Two major projects among the largest in Birmingham history

Robert Simon
Robert Simon

Today’s guest columnist is Robert Simon.

It’s remarkable how a single trip changed my life and likely the future of the city I love.

In 2004, I traveled with a cohort of about 100 business, community, and political leaders to Charlotte, North Carolina sponsored by the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The objective of the trip was to witness first-hand the amazing growth of Charlotte.

I had an epiphany when I learned that Charlotte had moved its minor league baseball team from the suburbs back into the city.

I couldn’t get back to Birmingham fast enough to see if we could do the same.

It took until 2013, but the Barons christened Regions Park with a 9-5 win against the Mississippi Braves on April 9th, kick-starting an explosion of construction around the new Regions Field. A total of 410,186 fans came through the turnstiles during that Inaugural season changing the Southside of Birmingham forever.

Since the arrival of Railroad Park and Regions Field, we have all watched a continuing ripple as we welcomed new housing communities, new entertainment venues, and new restaurants and shops in that part of the city. It’s revived what had been dormant and made Birmingham a better place to live, work and play.

What happened there offers a clear view of the possibilities that exist with new developments that will start taking shape this year – specifically, the revitalization of the sites once known as home to Carraway Hospital and Southtown Court.

These bookend redevelopment projects are among the largest ever undertaken in Birmingham, and they promise to transform large tracts of land and generate a tremendous economic impact for our city. But most important, they will make life better for people who call Birmingham home.

Southern area of the city

With Southtown, the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District decided the 80-year-old public housing community had outlived its best years and would best be replaced with a mixed-use development. The Housing Authority selected Southside Development Company, a group made up of partners, including Welden-Field, The Benoit Group and Corporate Realty, to bring something new to the site.

Now that the Housing Authority has torn down most of Southtown, you will soon see the first new growth on the property, starting with housing that will be available for former residents of Southtown who qualify and chose to move back, for senior citizens and for others who want to live in a vibrant new community.

Moving forward, you will see more commercial development, with goals of bringing restaurants, retail shops, a hotel and office space to the community as well.

With its proximity to UAB, St. Vincent’s and Southern Research, we see this site as especially well-suited for healthcare and research companies, a target that is in line with the city’s larger vision of building out that southern area of the city to support and expand our thriving biomedical industry. This will leverage our growing number of qualified graduates in the healthcare sector from all of our area universities, colleges and HBCUs.

Northern area of the city

The other development on the horizon, on the opposite side of town, is the former Carraway Hospital site.

This site was once an anchor of commerce in the north Birmingham area, but it became an eyesore and neighborhood liability after Carraway Hospital closed in 2008.

With Topgolf, City Walk, and Protective Stadium, this area has already started to experience renewed interest and investment, and we see the Carraway site as an opportunity to build on that momentum. The redevelopment will complement the city’s premier entertainment district while uplifting neighborhoods in north Birmingham.

The Star at Uptown (new project name) includes plans for a phased project including new single-family homes to the north, attainable multifamily housing in the former hospital structure, market rate multi-family housing and a mix of retail and entertainment possibilities, including a grocery store and an outdoor amphitheater that will round out the venues owned by the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The revived property will bring new jobs, spark more opportunities, and just as important, offer amenities to serve existing residents.

I never dreamed that a simple three day trip to Charlotte could have such a major impact on me, my company, and the future of Birmingham.

Robert Simon is President and CEO of Birmingham-based Corporate Realty.

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).

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10 thoughts on “Two major projects among the largest in Birmingham history”

  1. Robert, you had and have the vision, energy and ability to reimagine and redevelop Birmingham . What you helped start at Regions Field has morphed into wonderful new residences and businesses that enhance UAB.

    Thanks for all you do to move us to the next level. I can’t wait to see how Southtown and The Star at Uptown continue our transformation!

  2. Congratulations and thank you, Robert!
    My original Commercial Real Estate license is dated 1952 and I am blessed to continue to be in business here in my hometown of Birmingham! I know the territory and have witnessed the highs and lows. My mentor, William Engel, said “things don’t happen unless you make them happen !” Lately, I had been
    concerned that Birmingham may just be content as runner-up to Charlotte, Nashville, Huntsville and other bustling
    neighbors. I wondered if our children really wanted to hoist -up our MAGIC CITY banner. However, Robert, your doggedness to make good things happen in Birmingham is inspiring! And, recently, I have witnessed
    other young and aggressive realtors reach for the stars. NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS!

  3. Yep, this is the kind of attitude it takes to make change. Good job Robert.

    Your three day trip is similar to what many of us “young professionals” experience, but instead of coming back, we stay where it’s currently “happening”. All it takes is a bachelorette trip to Nashville, a weekend stay with a friend working in Atlanta with a skyline apt view, twenty job offers in Dallas, or a party night in Austin to make us say “hmmm, I ain’t sticking around Birmingham any longer than I have to.”

    But yes, kudos to you for coming back and making a difference.

  4. Brett, Would you consider being a guest columnist for ComebackTown to talk about why you and your contemporaries left Birmingham and what it would take to get you to consider coming home? If so, please call me on my cell 205-222-7775.

    1. I cannot do that at this time. The reason is because my family and friends are great defenders of Birmingham and seem to take it very personally when I say something positive about other places or am “critical” of Birmingham. It comes across as a “holier than thou” or “nose stuck up in the air” attitude and I get that. I hated when people from Nashville came to town talking about all the stuff they had that I hadn’t even heard of.
      I also have political associations that I’m not willing to jeopardize at this time.

  5. The building of Regions Field was a colossal waste of money. It would have been understandable if we were still stuck with decrepit Rickwood Field, but actually we had a fine ballpark in Hoover.

    Rickwood Field is the oldest ballpark in America only because other cities have had the good sense to tear down the very old baseball stadiums.

  6. My mother LOVED Robert Simon. They were buddies. She would be ever so pleased to see how he is thriving and succeeding, making a huge difference in Birmingham.

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