Birmingham’s astonishing renaissance

Merrill Stewart, President Stewart Perry Company
Merrill Stewart, President Stewart Perry Company

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

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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).

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2 thoughts on “Birmingham’s astonishing renaissance”

  1. *Great blog, Merrill.  What you have done to bring Birmingham back is impressive, all the many projects in which you are involved.   I thoroughly enjoyed your video.  More and more people are finding in Birmingham the urban experience they’ve been looking for.  Our time is coming.  Maybe it’s already here.  And that is magic.   

  2. Great post. It really is amazing to think that Birmingham may be on the verge or ‘tipping point’ to becoming something incredible again. Its been interesting to see the fruits of this movement unfd over the last few years and it’s only gaining steam. Very exciting time to be here. Oh, what venue is at the 2:15 mark on the video? I can’t place it.

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