ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Merrill Stewart. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Birmingham is in the middle of a renaissance—and I want the world to know.
It is rewarding to watch the transformation of the city I call home and then share this energy with friends and neighbors who, quite frankly, never saw it coming.
Why I’m proud:
- Woodlawn Foundation. For the last five years, Sally Mackin and her team have been doing great things in the Woodlawn neighborhood. I had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Henry Panion of AudioState 55 not too long ago and I’m amazed with his leadership.
- UAB Football. This is about much more than just football. The decision to reinstate the program showed Birmingham spirit and brought a myriad of folks together for a cause they felt worthy for the city. Many of these individuals had no connection with UAB football other than the desire to have it as part of Birmingham and for the experience of future students. Commitments of about $20 million were raised over just a few weeks, with pledges starting at $10. All are worthy.
Theatre District. The Lyric Theatre will come alive in a few months. With neighbors like the Alabama Theatre, McWane Science Center, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and The Carver, this area is becoming a real downtown destination.
- UAB School of Medicine. UAB is consistently ranked in the top tier medical schools among all public universities. This year, U.S. News & World Report ranked six schools and programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham among the nation’s Top 20. Our hospital is #1 in the state and the third largest public hospital in America.
- R-Squared Macro. Recently, a bright group of talented business people launched another hedge fund headquartered here in our city.
- Great Museums. We have The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, The Birmingham Museum of Art, and our newest addition still in development, The Negro Leagues Museum.
- Live Entertainment. Sloss Fest was new this year. The nationally acclaimed Sidewalk Film Festival, which just completed another record breaking year. Iron City is building a national reputation and The Red Mountain Theatre Company has been doing great work for years. (By the way did you see Mary Poppins? If you did not, you missed a real treat with wonderful dancing, singing and a full orchestra.) There are too many other venues to mention here.
- The Parkside District. Think about Railroad Park, Regions Field and all the thousands of new apartments being built in the surrounding streets–exciting and fun.
- Great events. Women’s soccer is coming to Birmingham in September. The Indy Grand Prix has become a wildly successful event every year housed at Barber Motor Sports Park, one of the top racing venues in the world. Birmingham has been selected to host the 2021 World Games, which is a big deal.
- World class parks. I’ve already mentioned Railroad Park which is transforming midtown, but the folks at Red Mountain Park are in the process of building a park like no other in the world. Add Ruffner Mountain Park and Birmingham has more green space per capita than any like size city in America.
My goal for Birmingham
I wish for Birmingham to be seen as a place that’s cool and welcoming to Millennials. If our children leave to go to college, they should find their way back. I hope the rest of the country will see our city as a place to organically grow new businesses. I hope those businesses will stick around because of the brain trust of talent that is being attracted. This, combined with a break or two from some large employers, will round things out.
I believe this goal is becoming more attainable each day, and this makes me happy.
Several months ago, we decided to underwrite a video that would capture the excitement and growth happening in Birmingham. The idea was to roll up all the good things happening into a visually exciting piece to showcase what’s really become a movement. I’ll challenge you to take a look at the finished project, Ain’t No Magic Here, and tell me you aren’t excited about what’s in the works.
Yes, Birmingham is morphing before our eyes. It’s my hope that the downtown renaissance will be a catalyst for change in the whole metropolitan area, perhaps encouraging cooperation among all our municipalities for the greater good.
Merrill Stewart is President of The Stewart/Perry Company, Inc., a local general contractor and construction management firm licensed to work in 30 states. Check out his weekly blog at www.plantingacorns.com.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, leads business development for the Small Business Division of the Intermark Group, and is 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).