from idea to implementation. Most people doubted it would be built and virtually no one saw the impact it would have on Birmingham—both physically and emotionally.
The trash-filled, weed-infested lot pictured above–was Railroad Park prior to 2010. As you can see, the neighborhood wasn’t much to look at either.
Look at the park and the construction around it now.
When I walk around Railroad Park today, I feel like I’ve landed on a different planet. There’s construction everywhere.
Ty West, Managing Editor of the Birmingham Business Journal, recently wrote an editorial, “Birmingham needs to find its next Railroad Park.”
I’m convinced we don’t need another Railroad Park. For some unexplainable reason, Railroad Park ignited Birmingham all by itself.
There are at least 46 major projects just completed or in the works representing almost $1 billion in investment – including approximately 2,000 new or proposed apartment and condominium units. I believe the $66 million renovation of the historic Pizitz building will do for downtown north of the railroad tracks what Railroad Park did for midtown.
Take a look at the list—it’s mind boggling. It doesn’t even include Regions Field which was built next to the Park. (Provided by REV Birmingham as of June 15 , 2015)
- U.S. Treasury Building
- Federal Reserve Bank
- Redmont Hotel
- Gray Construction Headquarters
- Lyric Theatre
- Jefferson Lofts
- Thomas Jefferson Tower
- Brown Marx Annex & Building
- Intermodal Facility
- Alagasco Service Center
- Negro League Museum
- Stockyard 8
- Liv Parkside
- The Venue at the Ballpark
- Alabama Power Steam Plant
- UAB Student Center
- Veteran Affairs Project
- 5 Points Hotel
- Highland Tower
- Rotary Trail
- 16th Street Pedestrian Bridge
- 20 Midtown
- Iron City Lofts
- Powell School
- Baker’s Row
- Lewis Communications
- Lewis Communications Parking Garage
- Metropolitan Apartments
- 15th Street Lofts
- LabCorp Deck
- Retail Specialists
- LBA (Hotel)
- Empire Building (Hotel)
- Clinic Community Care Building Addition
- UAB School of Nursing Renovation
- UAB College of Arts & Sciences
- UAB Collat School of Business
- Florentine Building
- #10 Avondale (Office)
- Iron Age Building (Retail/Apartments)
- Mack Truck Garage Building
- Shepard Sloss Building (Retail)
- Flats on Fourth
- Ideal Building
Thank you to the visionary Birmingham leaders who had the imagination and stamina to build Railroad Park.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12, a division of Intermark Group, and co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).