Pinch me! This is the new Birmingham!

Vesta on Highland Avenue in Birmingham is a 17 story apartment complex with 318 units and a 500 space parking garage
Vesta on Highland Avenue in Birmingham is a 17 story apartment complex with 318 units and a 500 space parking garage

In the mid 1980’s when I was Chairman of Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), I was asked to make some comments at the opening of one of the first loft apartment projects in downtown Birmingham.

At the time, I don’t think 150 people lived downtown.

Our local CBS affiliate WIAT-42 was struggling to build audience for its news programs. So they stumbled on a way to increase viewership by trying to embarrass interviewees.

After my remarks, the WIAT reporter stuck a microphone in my face and challenged me, “Would you and your wife live downtown?”

Of course the interviewer knew the answer. At the time only real pioneers would have considered moving to a downtown that was totally empty at night and populated mostly by the homeless.

But that was then and this is now.

Downtown

There are currently 7,527 residential units in the downtown area with another 2,183 planned and or announced to date.

Bayer Properties developed The Pizitz in the heart of downtown Birmingham with 143 residential units along with The Pizitz Food Hall. Jeffrey Bayer of Bayer Properties recently complained to me that the demand for apartments at The Pizitz is so strong that he wished he had an additional 100 units to rent.

Drive along midtown near Regions Field and Railroad Park and there are blocks and blocks of apartment buildings. Having lived in Birmingham all my life and remembering that area as a light industrial wasteland, I feel like I’ve landed on another planet.

On Highland Avenue, Harbert Realty is building a 17 story apartment complex with 318 units and a 500 space parking garage.

In the heart of Five Points South where The Break billiards bar was located a 17 story apartment with 199 units is being built.

Construction is everywhere.

Other than downtown

Recently a young man complained in a piece in ComebackTown that he chose to move to Boston rather than build his career in Birmingham partly because he couldn’t afford the increasing real estate values in Avondale.

I dismissed his complaint until I read on al.com about the six hottest neighborhoods in metropolitan Birmingham.

Of the six, two were South Avondale, Birmingham and Crestwood, Birmingham (adjacent to Avondale).

South Avondale Birmingham

Pye Parson, who sells houses in the Avondale Crestwood areas for Brik Realty was quoted in that al.com piece, “Millennials are flocking to South Avondale for its walkability and proximity to downtown…this is the fun place to be. Young people from across the country are moving to Avondale because of its proximity to cool, locally owned restaurants and breweries.”

“Empty nesters, downsizing from Mountain Brook, are also moving to South Avondale…The demand is so high that an upgraded and renovated house in the neighborhood will be under contract 24 hours after it hits the market. Your buyer has to be prepared to offer more. There is no negotiating. You have to offer list price or more.”

According to the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service, the average home in Avondale sells for $252,436 or $161 a square foot.

Crestwood Birmingham

Parson also bragged about the popularity of Crestwood, Birmingham.

Crestwood “residents…avoid a congested commute to downtown, and they get a family-friendly neighborhood that has a more suburban feel than Avondale. North Crestwood is filled with mostly craftsman -style cottages and South Crestwood is made up of more ranch-style homes.”

The average house in Crestwood North and Crestwood South sells for $241,100 or about $155 a square foot, according to the MLS.

East Lake and Woodlawn

I have a friend whose son couldn’t afford a house in Avondale and chose to buy a home in East Lake. My friend was a bit concerned about safety, but the decision has worked out well.

Many Millennials work downtown or on Southside. They can’t afford to live in Homewood, Vestavia Hills, or Mountain Brook and they are not interested in long commutes.

They choose to live in Birmingham and as neighborhoods like Avondale and Crestwood fill up, they are finding other options like East Lake or Woodlawn.

Birmingham’s showing real signs of life. Let’s keep it going.

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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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