Mountain Brook gal: Achieving my dreams in downtown Birmingham

Mimi Shannon
Mimi Shannon

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Mimi Shannon.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

At this second, writing this article, I am sitting right next door to my apartment building on the brand new Rotary Trail.

The sun is setting, the “Magic City” sign is changing from red to white, there is a black family with their kids that are playing on an abstract cement seat, a preppy looking young white father and his two toddler children walking by, a young hippie couple admiring the trail, Zyp bikes flying above me on 1st Avenue South, and runners galore.

I feel completely safe, the lights actually just switched on, and I am finally starting to love my city. The Magic City Rotary Trail is only one of many new attractions in the city.

In 45 minutes span, without moving from my table, I have seen people from so many different walks of town, all together, and all happy. We need more of this in order to grow.

Before I moved to New York City in 2012 I was living in my hometown of Birmingham in Mountain Brook. Over a couple years span I found myself desperate to leave Birmingham. I felt like my potential to thrive and flourish in my city was no longer an option where I lived and it became clear to me that I needed to reach outside to accomplish goals and achieve dreams.

As a creative this was suffocating, and when the chance to move to New York City for a freelance Graphic Design job for L’Oreal was offered to me…I packed 3 suitcases, got rid of my car, temporarily said goodbye to my dog and was out the door. Within 5 days I was in New York, experiencing new life and about to start a dream job.

I never planned to move back, but 3 years later in 2015 I hesitantly did…

When I arrived, something was different, I started noticing new things. New art installments around the city, trendy downtown restaurants on 2nd Avenue North, The Rainbow Bridge, downtown construction, and most exciting the new downtown living trend!

I was finally seeing hope of being able to enjoy life and thrive in Birmingham. The glimpses of change, even an effort of it, had given me a brand new perspective on things. I was starting to see my city differently. I couldn’t believe how much it had changed. At that point I realized that there was a chance, and there was sense of urgency inside of me to be part of this revolution, and fast.

A year after my return, I made the decision to move downtown…

I felt this was the best spot to be to experience all the changes; downtown will be the key to making our city grand. The apartment building I chose was not only in a prime location, but there were so many amenities you would never think possible to fit in one building. To me, downtown Birmingham symbolizes a new hub for community unity. Please let me share with you just a few of the things about downtown that is great again:

  • Pizitz building – The Pizitz represents a nearly $70 million investment in downtown Birmingham compromised of 143 for rent apartments, office space, a soon to be announced entertainment use and Alabama’s first food hall. Opening later this year, The Pizitz will connect the blossoming Parkside District with the Central Business District & 2nd Avenue North entertainment corridor.
  • The Rainbow tunnel – Artist Bill FitzGibbons transformed the dark, uninviting environment of the 18th Street underpass in Birmingham, Alabama into a rainbow-lit tunnel in his installation LightRails. I had a New York City friend who was visiting say she was so excited to see this. First thing that came to my mind, how did she even know about this, and then, I can’t believe how exciting this is for someone who lives in the Big City. To me this spoke volumes on how one creative installment is putting us back on the map.
  • The Rotary Trail – A linear trail, running along the former railroad cut on First Avenue South, the Rotary Trail provides a connection between Railroad Park and the Sloss Furnaces and Lakeview Districts.
  • Zyp BikeShare – Zyp BikeShare is a dense network of 40 kiosks and 400 bikes deployed in Birmingham, AL in October 2015. Residents and visitors can access 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. Riders can check out bicycles for short rides through annual memberships or by swiping their credit cards. Zyp BikeShare sets you free to explore Birmingham city on two wheels.
  • Downtown Birmingham Publix – The Publix Super Market at the 20 Midtown development in Birmingham is on track to open November 30th. Not only will this provide convenience and easy living to downtown dwellers but will also bring downtown foot traffic and sense of community to another level.
  • Design Week Birmingham – Design Week Birmingham (DWBHM) is a multifaceted event that unites architects, graphic artists, interior, landscape, and industrial designers together to promote, discuss and celebrate great design and its relevance in everyday life. Check out dwbhm.com for further information and to learn more about how you can get involved. (I went to DWBHM this past year and it is awesome!)

Birmingham is at a crossroads…

The momentum is rolling, now is the time to either make or break our city.

The potential for growth is endless but only possible with effort from everyone–the young, the old, suburbia and city dwellers all working together to put their city back on the map.

Even if you are content because you live in Mountain Brook, Vestavia, or Hoover for example; this is still going to affect you. Anyone who lives outside the state recognizes the city name of Birmingham, but they only associate it with the statistics they hear, and those statistics do not include the suburbs but your reputation is still that of the city. Don’t you want to love your city?  Don’t you want outsiders to recognize it as a grand place to live and visit?

If change does not continue to happen, we as a city will fail. The potential for your success, both personal and professional will be limited, whether you realize it or not.

If you want to flourish and achieve your dreams you will most likely have to move away. The younger generation will see no reason to stay after college, the older generation will expire and nobody will be left to build our city to its greatness.

This is such an exciting time for Birmingham, we are at full potential for growth, there is a revolution happening, let’s make history!

The little ways to help: Promote your city within friends, visit new downtown attractions, and take some time to read about city issues, or write a blog entry; just get involved. If anyone would be interested in a meet up, that’s an idea as well.

What other ideas for Birmingham do you have? Share with us in comments. Thank you.

Mimi Shannon is a Graphic and Web-site Designer living in downtown Birmingham.  Her website is CreativebyMimi.com

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder 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).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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10 thoughts on “Mountain Brook gal: Achieving my dreams in downtown Birmingham”

  1. *What a great editorial! When I lived in Birmingham, eight years ago, I loved it because my friends were there, but I always felt like it was missing something. I wish this growth would have been going on while I was there, or I may never have left! 

  2. *this piece so makes me want to live downtown!! If I was young, you couldn’t keep me in the suburbs with all of that going on in the city. Great P.R. for Birmingham, Mimi!

  3. *I’ve lived in Five Points for eight years now – in Southside for eleven. I am thrilled to see all of the improvements being made every day and this article made me even more excited for the future. Thanks for the great write-up, Mimi!

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