Walk around downtown Birmingham and there’s an energy you wouldn’t have felt a few years ago. Residents are moving to new lofts and apartments. Restaurants and retailers are opening. People do yoga at Railroad Park or take in a ballgame at Region’s Field. They’re visible signs of a Birmingham revival. But that revival is uneven. Talk to some in neighborhoods away from Downtown and they’ll say "revival" doesn’t mean much to them. No fancy lofts, just abandoned homes and potholed roads that never seem to be fixed. And all this takes place against the backdrop of Birmingham’s racial history, with investment, by-and-large, coming from whites in a city that’s been majority black for a generation.
Birmingham’s western business district is one of the city’s oldest. At one time, a thriving community of working class families surrounded it. A shopping mall anchored the retail center, and businesses, large and small, lined Third Avenue West. Now, it's a different story. The area has been in decline for decades. In 2011, the city Birmingham spent $46 million on the Birmingham Metro CrossPlex sports facility in hopes of giving the area an economic boost.
When a city neighborhood rebounds, it’s typically a story of investors buying cheap property, building and attracting new residents. That runs the risk of pushing out current residents who are often poor. This week as we explore Birmingham’s revitalization, we have at an example from Cleveland of an alternative model – worker cooperatives.
You could call schools the glue of a community. They're starting points for friendships and networks, and they affect property values and economic development. For our series on revitalization in Birmingham, WBHM's Dan Carsen returns to a redeveloping neighborhood to see how that's playing out in the local school.
Woodlawn was a predominantly white neighborhood until it was integrated in the 1970s. After that, many whites fled, migrating over the mountain and Woodlawn became predominantly black. And many of them left too. The Woodlawn Foundation is trying to change that with projects like the Park at Wood Station, a 64-unit townhouse complex on First Ave. South.
The neighborhood of Rosedale is easy to miss, quietly tucked at the base of Red Mountain on the edges of Homewood. For years, residents of the community have been fighting to keep its historic character, but the city is expanding and there is a constant threat of commercial development.
Behind every new coffee shop and oyster house and once-vacant building is a real estate developer. The same goes for parks and condos and baseball fields. To understand how developers choose where to invest, we'll start in Avondale.
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