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The Memphian

Birmingham visits Beale St.

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:shades: This just goes to show the impact and importance of Beale St.

http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/Content?oid=oid%3A38326

We have a jewel in Beale and other cities recognize it and want to copy it.

I have my doubts about how succesful John Elkington will be in Bham. Not sure this city is ready for and will support the type of synergy John wants to create. I have visited Bham several times on my way back from ATL, stopped for food & gas,I have to say I was not impressed at all. Poor selection of restaurants and there seem to be this lackluster mentality from the locals, while I do recognize they are a leader in banking and have a decent number of young professionals not sure that's enough to support a major night life project.

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I have no idea at all whether or not Birmingham would support something like that.

I do think that Memphis had an advantage in making Beale Street work due to the historical fact that Memphis was known for its music for probably a good hundred years. And Beale St had historical significance way before Elkington turned it into a tourist mecca.

BTW--Birmingham is actually known fairly well as a great restaurant town.

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I'm not sure you can just start something like this "all of a sudden." History plays a big part in something like Beale St. It takes time to build it up.

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I wish Birmingham the best of luck in developing a downtown entertainment district. Beale Street is a good model to immulate and try to develop a similar local model on, but at the end of the day it will have to develop its identity and uniqueness from the historical, cultural, and social fabric of Birmingham. There is a lot of great history and culture to draw from in B-Ham so I have no doubt if planned and developed properly a truly unique, attractive, and successful entertainment district can be created.

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the numbers are in place for a project like this one to work here (i live in bham); the way those numbers stack up demographically is another story. the affluence has already settled itself pretty doggedly on the outskirts, and the burgeoning downtown yup- demo is enthusiastic but much smaller than that of the city's many wealthy southern 'burbs. too, the semi-affluent in-town dwellers are relatively middle-class compared to many other cities' downtown populations. and the voting bloc in the city proper is very, very, very homogenous - a fact which leads to some of the most corrupt, permissive and stagnant political representation you'll find in a metro of our size. the money gave up and drove just outside the corporate limits long ago, setting up fiefdoms with tailor-made tax structures and education budgets. what's left is a city full of uneducated, impoverished, tax-shafted people who jump at the chance for a project like this one - scrutiny be damned.

not to say that if this thing is built, and done well, that suburbanites, regional tourists, and out-of-town conventioneers won't come - i think they will. but because our rich/poor demos are decades into their ossification, i just don't see the project immediately adding to the city's leisure culture so much as merely moving the venues (and the money spent) around. in bham, if you bolster district A, it is difficult not to correlate that to the decline of district B - especially in the short term. all of our success stories, so far as the proliferation of leisure offerings is concerned, have been shaky during the first ten years or so (lakeview, avondale / forest park, downtown & morris avenue, the theater & civil rights district...)

if this project succeeds for a decade, then i do see a chance for it to thrive long-term without leeching bham's existing fun spots.

and yes, yes, yes - the restaurant scene here is perplexingly great. flaunt what ya got. well, we've got nice old buildings that sat empty in our dense core for decades (now being rediscovered; reused), and we've got mucho great places to eat. boosting these kinda helps divert our attention from the many problems we do have - the mucho many problems. i do understand how someone passing through a given route could leave underwhelmed, but that's true of most places. i've seen two very different austins and NOs (and memphises), having passed through them all many times before changing the pass-through routine - and discovering, finally, what i'd been missing. the same is very true here.

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