5 Points South landlords are dumb

Grafitti at 5 Points South
Graffiti all over 5 Points South

My wife and I and two other couples were going out to eat one evening.

I suggested one of my favorite restaurants–Surin West in 5 Points South.

One of the women said, “I don’t feel safe around some of the people who hang out at 5 Points.”  The other woman quickly agreed.

So we chose another restaurant in a different neighborhood.

I’ve always had a deep affinity for 5 Points South since I grew up nearby.

I attended South Highland Elementary School; watched movies at the 5 Points Movie Theater; got my hair cut at the 5 Points Barber Shop; and bowled at the 5 Points Bowling Alley.

There are definitely some successful high profile restaurants in 5 Points, but the surrounding neighborhood and business district could be so much more.

I’m one of the original Board Members and a past President of the City Action Partnership (CAP).

You may recognize CAP Officers as the men and women in red shirts and black pants who ride their bikes downtown.

CAP Officers give directions, jump dead batteries, air up flat tires, provide security escorts, rescue keys from locked vehicles, and remove graffiti.  The service is free–as the program is supported by the property owners inside the district.*

While CAP can’t totally take credit for our downtown renaissance, many people believe that CAP has created the environment that has allowed the revival of downtown, Parkside, and Southside.

But the CAP district does not include 5 Points South and the surrounding neighborhood.

The Board of CAP with the support of REV Birmingham has made numerous attempts to expand into 5 Points, but many landlords in the area have shown little interest.

Yes, the landlords would have to pay an annual fee, but they would ultimately be more than compensated with increased property values and higher rents.

Don’t take my word for it.  I’ve never heard a downtown property owner say he would rather give up CAP and save a few dollars.

The 5 Points area is now feeling competition from new businesses and restaurants in Uptown, Lakeview and Avondale.  A CAP presence would give 5 Points a competitive advantage.

I’ve talked with several 5 Points business owners who support a CAP district, but they feel they don’t have the clout to convince some of the stubborn property owners.**

That is nonsense.

A few years ago, Frank Stitt, owner of Highlands and Chez Fonfon, and other high profile 5 Points business leaders stopped Chick-fil-A in its tracks when it tried to build a drive through.

Even UAB has volunteered financial support.

Expanding CAP into 5 Points South would be much more transformational than stopping a restaurant from allowing cars to drive around its building.

Crime has decreased by 72% in the CAP district downtown since it was established and CAP removed 253 pieces of graffiti downtown in October alone–there is graffiti all over the 5 Points South area.

Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable visiting offices, shopping, and eating in 5 Points if you were surrounded by the support and security provided by CAP?

*CAP District bounded to the north by 11th Avenue North (including the Civic Center) south to 5th Avenue South, east to 22nd Street and west to 16th Street North & 18th Street South.  CAP also serves Railroad Park and Children’s of Alabama.

**Property owners signatures must represent 67% of the total property value of the area to establish a new district.

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David Sher 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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11 thoughts on “5 Points South landlords are dumb”

  1. *Thanks, David! I’m proud to say ALL of our landlords have agreed to CAPS in Five Points South – I hope many others will join us!

  2. *David- On a related note, I have always wondered why you don’t see the same mid and high-rise residential construction around Five Points South like you would see in comparable districts in Nashville and Charlotte.  

    Also, I wondered why you would rarely see a BPD officer on foot patrol in that area when they had a substation right in the heart of Five Points.  

    And finally, just like with Downtown, the owners of some very high profile properties in and around Five Points are doing a lousy job of keeping their buildings up.  I keep waiting for the effects of the City’s new International Building Code to kick in there as well.  What is the hold up? 

  3. As someone who lives in Five Points I would be thrilled to have CAP in our area. I always felt safe when I worked downtown because they were always close by. It’s a shame that there are so many absentee and uncaring landlords in the Five Points area…hopefully time will weed them out eventually and the Five Points area can be great again!

  4. *CAP is definitely needed in Five Points South. The fee assessed to property owners is often paid by tenants voluntarily or per the lease. It’s also a tax-deductible cost. 

    Most of all it would be a wise investment!

  5. *I have an affinity for Five Points South as well dating back to being a student and living in the area for a few years. However, I get the same hesitation from my wife whenever I suggest a restaurant in Five Points as well. I wouldn’t want anything that would change the complexion of the culture or mix of people there but an added sense of security would do the district a world of good. Good luck getting a signature from whoever leases to that ‘headshop’ though…

  6. With all due respect to Frank Stitt, the Board, and all who worked to make sure that Chick-fil-A didn’t get a drive-thru, I’m sorry to say that for all functional purposes, they did get one. Anyone who tries to make their way on the sidewalk facing Chick-fil-A on a workday noon will have to deal with a vehicle blocking passage in a substantial line for the daily makeshift lunch drive-thru. This happens to be when pedestrians are out to get lunch or take care of chores at lunch break.

    Yes, it’s portable and they “pull it up” after lunch, but it serves the same purpose and I always wonder about the large number of permanently disabled folks who live in the area and have to get past the blocked street in a wheelchair or on crutches or a walker. It’s annoying for those of us who don’t have those limitations. I’m surprised this hasn’t been spoken of because i don’t see the difference, at least at lunchtime anyway. I’ve never heard it mentioned. 

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more, David, about the value and need for CAP in 5 Points.  It’s a no-brainer that CAP would do nothing but improve the 5 Points South Experience bringing a more secure, safe feeling to the area.  It’s encouraging to read the feedback that many of the businesses are ready for CAP.  I also wholeheartedly agree with one of the commenters, Greg Hopton-Jones that “I wouldn’t want anything that would change the complexion of the culture or mix of people there but an added sense of security would do the district a world of good”.

    On the other hand, your initial hook about the women being scared to go to 5 Points troubled me.  One said, “‘ I don’t feel safe around some of the people who hang out at 5 Points.’ The other woman quickly agreed.” So who are these people she was referring to? 
    Growing up white in segregated Birmingham provides a mixed connection. I love Birmingham too and want to see it grow and prosper for all its members.  However, extra effort is required.  While justifying the need for CAP, your article’s introduction also brings forth a problem in Birmingham as well as the nation.  Be they the homeless, the tatooed, the pierced, African Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Syrians, or Homosexuals, etc.; fear of “the other, the stranger” is a serious problem.  It is a reminder that the dominate culture must redouble its efforts to overcome fear and underlying prejudice.  
    The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty reports that “It is a tragic aspect of our culture that homeless people, in addition to suffering from the hardship of their condition, are subjected to alienation and discrimination by mainstream society. It is even more tragic that alienation and discrimination often spring from incorrect myths and stereotypes which surround homelessness.”.”Despite a generally held belief that people living outside are chronic criminals, statistics simply don’t back that up” says a John Hopkins study.  Actually street people are more in danger themselves.”The perception that street people are dangerous, homeless, dirty, and/or shifty oversimplifies.  The reality may be quite different because there are educated people, people and families temporarily down on their luck, victims of domestic violence and abuse as well as some people who might be dangerous.
    These same points are at the root of the fracturing of B’ham., of the racism, segregation, and even the original siting of I-65, I-20/59, and the controversial I-20/59 bridge expansion that originally harmed African American neighborhoods and communities surrounding downtown and if the ALADOT plan continues will cause further displacement. Hopefully, the movement to move the bridge will help repair some of the damage.
    There are different theories about why people fear “the other, the stranger”.  Psychology Today magazine discusses the Social Identity Theory where there’s an “in-group and out-group”, an “us and them” set up that relates to self-esteem and self-preservation.  Evolutionary explanations look at deep-seated fears of the unknown and also self-preservation that are buried in our cells, our DNA, that harken back to our time as cave dwellers.
    So what do we do to help overcome these deep seated fears and prejudices?  The good news is that researchers have found that people who are concerned about their prejudices have the power to correct them to learn to treat people as individuals rather than a member of a stereotyped group.  The more we mix and mingle with strangers even by nodding our heads and saying hello on the street as Southerners so commonly do, we push our own envelope and make a dent, however small, in the wall.  We humanize “the other” thereby making a connection that works and helps in both directions.

  8. “I wouldn’t want anything that would change the complexion of the culture or mix of people there but an added sense of security would do the district a world of good”.
    That is all good – but why not? Asking for everything to stay the same while being changed seems a little strange….. Take a walk around the post office and then around the five points intersection and tell me change is not needed. Those that want change by adding this mythical security without changing the people causing the security issues is not a real solution. CAP may have reduced crime in other parts of the city, but adding bicycle law to an area that has an official police station within blocks is ignoring the real issue. The cops that work this beat should get out of the car and walk the area. They should stop people from sleeping on the street, and tell those that just sit around waiting for a hand out, to get a job.
    Now, before you start calling me names and claiming you know me – let me state, I own properties in Southside and have given shelter to those that deserved and didn’t deserve it. I, on many occasions, have asked those hanging out across from the library and on the PO sidewalk if they want a job. ($20 an hour) and most of the time – get turned down or they decide after 20 minutes that work is not for them…. I dont give a crap if they have tats or what color they are…. I care that they are a menace and make friends and family uncomfortable in a place we pay taxes. The city has just started increasing our Land values so they can get more taxes. This will go on for 2 more years. Mine went up 100K while the neighborhood has decreased in security. Another point, anyone that helps a mentally ill person stay on the streets is the real problem.
    The old and true proverb (with a small addition) is true. Give someone a fish, and they can eat today, give them a fishing pole and they can eat forever – and giving someone 2 dollars is not the same as giving someone a job. If they are mentally ill – go to the hospital, if you are down on your luck, ask for a job or odd ends you can do to help our neighborhood, and if those are too inconvenient – get the hell out of the area.

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