Mountain Brook builds wall—demands Vestavia pay for it!

Bridge along Jemison Trail in Mountain Brook
Bridge along Jemison Trail in Mountain Brook

A good friend and I walk the Jemison Trail every week.

The Jemison Trail is a quiet peaceful path that winds along Shades Creek in Mountain Brook.

Recently we noticed a new walking bridge had been constructed along the trail.

I remarked that the bridge must have cost a lot of money.

But since I now live in Vestavia Hills and my friend lives in Mountain Brook, he scoffed…

“Damn it! That bridge was built on the backs of Mountain Brook taxpayers—we need to build a wall and you Vestavia Hills immigrants should pay for it.”

Though he was joking, his snide comment got me thinking about Mountain Brook.

Is Mountain Brook good or bad for our region?

What should we think about our Mountain Brook neighbors?

Even though I often complain we have too many competing municipalities, our friends in Mountain Brook are darn good neighbors.

Philanthropy

We in Birmingham often find ourselves at the bottom of one list or another—but when it comes to generosity; we are always near the top.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, even though our Birmingham metro is the 48th largest, we rank 3rd most generous.

Review the names of donors and leaders of nonprofits all over Birmingham and you will see people from Mountain Brook from top to bottom.

An example of this generosity both in time and money is our United Way.

Even though we’ve lost many of our public companies and suffered numerous recessions, our United Way has raised more money every year 62 years in a row.

Our United Way de Tocqueville Society, individuals and families who contribute $10,000 a year or more, is the 4th largest in the U.S. (750 members)

That means we have more people donating $10,000 or more a year than cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago—and many of these donors live in Mountain Brook.

Economic development

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, since 2012, more than $1.7 billion in commercial building permits have been filed in the city of Birmingham–much of that activity in the city center.

Many of these developments were led by Mountain Brook community volunteers and business leaders.

Railroad Park
Railroad Park

Railroad Park started the Birmingham renaissance. But it wasn’t easy; it took more than twenty years and a lot of hard work and patience to bring the park to fruition.

The park would never have been developed if it hadn’t been for the sheer tenacity of Giles Perkins, a Mountain Brook attorney, who should be called “Mr. Railroad Park.”

Regions Field--one of Birmingham's many unexpected successes
Regions Field–one of Birmingham’s many unexpected successes

Our next unexpected success hinged on the fearless decision by another Mountain Brook resident, Don Logan—owner of the Birmingham Barons—to move his team downtown to a site adjacent to Railroad Park.

Regions Field has been lauded as one of the finest minor league baseball stadiums in America and the Barons’ organization has been rewarded with large attendance.

You might protest that this was not an act of generosity, but a shrewd business decision. And that might be true, except, that many people thought the Barons were crazy to move back into the City.

The decision was a gamble that put the franchise at risk.  It looks like a shrewd business decision today—but it wasn’t obvious at the time.

Rotary Trail
Rotary Trail

Another extraordinary project is The Rotary Trail.

The Rotary Trail would never have happened without the leadership of Bill Jones, a retired business executive, and Hatton Smith, the CEO emeritus of Birmingham-based Royal Cup. Both men are from Mountain Brook.

In honor of the Birmingham Rotary Club’s Centennial, they raised more than $4 million and worked through the tedious details of designing and building the trail.

UAB football operations building
UAB football operations building

Concurrently, energetic Hatton Smith, with the help of many of his friends, led a successful fundraising campaign to save UAB football.

Donors, many from Mountain Brook, pledged more than $40 million to UAB athletics to allow the school to gear up for the rebirth of its football program.

The Pizitz
The Pizitz

And then there is Jeffrey Bayer, a Mountain Brook resident, whose firm, Bayer Properties, invested $70 million dollars in The Pizitz– featuring the new Pizitz Food Hall.

The Pizitz is transforming downtown north of the railroad tracks just as midtown transformed midtown.

Mountain Brook has nothing to fear

 There are currently significant conversations taking place about how our region can come together through cooperation and collaboration.

No option being considered will negatively impact the way of life of any Mountain Brook citizen or risk Mountain Brook’s excellent school system.

Rethink Mountain Brook

Everyone—no matter where they live or who they are—is welcome to walk the Jemison Trail.  And the newly constructed bridge makes it easier for walkers and joggers from Homewood to access the trail.

It’s true that much of the wealth of our Birmingham region resides in Mountain Brook and you would expect that much of the philanthropy would come from Mountain Brook. But our Mountain Brook neighbors provide more than their fair share of time, leadership, and resources.

It would be nice if our many governments worked closer together, but citizens from Mountain Brook and our other suburbs work hard to bring us all a better life.

Maybe a better title for this piece might be…

“Mountain Brook builds a well…invites everyone to drink from it.”

Editor’s note: None of the above developments would have been possible without the complete and total support of the City of Birmingham.

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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6 thoughts on “Mountain Brook builds wall—demands Vestavia pay for it!”

  1. When I first moved here about 18 years ago there was a sign on the Jamison trail that said it was only for residents of Mountain Brook and their guests only. I was a Birmingham resident and it made me nervous for years. I don’t know if it is still there or not. I don’t look for it anymore.

  2. I opposed the construction of the new baseball stadium. It was a colossally waste of money when the Barons had a perfectly good baseball park in Hoover. Further the Pizitz Building should have been demolished not renovated. Eastwood Mall was not nearly as old yet it was not preserved. Architecture should not be a factor in how long a building is preserved. Bayer is not some hero making the city and metro area better. Not only is he wasting resources trying to preserve and old decrepit building, he also built Cahaba Village which worsens the traffic on 280. I am glad the city center is making a comeback but there are better ways to do this. I would have replaced Legion of Doom Field, not the Hoover Met.

    1. That’s your opinion that the Pizitz renovation was a waste. I don’t see how that can possibly be correct. What a developer wants to save should be up to the developer. I think saving historic buildings sets us up for success compared with lots of other places.

      1. A tax credit was made available to developers when they were renovating “historic” buildings but not when they were replacing very old buildings with new ones. So it’s really not up to a developer wants to save at least it wasn’t when that tax credit was in effect. That tax credit created a double standard between those buildings built before 1935 and newer buildings. Just because something is old does not mean it is historic. A new building in place of the Pizitz building would have been just fine.

    2. I’ll bet you could be a little more negative if you really tried. The city center is making a comeback BECAUSE of projects like Pizitz.

  3. What? A journalist not condemning rich people and blaming them for all our woes? OK you’re not a journalist but a blogger.

    Just kidding. You make some good points. Now convince these wealthy Brookies to contribute to good schools for Birmingham and then we can really be proud. Holy Family Cristo Rey would be a good place to start. We need a better educated work force.

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