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kayman

Discussion: Birmingham's Progress and Sustainability

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I believe one of the biggest problems is its image. Birmingham has so much potential but it seemly just flounders in every area from infastructure, nightlife, roads, public transportion, neighborhood maintainence & renewal, schools, race relations (a major 1800 pound elephant in the room pushed under the rug), major tourist attractions, crime, and even civic pride/philanthropy. In addition, many citizens in Central Alabama constantly force their anti-urbanism view upon the region holding it back even further.

Birmingham was at the center of Civil Rights Movement with many historical landmarks that little to no recognize, as one would say the only way to know your future is to acknowledge and embrace your past. Those places could be made into historical landmarks and tourist attractions to show the city's progress, but are left hidden and unacknowledged. Other places of tourism that should be built upon is the entertainment which is clearly lacking in the region. The pockets of nightlife around Lakeview and Five Points South leaves much to desire. Either the 2 districts should combine or the nightlife in Birmingham should be moved to DT in and around BJCC. The city also has a notorious reputation of shying away national touring acts with its lack of quality entertainment facilities and seemingly unfriendly local promoters. Theses thing alone has pushed us back further and further in culture and entertainment circle. It is a known fact by many outsiders to "Avoid Birmingham".

It just seems that Birmingham's biggest enemy is itself and its second biggest enemy is the Alabama's culture. What could be done to change this and undo what has been ruined and held back this great city before it becomes "The Detroit of The South"?

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-_-

I believe one of the biggest problems is its image. Birmingham has so much potential but it seemly just flounders in every area from infastructure, nightlife, roads, public transportion, neighborhood maintainence & renewal, schools, race relations (a major 1800 pound elephant in the room pushed under the rug), major tourist attractions, crime, and even civic pride/philanthropy. In addition, many citizens in Central Alabama constantly force their anti-urbanism view upon the region holding it back even further.

Birmingham was at the center of Civil Rights Movement with many historical landmarks that little to no recognize, as one would say the only way to know your future is to acknowledge and embrace your past. Those places could be made into historical landmarks and tourist attractions to show the city's progress, but are left hidden and unacknowledged. Other places of tourism that should be built upon is the entertainment which is clearly lacking in the region. The pockets of nightlife around Lakeview and Five Points South leaves much to desire. Either the 2 districts should combine or the nightlife in Birmingham should be moved to DT in and around BJCC. The city also has a notorious reputation of shying away national touring acts with its lack of quality entertainment facilities and seemingly unfriendly local promoters. Theses thing alone has pushed us back further and further in culture and entertainment circle. It is a known fact by many outsiders to "Avoid Birmingham".

It just seems that Birmingham's biggest enemy is itself and its second biggest enemy is the Alabama's culture. What could be done to change this and undo what has been ruined and held back this great city before it becomes "The Detroit of The South"?

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Find a way to keep shooting and killings from occuring on a daily basis and to clean out corrpt leaders and that would be a real start.

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Find a way to keep shooting and killings from occuring on a daily basis and to clean out corrpt leaders and that would be a real start.

You have a real point. Increase the size and training level of the Birmingham police force. Clean house in city hall. Bring in some young, progressive new blood to our local government. Have more of those local government meetings between suburban mayors, the city council, the county commissioners, and local senators. Resolving crime issues and increasing cooperation between Birmingham leaders and surrounding leaders are the two biggest areas we must address to help eliminate the bad impressions that many have about our city.

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The number one thing Birmingham can do is improve its tourism sector.

As it is, there's a solid slate of "second-tier" attractions, the sort of things that are

enjoyable/interesting enough if you happen to be there, but no real first-tier destinations

that people will make a special trip from out of state just to see.

Tourism can play an enormous role in defining a city's image - see Nashville, Orlando,

Chattanooga, etc.

Note that each brings its own unique offering to the table. That's way different from building some big, empty, generic dome. Birmingham needs to decide what it wants to become & wants to be known for, then

execute the plan to achieve such a goal.

It just seems that Birmingham's biggest enemy is itself and its second biggest enemy is the Alabama's culture.

I'm trying to figure out the "Alabama culture" bit, because "Alabama culture" hasn't stopped

places like Huntsville-Decatur, Mobile-Baldwin, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, or Dothan

from growing. Sure, it has made growth more difficult than in other states, but Birmingham's the only sizable city in the state that has been losing population consistently for over half a century, so I

don't see how that can be put on the rest of us.

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The number one thing Birmingham can do is improve its tourism sector.

As it is, there's a solid slate of "second-tier" attractions, the sort of things that are

enjoyable/interesting enough if you happen to be there, but no real first-tier destinations

that people will make a special trip from out of state just to see.

Tourism can play an enormous role in defining a city's image - see Nashville, Orlando,

Chattanooga, etc.

Note that each brings its own unique offering to the table. That's way different from building some big, empty, generic dome. Birmingham needs to decide what it wants to become & wants to be known for, then

execute the plan to achieve such a goal.

I'm trying to figure out the "Alabama culture" bit, because "Alabama culture" hasn't stopped

places like Huntsville-Decatur, Mobile-Baldwin, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, or Dothan

from growing. Sure, it has made growth more difficult than in other states, but Birmingham's the only sizable city in the state that has been losing population consistently for over half a century, so I

don't see how that can be put on the rest of us.

What I mean about the Alabama culture's bit. It's not directly saying the State of Alabama is against Birmingham city proper, but I mean it's against Greater Birmingham itself. Alabama has had numerous chances to capitalize and unite the state's technology (mainly bio-tech) in Birmingham. Instead as late as last year the state decided to use some of that funding to build a bio-tech center in Huntsville. Why would you fund something in another city knowing that Birmingham has UAB and a huge biotech/medical sector. It's like they are trying to work against developing a biotech research center and park rather than with Birmingham.

Also, the state tries its best to work tooth in nail to sabotage public transportation in the region but not funding it at all. The BJCTA is a joke, and it is just flaundering like a thirsty fish ashore while the state doesn't nothing to help or save it. It is ignorant when it is easier to have an elevated tollway built in the middle of the suburbs than it is to simply find funding for a decent public transit system. To boot, up until about 3 years ago, the area also had the state's worst road while places like populated and travelled like Coosa County had better maintained roads and highways. That was single-handedly the work of a corrupt legislature that sterring funding for their own district for pork purposes rather than allowing the funding to keep the entire state's roads in good shape.

Finally, its seems particularly here in Central Alabama its is this "Me, me, me, my, my, my" selfishness amost cities. The duplication of emergency services like 911, school systems is pointless. This "every man for himself" mentality is going to lead Greater Birmingham to become another Metro Detroit. If you ever been to SE Michigan and to Detroit, you would know what I'm talking about, and it is not a very pretty or happy place to be.

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I agree with you that the number of municipalities/fractionalism of metro Birmingham is problematic.

Why would you fund something in another city knowing that Birmingham has UAB and a huge biotech/medical sector.

If I recall, the deal in Huntsville involved something like $80 million in private investment to go with

the $50 million in state participation.

I agree with your point re: transit.

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You have a real point. Increase the size and training level of the Birmingham police force. Clean house in city hall. Bring in some young, progressive new blood to our local government. Have more of those local government meetings between suburban mayors, the city council, the county commissioners, and local senators. Resolving crime issues and increasing cooperation between Birmingham leaders and surrounding leaders are the two biggest areas we must address to help eliminate the bad impressions that many have about our city.

Decreasing crime can start by increasing the pay of the Birmingham police force so that the best qualified officers don't flock to the suburbs. Then if the people of Birmingham would bring new minds to the table who may have a vision for Birmingham instead of making excuses.

The number one thing Birmingham can do is improve its tourism sector.

When I think of Birmingham, I usually think about the industrial, gritty era where Birmingham was the "Pittsburgh of the South." This could be exploited, but it would be second-tier as you mention below. No one want to visit the remnants of a steel mill. I am not sure if Birmingham knows what it wants to be, tourism wise. Instead of this city being known for one thing, it is mediocre at best at many things.

I'm trying to figure out the "Alabama culture" bit, because "Alabama culture" hasn't stopped

places like Huntsville-Decatur, Mobile-Baldwin, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, or Dothan

from growing. Sure, it has made growth more difficult than in other states, but Birmingham's the only sizable city in the state that has been losing population consistently for over half a century, so I

don't see how that can be put on the rest of us.

Those cities have had leaders that have taken advantage of what's already there and built upon it. Huntsville has NASA and the U.S. Army, Mobile/Baldwin County has the beaches and the history, and so on. Birmingham leaders have made excuses to why they are not number one.

It is at a central location to not only the state of Alabama, but for the entire southeast, so many people drive through the Birmingham area. Maybe Visionland/Alabama Adventure should have been built so that some of it could have been seen from I-20/59. The Birmingham Zoo is tucked away in Mountain Brook. The Ross Bridge Resort is nestled in Shades Valley. The Hoover Met is hidden away from Highway 150 and I-459. Because these places are tucked away from main roads these places are away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of the city, but they are not easy to find either, and not seen by many people that pass through.

Again, I don't know what Birmingham should specialize in. It's natural beauty is a great starting point, though.

Finally, its seems particularly here in Central Alabama its is this "Me, me, me, my, my, my" selfishness amost cities. The duplication of emergency services like 911, school systems is pointless. This "every man for himself" mentality is going to lead Greater Birmingham to become another Metro Detroit. If you ever been to SE Michigan and to Detroit, you would know what I'm talking about, and it is not a very pretty or happy place to be.

This is what is destroying Birmingham. Wait---it already has. These over the mountain cities provide a completely different culture and lifestyle than the city of Birmingham does, and the wealthy and middle class flocked that way. There is no way that Birmingham can take on all of these cities at once. Each suburb is looking out for itself, and itself only. There is no community effort here. Hoover wants what benefits Hoover, regardless of whether or not it benefits the rest of the metro area. I would not be surprised if the dome or some football stadium is built somewhere in the suburbs instead of in Birmingham where it belongs. I am afraid that the municipalities north and west of Birmingham will soon become just as powerful unless Birmingham starts to annex property like crazy in NW Jefferson County.

Why doesn't quotes work?

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Because these places are tucked away from main roads these places are away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of the city, but they are not easy to find either, and not seen by many people that pass through.

That's definitely true.

That's one thing that Chattanooga has done particularly well. You can park just once, and visit for a couple days.

Although there is a cluster of attractions on Lookout Mountain, most everything is clustered within walking distance of the aquarium/riverwalk/baseball stadium/pedestrian bridge/park/art museum area. The few things that are a little out of the way, like the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, are well-served by bus service.

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I agree about things seeming to be hidden. There should be more signage pointing to our big attractions at the very least. All the way back at I-20/59, there should be signs that let people know that the Birmingham Zoo and Botanical Gardens are that way down off 280. But having said that... let's be fair. The Birmingham Zoo was the #1 tourist attraction in the state... and Alabama Adventure was #2. As for Alabama Adventure, I'm hopeful that as they expand, they'll continue to move closer to the interstate and/or build tall enough rides that more of them can be seen from the interstate.

I think the reason Birmingham hasnt exploded is, in part, because of what you've said. Much of Birmingham is hidden in the trees and over ridges... and I think this was intended to be the way for many. Many dont want Birmingham to be so flashy that they'll draw in large amounts of people like Atlanta or Nashville. At the same time, that hinders progress which others of us want. Nevertheless, I think marketing and better signage could easily make up the difference. We need to have more commercials going throughout the southeast. Cant tell you how many tourism commercials I've seen on Georgia, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Tunica, etc. If they can do it, so too can we. A general Alabama tourist commercial would be good, but I'd like to see a few specifically Birmingham ones. Just needs to get it out the rest of the southeast so they're aware of all the possibilities in Birmingham.

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But having said that... let's be fair. The Birmingham Zoo was the #1 tourist attraction in the state... and Alabama Adventure was #2.
True, but the lack of "destination" tourism is a problem statewide.

The state is actually doing pretty well in some regards economically (automotive, health care, aerospace, military, record low overall unemployment), but we're still talking about each of the state's individual paid attractions drawing fewer than 1/2 million visitors a year.

By comparison, Atlanta's new aquarium alone expects over 3 million visitors its first year.

Interesting quote in a thread about a couple of major projects planned in Tunica, MS:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.ph...pic=20459&st=20

The "thrill park" in Riverbend is only expected to have only 3 million visitors annually so I guess it'll only be a local attraction

So, the "smaller" of the two "mega-projects" in Tunica is supposed to attract 3 million visitors a year.

Now, we might not be able to ever come up with mega-attractions in Alabama that draw those kinds of numbers, but with Birmingham's central location (close to Atlanta, Nashville, and other major markets),

I can imagine a true "first-tier" destination in B'ham drawing over 1 million visitors a year.

Perhaps the best comparison I can think of is the Birmingham Zoo vs the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia,SC.

Birmingham's zoo has a very comparable amount of land, but building out the master plan has been

a slow process. As Alabama's top individual attraction in 2005, the Birmingham zoo drew almost 450,000

visitors. By contrast, Riverbanks, which went ahead and executed its master plan, draws about 900,000 visitors per year, and has topped 1 million in a couple of years.

Riverbanks has provided a huge boost to Columbia's image.

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True, but the lack of "destination" tourism is a problem statewide.

The state is actually doing pretty well in some regards economically (automotive, health care, aerospace, military, record low overall unemployment), but we're still talking about each of the state's individual paid attractions drawing fewer than 1/2 million visitors a year.

By comparison, Atlanta's new aquarium alone expects over 3 million visitors its first year.

Interesting quote in a thread about a couple of major projects planned in Tunica, MS:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.ph...pic=20459&st=20

So, the "smaller" of the two "mega-projects" in Tunica is supposed to attract 3 million visitors a year.

Now, we might not be able to ever come up with mega-attractions in Alabama that draw those kinds of numbers, but with Birmingham's central location (close to Atlanta, Nashville, and other major markets),

I can imagine a true "first-tier" destination in B'ham drawing over 1 million visitors a year.

Perhaps the best comparison I can think of is the Birmingham Zoo vs the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia,SC.

Birmingham's zoo has a very comparable amount of land, but building out the master plan has been

a slow process. As Alabama's top individual attraction in 2005, the Birmingham zoo drew almost 450,000

visitors. By contrast, Riverbanks, which went ahead and executed its master plan, draws about 900,000 visitors per year, and has topped 1 million in a couple of years.

Riverbanks has provided a huge boost to Columbia's image.

Interesting enough it would have been nice if that plan for an aquarium here in Greater Birmingham would have got off the ground. The Birmingham Zoo actually is the 2nd largest zoo in the South outside of the Miami MetroZoo, so if they could capitalize on this it would hit the 1 million mark in annual visitors. This is only tangible if they would speed up the progress of their Master Plan and add more major exhibits.

I believe Birmingham would be a major tourist center if Alabama Adventures with more thrill rides like 4 more roller coaster, the zoo would finish its master plan, up the promotion of the McWane Science Center, forget about building the dome and renovate the BJCC Arena by adding more skyboxes and luxury suites, and make Riverchase Galleria into an upscale shopping destination like The Galleria in Houston (which the mall is actually imitated with it original design). The Galleria could upgrade by getting rid of that God-awful Belk and replace it with a Neiman-Marcus or Nordstrom. By getting more upscale retailers to located at the mall like Tiffany's & Co. co-op (which is very feasible with the region's income), Crate & Barrel, hell even get an IKEA near the mall. In addition, to the continued downtown condo boom and increase in residents they could actually built a nightlife for this city in a central location. All of these things would make Birmingham a tourist, shopping, and cultural center.

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i'm pretty ambivalent about birmingham's 'image.' much of what i love about birmingham is the result of no one having given a damn about it for the last 50 years, so i feel that in many ways it's not such a big deal to be maligned in the public eye or avoided by convention types and out-of-town tourists. i am all for that kind of growth, but it has to be a part of a city's identity and a part of its mission (i.e., atlanta).

bham has not suffered through the upheaval of urban renewal that has obliterated many other cities' historic downtown areas - it has instead suffered through hard times and a depleted set of services downtown...to me, a blessing in disguise. now people are taking some interest in the area again, and they largely are very aware of the appeal of the buildings and the infrastructural blueprint that history established for the city (the bisecting effect of the railroad, the multitude of low-and midrise structures crying out for rehabilitation, etc.)

birmingham has a history - a tradition - of being a conservative, reluctant, conflicted, indecisive city. its historic identity crisis has, in effect, become its identity. to buck that suddenly would almost be blasphemous of the city's spirit - and yes, i believe it does have a spirit, almost as entrenched and irreversible as that of new orleans. too bad it's not a better spirit, but at least, to me, it's genuine. i really feel that bham can perhaps make the most of its awkward self-image by just deciding to be unapologetic for it and focus its services and amenities on its own residents (not even those of the outlying region - just bham itself). it can still offer outsiders whatever attraction they may be wont to appreciate, but it can do it on its own terms. bham is not going to turn into atlanta or charlotte, and i have reached a point in my relationship with the south where i am glad that it's not.

i've just moved away from bham, and now i appreciate the hell out of it as an urban space with its own internal spatial logic...especially compared with my new home, tucson, which is otherwise a progressive, well-maintained and beautifully situated city. bham always looks better to the outsider, i think, than to the long-time resident...as long as the outsider at least visits, and does not hear the usual rote litany of deep-south negatives second-hand. bham is geologically fascinating, geographically beautiful (few cities in the East that have no waterfront are so fortunately sited), navigably scaled (it's still small enough for the pedestrian, IF the city will cater to him), and filled with character (and characters). i would rather own a home there than in any other city back East than perhaps new orleans.

how i can ramble...my point is that bham is too entrenched as a real city with a real and conflicted history / identity to think that it can solve its internal problems by whoring itself out to the rest of the increasingly homogenized nation so that we can attract regional and national tourism, conventioneering, etc. yes, it's money, and yes, it would probably make the city sorta kinda more prosperous, but i think there is a richness of life in birmingham that is secret to those who are unable to appreciate it, and has little to do with newness and big money. if you can't like birmingham for what it is - huge warts and all - you will probably be happier in a more...successful...city. a city like atlanta.

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This is only tangible if they would speed up the progress of their Master Plan and add more major exhibits.
Yep. Wouldn't it be nice for the private sector to step up in a big way, like maybe a

"Regions Rainforest" exhibit including unique features like a video wall with webcams

set up in actual rainforests on each tropical continent ?

Nevertheless, I think marketing and better signage could easily make up the difference. We need to have more commercials going throughout the southeast.

A great starting place would be billboards at every interstate entrance to Birmingham, plus at the airport

with "Welcome to Birmingham ! Come see Alabama's #1 tourist attraction, the Birmingham Zoo !"

Include directions at the bottom. This would be very cheap, really, for the amount of advertising benefits it would create.

I am all for that kind of growth, but it has to be a part of a city's identity and a part of its mission...

A great example of that is the Railroad Reservation Park. It has a lot of potential to draw private investment nearby, provide structure to downtown/southside, and add convenient recreation options.

It would be in keeping with both Birmingham's industrial heritage and its present and future quality of life.

The cost shouldn't be a major problem. This is the sort of thing Birmingham should be rolling ahead with immediately - not just talking about it, but actually getting it done.

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i'm pretty ambivalent about birmingham's 'image.' much of what i love about birmingham is the result of no one having given a damn about it for the last 50 years, so i feel that in many ways it's not such a big deal to be maligned in the public eye or avoided by convention types and out-of-town tourists. i am all for that kind of growth, but it has to be a part of a city's identity and a part of its mission (i.e., atlanta).

bham has not suffered through the upheaval of urban renewal that has obliterated many other cities' historic downtown areas - it has instead suffered through hard times and a depleted set of services downtown...to me, a blessing in disguise. now people are taking some interest in the area again, and they largely are very aware of the appeal of the buildings and the infrastructural blueprint that history established for the city (the bisecting effect of the railroad, the multitude of low-and midrise structures crying out for rehabilitation, etc.)

birmingham has a history - a tradition - of being a conservative, reluctant, conflicted, indecisive city. its historic identity crisis has, in effect, become its identity. to buck that suddenly would almost be blasphemous of the city's spirit - and yes, i believe it does have a spirit, almost as entrenched and irreversible as that of new orleans. too bad it's not a better spirit, but at least, to me, it's genuine. i really feel that bham can perhaps make the most of its awkward self-image by just deciding to be unapologetic for it and focus its services and amenities on its own residents (not even those of the outlying region - just bham itself). it can still offer outsiders whatever attraction they may be wont to appreciate, but it can do it on its own terms. bham is not going to turn into atlanta or charlotte, and i have reached a point in my relationship with the south where i am glad that it's not.

i've just moved away from bham, and now i appreciate the hell out of it as an urban space with its own internal spatial logic...especially compared with my new home, tucson, which is otherwise a progressive, well-maintained and beautifully situated city. bham always looks better to the outsider, i think, than to the long-time resident...as long as the outsider at least visits, and does not hear the usual rote litany of deep-south negatives second-hand. bham is geologically fascinating, geographically beautiful (few cities in the East that have no waterfront are so fortunately sited), navigably scaled (it's still small enough for the pedestrian, IF the city will cater to him), and filled with character (and characters). i would rather own a home there than in any other city back East than perhaps new orleans.

how i can ramble...my point is that bham is too entrenched as a real city with a real and conflicted history / identity to think that it can solve its internal problems by whoring itself out to the rest of the increasingly homogenized nation so that we can attract regional and national tourism, conventioneering, etc. yes, it's money, and yes, it would probably make the city sorta kinda more prosperous, but i think there is a richness of life in birmingham that is secret to those who are unable to appreciate it, and has little to do with newness and big money. if you can't like birmingham for what it is - huge warts and all - you will probably be happier in a more...successful...city. a city like atlanta.

I get what you are alluding to by saying Birmingham has its own real city feel, and I agree 100%. I do enjoy that, but remaining ass backwards is not the way to be. This type of attitude would do the same thing that has been occuring for the last 4 decades, and that is drive away the innovative professionals and philathropists that could make this area a success. If Birmingham wants to maintain its strong business status and be able to grow economically then some things like anti-urbanism, conservativism attitude of anything foreign must cease. Birmingham, along with Huntsville, seems to be Alabama's only hope for future growth in world-class status and being home to a world class city. I'm not saying Birmingham should become anything like Atlanta or Charlotte, no offense but both of which serious lacks originality or character and are honestly just a sprawling messes. Birmingham should capitalize on its rich history in industry and being home to the Civil Rights Movement, a major American movement that changed the nation's view on race, while maintaining/preserving its distinct and beautiful neighborhoods nestled in the foothills of the Applachians. If Birmingham would do this while improving its public transportation system for its residents and potential visitors (and tourists), we could become a world-class city that is as rich and notorious in history as New Orleans.

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A great example of that is the Railroad Reservation Park. It has a lot of potential to draw private investment nearby, provide structure to downtown/southside, and add convenient recreation options.

It would be in keeping with both Birmingham's industrial heritage and its present and future quality of life.

The cost shouldn't be a major problem. This is the sort of thing Birmingham should be rolling ahead with immediately - not just talking about it, but actually getting it done.

yes - that is pretty much exactly the type of amenity i am talking about. connected with the city's economic / industrial / physical history, and preserving it in a potentially honest and appealing way. done right, it can be something for residents first and visitors as well. i haven't heard anything recently on the progress of the park, but there was an active post on here a while back. anyway, dozens of more modest projects like this are vastly preferable to a dome and more / wider highways, imho.

a similar project is the discussed revival of the red mountain road cut path and a new use for the site of the red mountain museum. a lot of history bound up in that site, tying in with a) the city's unique geological setting; b) what that setting meant for its early industrial growth; c) the mid-century efforts of a truly interesting local businessman and sometime philanthropist, e.b. stephens, who pushed for this over-the-mountain access, which incidentally led to d) the highly visible and fascinating gash in red mountain made by the road cut, which led the way to siting a museum there. there's probably a lot more to it than what i've mentioned, as well.

I get what you are alluding to by saying Birmingham has its own real city feel, and I agree 100%. I do enjoy that, but remaining ass backwards is not the way to be. This type of attitude would do the same thing that has been occuring for the last 4 decades, and that is drive away the innovative professionals and philathropists that could make this area a success. If Birmingham wants to maintain its strong business status and be able to grow economically then some things like anti-urbanism, conservativism attitude of anything foreign must cease. Birmingham, along with Huntsville, seems to be Alabama's only hope for future growth in world-class status and being home to a world class city. I'm not saying Birmingham should become anything like Atlanta or Charlotte, no offense but both of which serious lacks originality or character and are honestly just a sprawling messes. Birmingham should capitalize on its rich history in industry and being home to the Civil Rights Movement, a major American movement that changed the nation's view on race, while maintaining/preserving its distinct and beautiful neighborhoods nestled in the foothills of the Applachians. If Birmingham would do this while improving its public transportation system for its residents and potential visitors (and tourists), we could become a world-class city that is as rich and notorious in history as New Orleans.

i think we're on the same page, generally. it's funny - these subtle ways of alllllmost agreeing on bham's problems and possible solutions is kind of the ongoing fuel for bham's eternal identity crisis. a lot of times, different groups and people want the same things for the city, but there's always juuust enough of a difference of opinion to make for a little controversy.

bham should pretty much just play to its strengths, and nurse the hell out its immediate residential constituency. uab, biomed, the parks, the hills, the city's unique role in recent history, its compactness and wealth of historic (but neglected) buildings, its strange abundance of very good restaurants, whatever it may be - these are the raw materials on which the city can build and attract residents. cities that residents love pretty much don't have to worry too much about attracting outsiders with new! fun! exciting! things to do. think san francisco, boston & new orleans. there's a reason n.o. is such a convention draw; that all those venues and hotels were built in the last 40 years. that reason began to come into existence more than two centuries before all those things were built. real cities with unique identities are in demand - even in this country - both as homes and as destinations. birmingham is in the fortunate position of still having a core of that to build upon at a time when so many other u.s. cities have plowed their former uniqueness and charm under the foundations of skyscrapers and stadiums.

i like your depiction of a city's historical appeal as 'notorious.'

not sure that huntsville is any kind of great hope for alabama in terms of urban culture, though. what about mobile?

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Birmingham should start reinventing itself with a nationally focused ad campaign highlighting the changes that have occurred recently in the city. That would be the first step. There are many consultancies that specialize in this type of marketing and it would be an excellent way to get Americans interested in Birmingham again.

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I think that Birmingham's image is not as bad as you think it is. My impression has always been that its an industrial town (similar to Pittsburgh... steel and all...) but less... dirty and less yankee. Unfortunately I've not been able to make it to Birmingham other than passing through on I-20.... which I think is the city's best and worst asset. I-20 is one of the key Southern interstates, but though Birmingham, the only attractive area is downtown. The rest is very much a heavy industrial/factory/warehouse/ and lower income residential look. It gives a bad impression to passers by. Now you and I all know that you shouldn't judge a place based on what you see on the interstate. Being from SC, I can attest that this should never happen... but the fact is that it does, and that, IMO, is probably the source of the image problem of Birmingham. I think that its probably not true though....

Riverbanks is a nationally ranked zoo, which they have been working on for 20 years or so to build its reputation as a great zoo. Its a great goal for Birmingham, but just remember that it may take a few year before anything noticable happens.

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I think the progressive ideas of Larry Langford have fallen upon deaf ears in the past 2 years. There was an article in The Birmingham News discussing how so many progressive ideas such as the commuter rail in Jefferson County to Jefferson County B+ scholarship. It is such ashame that we are continuing to fall further behind in progress of a region in the South with so much potential. The potential of this region is more anthentic than "the potential" of other regions because of our status an interstate highway hub, being home to a major university like UAB, numerous start-up companies, a bustling bio-medical/medical sector, and numerous start-up financial institutions.

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I think the progressive ideas of Larry Langford have fallen upon deaf ears in the past 2 years. There was an article in The Birmingham News discussing how so many progressive ideas such as the commuter rail in Jefferson County to Jefferson County B+ scholarship. It is such ashame that we are continuing to fall further behind in progress of a region in the South with so much potential. The potential of this region is more anthentic than "the potential" of other regions because of our status an interstate highway hub, being home to a major university like UAB, numerous start-up companies, a bustling bio-medical/medical sector, and numerous start-up financial institutions.

Yeah buddy! Go BLAZERS!! :yahoo:

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Yeah buddy! Go BLAZERS!! :yahoo:

As much as love what is and has done for this region it is not going to be entire to push Birmingham beyond its almost non-existant status amongst US cities. We have to keep pushing to improve our current economic infastructure, booster it, and expand upon it. I am tired of Charlotte and other cities constantly stealing all of our homegrown major companies and corporations CaremarkRx, Torchmark, SouthTrust and Parisian should be why. When in reality all those other locations have to offer more than us is a facade of progress and growth when we still have more potential, solid infastructure, and accessibility than those other places.

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as a newcomer to the area from metro atlanta, I have really grown to like the city, its really beautiful and has lots to offer, but I think this city has some issues not only in trying to rebuild its image from the dark days of the civil rights movement but the transit system is very underfunded, they dont know what they are going to do about the dome situation, and the newest issue what are they going to do about hwy 280...here is my question whats wrong with birmingham and if you were mayor how would you turn things around in the city of birmingham and the metro area..

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There is one underlying issue which, if resolved, would help with the more apparent problems, and that is the lack of regional cooperation. In my opinion if you could achieve that, a lot of the other issues could be addressed much more adequately.

Unfortunately, I don't see it happening. Everybody is too caught up in their own little arena and too accustomed to seeing the rest of the region as the problem instead of the solution.

The best way forward, I think, is to work strongly with Region 2020 to develop and communicate a compelling vision of the future of the entire. Then let every elected official measure their success by how much closer to that vision they can take us.

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I wouldn't go that far Dystopos, there is some signs that it is changing with the plan to construct a regional jail amongst Hoover, Vestavia Hills, and Mtn. Brook.

Tic404, BTW, welcome to Birmingham. The real problem with Birmingham (the city itself) is currently Bernard Kincaid and some of the city councilmembers like Joel Montgomery and a few others. The city is so stuck on controlling everything (water works board, BJCTA) in the region still even though it now represents only like 30% of the metro area's population. Also there are still obvious racial problems with the city as a whole that are still resonant with the way the officials want to control and divide everything. Now for the region as a whole, I would say it is a combination of lack of regional cooperation, anti-urbanism culture of Alabama and the state constitution, and mediocre legislators and government officials. There are signs that many of those things are finally changing like the coordination of mass transit with the creation of a commission of local officals to fund it efficiently. Birmingham is forging its way in the right direction, but it may be another decade before the results of this shows.

On US 280, you can see how I feel about that in the thread titled "The Elevated US 280 Toll Road" thread.

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City lags in leadership, ex-CEO says

Time's Logan sees progress but calls for more vision

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

CHARLES R. McCAULEY

Birmingham News staff writer

Former Time Inc. CEO Don Logan says Birmingham has grown since he left for New York in 1992 but he has noticed the city lacks leadership and vision since he's returned to live in the area.

Birmingham has added the Civil Rights Institute and the McWane Center, and the economy is stronger and jobs seem to be plentiful, Logan said, but it "seems to be lagging the Nashvilles, Jacksons and Charlottes and a lot other communities."

Logan told the Kiwanis Club on Tuesday it "seems now is the time we should be able to move the city and community forward ... If we don't, we stand a chance of falling back again."

Logan, who chaired Time Warner's media and communications group for 15 years, now is co-owner of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team and non-executive chairman of Time-Warner Cable.

Kiwanians heard a similar message in March from Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary, who said the city is losing its status as the state's economic leader because politicians and business leaders are not on the same page. At a Rotary Club meeting last month, McCrary said elected and business leaders need to cooperate.

The former head of Southern Progress Corp., who said he had read about McCrary's speeches, pointed out that Birmingham has always had strong business leadership - a critical issue as some of the city's landmark business disappear in buyouts.

"It pains me when I start thinking of companies like Bruno's and Parisian, the names that will be disappearing and a lot others that were here before," he said.

Birmingham has "a lot of great, great companies here and I guess the strength of our community is really built on smaller family owned companies and divisions of larger ones," he said, adding that others have always played an important part of community leadership.

He said U.S. Pipe & Foundry, which is talking about a $45 million expansion project, and coffee companies Red Diamond and Royal Cup show that many companies are thriving here.

"Entrepreuership seems to be flourishing well, driven a lot by UAB," he said. Employment statistics indicate Birmingham and the state have strong economies, buoyed by the expanding auto industry, he said.

"But the fact is we aren't doing as well as we should," he added.

"Why doesn't it feel better? Why does it feel like we are sought of still on the edge? And why does it feel like some bad thing happened?" he said to the Kiwanians.

"What we seem to lack is we don't have the leadership and a vision of what Birmingham could be - or at least it's not well spelled out. If so, I don't understand what it is," he said.

Logan told the group it time to "establish leadership principles again and find someone with vision who can lead this community and move us forward."

The task is not an easy one, he said.

If Birmingham is going to get ahead, its needs a partnership between business and political leaders, Logan said.

E-mail: [email protected]

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