The pandemic hit and unexpectedly a few of my friends’ children moved back home to Birmingham—some temporarily and some permanently.
Cities like New York were in lockdown leaving many unfortunate souls imprisoned in their apartments or condominiums.
Most didn’t quit their jobs—they just came home to work remotely.
According to NPR , “As coronavirus cases continue to spike and working from home seems permanent, many Americans are planning to set off to live in new places.”
“An astonishing 14 million to 23 million Americans intend to relocate to a different city or region as a result of telework, according to a new study released by Upwork, a freelancing platform.”
“Big cities will see the largest outmigration, according to the survey. About 20% of respondents planning to move live in a major city.”
Birmingham an attractive option
It’s to Birmingham’s advantage that we didn’t experience crazy growth like Atlanta and many of the trendy southern cities like Nashville, Austin, and Charlotte that are dealing with big city problems like lack of affordable housing and congestion.
Birmingham has plenty of green space, gorgeous weather, and a quality of life our children may not have experienced since they left home.
According to a recent article in Fast Company, Zoom towns are exploding.
“First, there were boomtowns. Now, there are Zoom towns…”
“The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a new phenomenon: a migration to ‘gateway communities,’ or small towns.”
“Nearly 60% of employees are now working remotely full or part time, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely would like to continue to do so, according to that same poll. That would seemingly give workers a lot more flexibility when it comes to where they call home.”
Construction all over Birmingham
You might have expected Birmingham to revert to its historic malaise, but the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) says there have been so many announced projects that real estate experts are being challenged to keep up.
The BBJ published a piece with the details of 37 announced projects.
Lowe’s $40 million, 1.2-million-square-foot facility; three Amazon facilities totaling almost 600,000 square feet; a $40 million Carvana distribution and fulfillment center, and a FedEx $40 million, 290,000–square-foot distribution center.
Additional projects include the mixed use development at the old Carraway Hospital site; the $200M Arbor Terrace redevelopment at the former Trinity Medical Center; Southtown Court to redevelop the outdated Southtown housing units, and the Powell Avenue Steam Plant in midtown. (The Southtown Court demolition was just put out for bids)
In addition to these ten, The BBJ identified 27 others.
Downtown and Southside
Robert Crook, founder and owner of a commercial real estate company specializing in commercial properties primarily in Birmingham’s urban core wrote a column for ComebackTown in October on how he and his fellow commercial real estate colleagues have been slammed with new business since the pandemic.
I had an opportunity to attend a walking tour of Parkside/Midtown the week before Thanksgiving.
We began our tour at 2nd Avenue South and 14th Street next to Regions Field to the west side of Railroad Park and walked to the Rotary Trail at 20th Street. There are projects planned, completed, or under construction from I-65 to the Rotary Trail—and ultimately they will stretch from Titusville to Avondale.
And the State of Alabama just announced awarding $50 million in funding to the planned UAB Genomics building.
Officials with the UA System and UAB say this $75 million development will likely transform our region—given UAB’s ambitions in genomic medicine.
This is difficult to comprehend as our Birmingham region has been stuck in a rut since the 1960’s and where Jefferson County has had zero population growth for 50 years.
My intent is not to take lightly the burden the pandemic has taken on the lives of many folks, but when COVID hit– many of us thought this might be the end of Birmingham’s future—but the momentum has shifted drastically in Birmingham’s favor.
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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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 for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.