Five Points South landlords are self-destructive

Graffiti on side of building in heart of Five Points South
Graffiti on side of building in heart of Five Points South

On my way to lunch to Surin at Five Points South I had to walk around an unconscious man sleeping across the sidewalk in front of Jim ‘N Nicks.

I looked up at the building across the street and saw a huge piece of graffiti scrawled near the top. (See photo)

In fact, there’s graffiti and trash all over Five Points South.

No wonder my family and friends generally prefer to avoid Five Points—which is truly ironic since we drive to Avondale—an area which historically has been perceived as dangerous.

ComebackTown published a piece four years ago; 5 Points South landlords must be dumb.

Immediately I was contacted by Five Points business owners and landlords saying they were ready to clean up the graffiti and do something about the perception of crime.

As best I can tell, there’s been little or no progress.

Five Points at a tipping point of being great

On Highland Avenue, Harbert Realty recently built a magnificent 17-story apartment complex with 318 units and a 500 space parking garage.

In the heart of Five Points at the edge of UAB  on the site where “The Break” was located, construction is under way on the Ascend building –a 17-story, mixed-use student living community that will include 199 residential units and accommodate 522 residents.

I love Five Points–grew up nearby

I really love Five Points and spend a lot of time there.

I attended South Highland Elementary School; watched movies at the Five Points Movie Theater; got my hair cut at the Five Points Barber Shop; bowled at the 5 Points Bowling Alley and shopped at Woolworth Five-and-Dime. (Yes, the same building now occupied by The Woolworth.

CAP would transform Five Points

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

CAP is a non-profit organization funded by property owners to make sure specific districts of Birmingham are clean and safe.

You may recognize CAP Ambassadors as the men and women in blue shirts and caps who ride around downtown on bikes and Segways–and who are constantly cleaning the streets and sidewalks.

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

There’s no graffiti in the CAP District downtown. CAP ambassadors remove hundreds of pieces of graffiti day by day every month.

CAP has a full time Ambassador who works with the homeless.

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

But the CAP District does not include Five Points South and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The Board of CAP with the support of REV Birmingham has made numerous attempts to include Five Points, but some property owners show no interest or are dragging their feet.

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

I’ve never met a single downtown property owner who would like to get rid of CAP to save a few dollars.

It’s been four years since the original ComebackTown article published.

Four long years…

Allow CAP to come in–clean up the area; remove the graffiti; and work with the homeless.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

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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 for free about a better Birmingham.

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26 thoughts on “Five Points South landlords are self-destructive”

  1. Well said David. Can you tell us what the cost is to the merchants for CAP service? I am wondering if merchants could even add a courtesy penny or two per dollar to their bills that customers may be happy to pay to help merchants initially defray the cost???

    1. Maury, the property owners are charged a mandatory millage rate based on property value. The amount of millage would vary depending on how much service is provided. I imagine this would be negotiated between the property owner and the tenant.

    1. Riff raff… many homeless INDIVIDUALS are veterans who served this country and are dealing with mental health and drug addictions…

      And if they are not veterans they are human beings dealing with mental health, drugs, unemployment etc. they are not riff raff

      CAP assistance would definitely benefit the area and the homeless. I am hopeful that an arrangement can be reached….

      1. Thank you, Yolanda. I wonder if negative energy here could be channeled into some realistic and positive ideas about improvements without sacrificing the needs of those being served by the Churches in the 5Points area. What a challenge for anyone REALLY interested in improving the outlook for the area- which should include everyone- not just commercial property owners. Think creatively – but people come first!

        1. I could not agree with this more. The need for more positive and creative thinking is exactly what is needed, and not only for Five Points, a place that can certainly use it, but the entirety of Birmingham, Do this in Five Points, succeed, let it be known everywhere and so much more of the city can benefit. When it becomes known and has futther effect on the city. the whole city will improve and increase its appeal beyond.

          Start it in Five Points.

  2. We stay away due to limited parking , I have found when you do find parking it is a hike just a couple of blocks, The area is safe the walk well no so . Just need to clean up the surrounding area. maybe a local shuttle just for the five points area during peek times. Maybe some changes have been made that we are not familiar with . Best regards

  3. My car was just broken into a few weeks ago on 10th Ave S, less than a half block off of 20th St. This was during the day on a Sunday as I had lunch at Woolworth. I am done with 5 points.

  4. I can’t believe how dirty the sidewalks are around the Waffle House and Jim ‘n Nicks. The merchants could hire someone for a few hundred dollars to at least pressure wash the sidewalks on that side of the street. If I was renting I would not wait on the landlord.

  5. I would certainly encourage a program like CAP to do what it intends. Five Points really could use it. I am sure its value would be far greater than the cost.

  6. “Perception of crime?” If it looks bad…it IS bad is the way most folks look at it. Just another sorry story of Birmingham shooting itself in the foot and then claiming that racial bias keeps folks out of Five Points. Hey! Mayor Woolfin! Are you reading this blog?

    I wonder sometimes how Frank Stitt even stays in business…no parking, sketchy neighborhood, and down-and-out locals around. I remember the area back in its heyday in the ’70s and ’80s. SAD…

  7. David

    Been getting your newsletter and it’s always a good read. Re “ graffiti “ in 5 Points. I’ll try to be brief. I moved back to BHAM after 50 years living in New Orleans and the FL keys. Purchased a townhome a year ago in Highland Park on Caldwell Park, and immediately joined the Highland Park Assn. I noticed the blight of “tagging” all over my new neighborhood. ( Graffiti is considered commissioned art like murals with a theme ), tagging is random signs, messages and a misdemeanor property defacement.

    We used the NextDoor app and formed a committee of a dozen resident volunteers to address the issue. We met, documented by photos the locations ( some private, some public, some on commercial properties ). We then purchased different supplies ( paint, chemicals, power washer etc ) and organized cleanups on Saturday mornings. Every neighborhood in BHAM has funds held by the city and we jumped through City’s hoops to get a check for our supplies. We have eradicated all the taggings in Highland Park over six months. If a new one appears, we cover or remove it quickly. We even covered the concrete pilings under 31/280 by St Vincents.

    Five points and other neighborhoods can organize and address this issue in the same way. In fact, someone contacted us from Woodlawn to do the same thing.

    Happy to meet with residents and business owners to assist in their neighborhoods.

    I attended John Carroll High School ( was on Highland Ave ) , graduated in 1968 and left, and returned to Birmingham after 50 years with my spouse for proximity to my large family here and to access great choices in medical care in Birmingham, only to find much more positive things happening in the city.

    Hope this helps with the tagging issue. Obviously, homelessness issues are a complex problem with different solutions.


    Anne Reich Sunkel
    2601 11th Ave South

    Sent from my iPad

    Anne Reich Sunkel
    2601 11th Avenue South
    Birmingham AL 35205

  8. I moved to Highland Park a year ago and noticed the same “tagging “ all over the neighborhood. I joined the Highland Park Association, attended monthly meetings and there I found a neighbor who joined me in organizing a team of about 12 neighbors to get rid of the “ tagging”. ( graffiti is considered art, I.e. murals, commissioned artwork on walls with a motif or theme) We mapped all the tagging in Highland Park, and applied to the city for our neighborhood funds to get the chemicals, brushes, sprain paint to paint over the tagging. We did this though the HP neighborhood with voting for the funds so we complied with the city process. We did purchase some supplies on our own as we waited for the funds, and after 6 months of group task force activity, have eradicated all the tagging in Highland Park. This included private walls and fences, dumpsters. street signs, commercial buildings, etc. We can share the details with other neighborhoods if they contact me.

    1. With thanks, and meaning no disrespect, now that you and neighborhood do-gooders have cleaned up the mess, you have relieved the city (and building owners) from their responsibility of cleaning up the tagging AND from stopping the criminal practice to begin with.

      As long as the regular citizens are willing to clean up, there is no incentive for the city pr landlords to do their job. The taggers will merrily continue their “artistic” defacement of public and private property.

      Nice try, though.

      1. Karl — I also mean no disrespect but that response seems a little cynical. I posted a link to David’s article on the Five Points Neighborhood Association Facebook page and one of the members essentially said the same thing and that we pay taxes and the police should do their job. He offered a vague solution that we hold our elected officials accountable, but didn’t explain how. Meanwhile, 25 years after I moved to the City, downtown Birmingham looks great and the business district around Five Points looks pretty rough. If we sit back and wait for the government to do something nothing will improve.

        As far as the taggers go, there really ought to be an ordinance against tagging. I don’t believe there is one. I’d propose requiring every tagger to do 50 hours of community service cleaning up tagging for a first offense and then a $10,000 fine for the second offense.

        1. Yes, I’m cynical. I’m 72 years old, worked in Birmingham, lived in Homewood, and spent a few years with the old Bham Area Chamber of Commerce…back when the city had an effective business organization. I’ve heard and seen it all for the last 40 years, thru many business cycles.

          There is no reason why Five Points should be “rough.” Lots of folks and businesses pay taxes to see that laws are obeyed. Tagging IS a chime…it’s called vandalism, defacing property, and wilful or intentional damage. And property owners should have a responsibility to clean it up, which may or may not be in city ordinances. It’s a cost of doing business in an urban environment.

          To fine a tagger, first you have to catch them. This requires a PROACTIVE police force and a plan in writing. Is there one? Dunno.

          Thank goodness for the newest round of entrepreneurs and business speculators who are trying yet another round of investment. I do earnestly wish them well!

          1. I wasn’t saying tagging is “legal”. I recognize that it’s vandalism. My point is there is no specific ordinance directed at tagging. There should be one with specific penalties.

      2. Karl
        We do-gooders in Highland Park take pride in our neighborhood regardless of whether we own, rent or have a commercial property. Our beautification committee also recently completed a trash and poop cleanup. Yes, many things in life come with specific responsibilities, but often these days, no one takes responsibility so we did and the resulting pride in our hood is very satisfying. Do-Gooders done good.

        1. Congrats and job-well done! I help with my neighborhood’s activities, too. But my point was the city and property owners were shirking their responsibilities and it was a shame that the public had to do what cities and businesses ought to be doing.

          There’s absolutely nothing wrong with individuals who are active in their neighborhoods and everything of which to proud. Do-gooders done good…indeed.

  9. David —

    I shared your article to the Five Points page at the link below. You’ll have to join the group, but the people who run the Five Points Neighborhood Association, who may have some real influence over this issue, are on this page. Since I live in Glen Iris, I would LOVE to see CAP in Five Points:

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