Why we escaped the Mountain Brook bubble

Maury Shevin & Joyce Spielberger
Maury Shevin & Joyce Spielberger

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

Today’s guest bloggers are husband and wife Maury Shevin & Joyce Spielberger.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

Having lived much of our lives outside of the City, why move into the City?

We’ve made our livings in the City of Birmingham, but so do many other non-residents.

So, what compelled us to want to make the City our home?

First, and foremost, we were done being in the suburban bubble. 

We wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Birmingham was on the cusp of a renaissance when we chose to move in.  It was palpable.  You could feel an excitement in the air.

Railroad Park had just opened.  The Barons had announced that they would come back downtown once Regions Field was built.  The plans for the Lyric, Parkside, Pizitz and the Innovation District were on drawing boards.  Great restaurants were in the City, along with live theater.  The excitement was and remains contagious.

And Birmingham is just the right size metropolitan area—big enough to have wonderful entertainment venues, yet small enough to be able to easily take advantage of them.

We were attracted to the Forest Park neighborhood, which is located on the north side of Red Mountain.  Forest Park offers commanding views of the City.  Like several other residential areas of our City, Forest Park has a great history, and sense of itself.  We spent considerable time uncovering the history of our 94 year-old home, researching the Birmingham Library archives, corresponding with a previous owner and talking with long time Forest Park residents.  As a result, our home now is listed on the Jefferson County Historical Commission Registry along with many homes throughout the City.

We embrace and wanted diversity–wanting to be around people not just like us.  Our Birmingham neighborhood of Forest Park is all about inclusion and diversity—celebrating our differences, not running away from them.  We have neighbors from every walk of life, and every color and persuasion.  We wanted to be two threads in this beautiful tapestry.  Our life here has exceeded every expectation that we had.

We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint—not having to get in a car every day.  We can and do walk and bike to Lakeview, to the grocery, to our library, even to work.  We frequently bike to Railroad Park via 1st Avenue South from Avondale, and along the new Rotary Trail.  And, while our transit system leaves much to be desired, the fact is that #12 Highland runs in front of our house and lets Maury off in front of his office!  Our savings on the cost of gasoline alone covers a few nice dinners each month at any one of our many neighborhood restaurants.

There is vibrancy to being a part of a metropolitan area that simply does not exist in suburbia.  Our friend Gail Cosby talks of “unintentional meetings.”  We know that ideas spring from encounters that naturally occur outside of your routine.  Whether it is chance meetings at the Pizitz Food Hall, or at a poetry slam at the Downtown Library, or at a walk around UAB, or at a Movie in Avondale Park—this is where ideas spring from.  Ideas come from the unanticipated encounters in life and the chance meetings with others.

And then there is the rough and tumble world of politics, that in a strange way, we find appealing.  In Birmingham, politics is literally a contact sport, certainly not for the faint of heart.  But, with every important civic and social step forward, there is a fight worth fighting.  By being residents of Birmingham, we are in the middle of the game and most passionate about the outcomes —not merely giving advice from the sidelines.

And it should not go unsaid here:  We read in AL.com some of the most appalling and bigoted comments about our political leadership.  We have concerns too; but, our concerns aren’t based on myopic knowledge, regional jealousies and racial hatred.  Seeing Birmingham from the inside, as opposed to seeing it from suburbia, gives a more complete view of the good and bad in living in an urban environment.

Finally, we have met so many good and inspiring people, who so care deeply for their city and its citizens.  We would not trade our experiences and our lifestyle for suburbia.  Come join us.

Joyce serves as a catalyst for new ideas and initiatives, often convening groups around her table. Maury practices law with Sirote & Permutt located on the Southside of Birmingham.  Both are passionate about 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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10 thoughts on “Why we escaped the Mountain Brook bubble”

  1. Bravo! Glad to see these young professionals coming back to help make Birmingham great, again!

    Jerome Leader

    1. These are not “young” professionals. Young professionals don’t have the money to move into Forest Park. In fact, the housing outlook for the young workers that downtown needs is not affordable at all.

      The “diversity” in Forest Park, like any other neighborhood, ignores the great divide in wealth. I’m not a believer in Income Inequality as the worst thing ever, but to believe that crossing from Mountain Brook to Forest Park suddenly gives you insights into Gate City is ludicrous.

    2. You can have a lovely home in the city, but until the Birmingham schools can offer your children a good education, most families can’t afford to live in the city

  2. Kudos to you for making the right decision. ALL residents of the metro area should be located INSIDE the city of Birmingham. Thank you for making the correct decision and following through with it. This couple is doing more in 1 week to improve the region, by living in the city of Birmingham, than some Alabaster dweller does in a year.

  3. It sounds like you both have a lot of free time. I did not hear anything about the school system that Birmingham has to offer a working family. Forest Park sounds like a wonderful place to live after your kids are grown. Almost like retirement! I wonder if other sections of Birmingham, West and North enjoy it as much as you.
    Yours very truly
    David R

    1. No,not retired! And, I do understand the realities with our City Schools and other sections of BHM. I have much concern, too. But, every journey starts with a first step.

  4. This couple sound like nice folks, but crossing over the mountain from Mountain Brook to Forest Park hardly qualifies them as urban pioneers. For the last 50 years, since Forest Park preservationists began saving all its historic homes and forced the State to move Red Mtn. Expressway further west, the neighborhood has been a bit of a bubble itself within the city. Birmingham’s renaissance won’t really take off until families of means like this couple take a real gamble and build 3,000 square foot homes for themselves in Woodlawn or developers build $300,000 townhouses in West End. Sirote and Permutt also could have done its part for the city by locating its new building, say, next to the BJCC north of I20-59 instead of in Highland Park.

  5. I agree with others; these two beautiful people, well-connected, well-to-do, and with time and money to spend have sacrificed nothing. They have merely moved from one elitist neighborhood to another. Well la-de-dah. What do they want? Applause?

  6. I see what they are trying to do and say, but do see the hypocrisy of it too. One the one hand, they are focusing their attention to the cities issues, it is a start as they said. Do what they are doing have any real impact on the lessor communities? Not much…but if more people do move in?? I was born in Birmingham 57 years ago,am a product of the school system,etc,etc. I believe that Birmingham is on a knifes edge. A flourishing future is a head or a permanent slide backward into decay. Forward thinking, albeit somewhat naive as in this article, but positive is greatly needed by all Birminghamians and do not to be afraid of the new generation of “white folks” wanting to make Birmingham home. We are not the “Bull Connors” of the past…..

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