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  #1681  
Old Posted Feb 28, 2012, 1:55 AM
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I already posted this in the City Discussions board, but I felt it deserved some discussion more locally:

An Atlantic Cities article about how music venues foster economic growth and a positive image for a city.

How Birmingham Became an Indie Rock Destination

Michael Seman
Atlantic Cities
Monday, February 27, 2012
LINK

Quote:
The Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, the Metropolis in Seattle, the Cog Factory in Omaha: all legendary music venues that fostered scenes later embraced by local leaders as catalysts for economic development.

But despite these successes, there's little formal research into how these venues emerged or what economic value they truly hold. At a time when cities are competing for the highly skilled, mobile workforce that wants first-rate cultural amenities, this seems a notable oversight.

“Every venue is a major ambassador for their given city”

Take the Bottletree in Birmingham, Alabama....
A pretty interesting read. A music and hipster culture has to start somewhere.
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  #1682  
Old Posted Feb 29, 2012, 6:51 PM
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nice read! i can practically walk to bottletree or sloss...
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  #1683  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2012, 6:49 AM
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How does everyone feel about William Bell? When he was first elected, I was quite skeptical, but so far I see him as a pretty conscientious mayor.
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  #1684  
Old Posted Mar 30, 2012, 3:45 PM
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I think Bell is doing a pretty good job. I think he does a great job holding the line between the citizens of Birmingham and the business community.

Regarding developments
The Barons returning to bham is a nice feather in his hat but I'm not entirely certain the credit shouldn't go more to Don Logan, the developer and Jonathan Austin (City Councilman)
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  #1685  
Old Posted Mar 30, 2012, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tredici View Post
How does everyone feel about William Bell? When he was first elected, I was quite skeptical, but so far I see him as a pretty conscientious mayor.
I felt the same way. Like he just wasn't a dynamic enough person, but merely someone who would keep the seat warm and try not to lose any ground rather then aggressively go out and seek to bring new business and development to town. Now, I'm quite pleased with his performance.
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  #1686  
Old Posted Mar 31, 2012, 5:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourian View Post
I felt the same way. Like he just wasn't a dynamic enough person, but merely someone who would keep the seat warm and try not to lose any ground rather then aggressively go out and seek to bring new business and development to town. Now, I'm quite pleased with his performance.
Yea, it's been a pleasant surprise. I don't remember the last time so much was happening in the city. Of course, I'm only 22 years old... Who knew that Birmingham would be the king of Alabama in downtown developments?!
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  #1687  
Old Posted Mar 31, 2012, 8:25 AM
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^Agree completely.

I'm very happy with how Bell is doing. I was initially skeptical about him and if he would fall prey to how the past has treated Birmingham mayor's, but overall I'm so impressed with how he is handling the office. If I could vote in the elections, he'd get mine (right now at least)
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  #1688  
Old Posted Mar 31, 2012, 3:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tredici View Post
Yea, it's been a pleasant surprise. I don't remember the last time so much was happening in the city. Of course, I'm only 22 years old... Who knew that Birmingham would be the king of Alabama in downtown developments?!
I don't know... I think Birmingham has been tops on downtown development for quite a while. IMO, the developments between 2000ish and 2006ish were by far the most impressive in the state. There have been a lot of great announcements during the last year - we're just not talking about them!

I mean...
BJCC Entertainment District / Westin
Alabama School of Fine Arts addition
20th Street - added some retail
2nd Avenue North - amazing transformation in the last couple of years
New Transportation Depot may happen
Railroad Park - wow!
Cityville opened
Downtown Baseball Park - Huge!
Developments surrounding Downtown Baseball Park are starting to swirl.
New Children's Hospital
New Hyatt Place
New Marriott Residence
New hotel announced at 5 Points South to utilize existing storefronts
29 Seven is moving forward
New apartments are moving forward on Clairmont and Montclair

I'm sure there are others I have forgotten.
And all this despite the Jefferson County debacle.

Let's not forget HB56 may have cost us a new Compass Tower.
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  #1689  
Old Posted Apr 4, 2012, 6:06 PM
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Yeah, my wife and I were at Barber's this past weekend for Indy and when they announced him to make his welcome speech he didn't get ANY boos but some genuine applause. Unlike the Jefferson County rep who got booed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by *BRAVO* View Post
Let's not forget HB56 may have cost us a new Compass Tower.
God I hope not, although that seems the likely conclusion. But maybe in this down economy they just felt they couldn't justify the expense.
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  #1690  
Old Posted May 24, 2012, 1:14 AM
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I'm always cautious of any Birmingham mayor but I've actually been pleased with Bell.
Adopting a new city master plan was so vital, and the firm doing it is so good. I've looked over what's in the plan, in great detail, and as a big urbanist myself I really like it. Residents should feel good about it. I wish that it had something about removing parking minimums, maybe it does but I didn't see it.
One thing that I really hate about Birmingham is all the one way streets and I begrudge any politician who doesn't fix that ASAP. It should be a big priority.
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  #1691  
Old Posted May 24, 2012, 1:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhammer View Post
I'm always cautious of any Birmingham mayor but I've actually been pleased with Bell.
Adopting a new city master plan was so vital, and the firm doing it is so good. I've looked over what's in the plan, in great detail, and as a big urbanist myself I really like it. Residents should feel good about it. I wish that it had something about removing parking minimums, maybe it does but I didn't see it.
One thing that I really hate about Birmingham is all the one way streets and I begrudge any politician who doesn't fix that ASAP. It should be a big priority.
What I hate so much about the streets is that I'm constantly guessing about which ones are one and which ones are two. Yea, there are signs telling you, but damn, it's so difficult to find'm before you get to the intersection.
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  #1692  
Old Posted May 24, 2012, 1:46 AM
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Yeah. Occasionally I miss a turn and I have to double back around a million other blocks to get where I need to be.
Btw, I don't know if you've heard of this blog, but a very respected architect here has a blog called Construct Birmingham about urbanist issues in the city. He recently made a post about the one-ways here.
constructbirmingham.wordpress.com
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  #1693  
Old Posted May 24, 2012, 2:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhammer View Post
Yeah. Occasionally I miss a turn and I have to double back around a million other blocks to get where I need to be.
Btw, I don't know if you've heard of this blog, but a very respected architect here has a blog called Construct Birmingham about urbanist issues in the city. He recently made a post about the one-ways here.
constructbirmingham.wordpress.com
Haha, yea, I read it all the time. Thanx for the consideration, though.
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  #1694  
Old Posted May 25, 2012, 10:50 PM
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What are your thoughts on how to "revive" Birmingham and bring it back to life again?


Also, I don't know if any of you have a subscription to the Business Journal, but this article here discusses the properties adjacent to the new hotel/entertainment district.

I think that what Bham really needs is just a single, dense, complete neighborhood. The development as of late is too fragmented. You'll see a new mixed-use project to boost an area, but across the street is a vacant store or parking lot. Then the next new development you hear about is a mile away. These are good projects, but in terms of urban planning you always need a solid urban core. Under the current pattern, it will take years to get a decent chunk of Birmingham thriving again, and by that time it will be too late.

In the article, the city talks about those vacant lots by the entertainment district and their ideas for the space. Their original intent was a domed stadium-no way. Now they're thinking about perhaps a future expansion of the entertainment district, "a small multipurpose facility, or an exhibition space." Please be vaguer.
All they need is just to get people living and working there. See about getting some offices and apartments/condos there.
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  #1695  
Old Posted May 26, 2012, 4:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhammer View Post
All they need is just to get people living and working there. See about getting some offices and apartments/condos there.
My thoughts exactly. I understand the BJCC is all about providing the best in 'entertainment' but I severely wish they would look into condo/apartment/office development. The BJCC could still hold the land, finance the construction, and collect lease/rent from occupants. Simultaneously, you are drawing people more to the downtown area (with the entertainment district being the BJCC 'center') and thus spurring further developments in regards to 'things to do.'

THEN the BJCC can look into fulfilling its goals, but I'm sorry. I just don't see how they can accomplish what they would like to, without more people.
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  #1696  
Old Posted May 26, 2012, 3:44 PM
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Agreed. The BJCC needs to think outside the box and develop an atmosphere where people want to live, work and play. The BJCC is a ghost town when no events are in progress. The biggest problem would be combatting the decay that lies just north of the complex.
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  #1697  
Old Posted May 26, 2012, 3:52 PM
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Originally Posted by bhammer View Post
I think that what Bham really needs is just a single, dense, complete neighborhood. The development as of late is too fragmented. You'll see a new mixed-use project to boost an area, but across the street is a vacant store or parking lot. Then the next new development you hear about is a mile away. These are good projects, but in terms of urban planning you always need a solid urban core. Under the current pattern, it will take years to get a decent chunk of Birmingham thriving again, and by that time it will be too late.
Gentrification is a definitely slow process. I believe you have to look at the several new mixed-use projects as catalysts to ignite an area.
- I have high hopes for 29/7 in Lakeview.
- Bristol and Cityville have boosted Mid-Town.
- Loft conversions have given downtown a new identity.
- I'm expecting the new ballpark along with Railroad Park to spark enormous synergy on Southside.

One thing we have to realize is Birmingham (and any other large downtown) is incredibly fragmented. Assembling the land necessary for create a decent development is challenging and expensive. It's not impossible, just challenging and expensive. Sometimes baby steps are required before we can run.
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  #1698  
Old Posted May 26, 2012, 7:34 PM
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Maybe the biggest inhibitor to growth in Bham is in the street grid, and no one seems to point it out. I dont have high hopes for any neighborhood if they continually plant the buildings on the side of streets that are bigger than most country highways. We can't hope to have an attractive place to live if it means having a sea of asphalt right outside your window, the most picturesque residential urban settings almost always have small streets and it's disappointing to drive through downtown while you're in the middle of a 5-lane road that also has on-street parking, but you've never seen it filled anywhere near half capacity. What's really disappointing to me is that they're too inept to realize this and they continue to spend the money to upgrade sidewalks and street lights at the same level, when they should use that as an opportunity to narrow the streets when they can. They never thought to build railroad park into that street facing the ballpark even though it's crumbling and never filled. And having full 4- or 5-lane streets in an urban setting is a bad thing anyway.

Seas of asphalt hurt liveability in several ways:
-Asphalt gets really hot, and we already live in a southern city. Instant detractor right there and makes it uncomfortable to walk in.
-It breaks and cracks a lot, giving the impression of a poorly-maintained and neglected city. It creates an unattractive environment.
-For each lane you add, you promote car dependency. That widens the distance between two points, making it incrementally more inconvenient to walk or bike.
-It’s expensive to maintain. Let’s put our tax money to good use and stop wasting it on maintaining bad environments. If streets are narrower, it’s much more feasible to pave them with bricks and other fancy things to create a beautiful environment.
-It lowers the density of an area. If everything’s spread out, it’s harder to achieve the population density that makes stuff like mass transit and neighborhood corner stores financially feasible.

I also have high hopes for 29/7 but not lake view as a whole if the streets and one-ways stay like that. Of course wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and on-street parking will be great and helpful, but it's still not going to be the kind of place that people are eager to move into or that developers will want to snatch up if we dont start actually building into the streets and making it more inviting.
I know that a lot of suburbanites like me stand back and criticize the city to no end but I'm only saying it because I want to see it get better and I'd like to move in the city.
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  #1699  
Old Posted May 27, 2012, 5:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhammer View Post
Maybe the biggest inhibitor to growth in Bham is in the street grid, and no one seems to point it out. I dont have high hopes for any neighborhood if they continually plant the buildings on the side of streets that are bigger than most country highways. We can't hope to have an attractive place to live if it means having a sea of asphalt right outside your window, the most picturesque residential urban settings almost always have small streets and it's disappointing to drive through downtown while you're in the middle of a 5-lane road that also has on-street parking, but you've never seen it filled anywhere near half capacity. What's really disappointing to me is that they're too inept to realize this and they continue to spend the money to upgrade sidewalks and street lights at the same level, when they should use that as an opportunity to narrow the streets when they can. They never thought to build railroad park into that street facing the ballpark even though it's crumbling and never filled. And having full 4- or 5-lane streets in an urban setting is a bad thing anyway.

Seas of asphalt hurt liveability in several ways:
-Asphalt gets really hot, and we already live in a southern city. Instant detractor right there and makes it uncomfortable to walk in.
-It breaks and cracks a lot, giving the impression of a poorly-maintained and neglected city. It creates an unattractive environment.
-For each lane you add, you promote car dependency. That widens the distance between two points, making it incrementally more inconvenient to walk or bike.
-It’s expensive to maintain. Let’s put our tax money to good use and stop wasting it on maintaining bad environments. If streets are narrower, it’s much more feasible to pave them with bricks and other fancy things to create a beautiful environment.
-It lowers the density of an area. If everything’s spread out, it’s harder to achieve the population density that makes stuff like mass transit and neighborhood corner stores financially feasible.

I also have high hopes for 29/7 but not lake view as a whole if the streets and one-ways stay like that. Of course wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and on-street parking will be great and helpful, but it's still not going to be the kind of place that people are eager to move into or that developers will want to snatch up if we dont start actually building into the streets and making it more inviting.
I know that a lot of suburbanites like me stand back and criticize the city to no end but I'm only saying it because I want to see it get better and I'd like to move in the city.

Bingo. Wider streets promote faster traffic and more road noise. Most of streets in downtown Portland and close-in neighborhoods are two lanes. That's it. We do have some three-lane roads to allow for MAX and buses, and we have one four-lane thoroughfare running east to west (Burnside).

When every street is four lanes wide, it ruins the walkablility of a place. It also keeps people inside. There are scores of outdoor cafes in Portland, and that's due in part to the lower speed limits and traffic flows of narrower streets.

I think if Birmingham were serious about catching up to the "big boys" of walkable urbanity like Portland, SF, Seattle, Philly, Boston, NYC, Chicago, D.C. and Denver, they would begin modeling downtown development after the Mountain Brook "villages" (Mountain Brook, Crestline, and English). Only denser and taller!

The last thing downtown B'ham needs is another sterile bank tower set 60 feet off the road with no street-level interaction.
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  #1700  
Old Posted May 27, 2012, 6:19 PM
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I'm glad someone agreed. Btw, there's a $130mil project that just won approval, to upgrade Mountain Brook Village and make it denser and more walkable. Good stuff, lots of NIMBYs made it hard to execute but overall the design is still good.

Actually the bank towers (that are in the city proper) are good about blending into the urban fabric, but yeah, we don't need massive condo developments, just some comfortable, inviting urban neighborhoods that really seem attractive as a place to live. That just can't be achieved with streets so ridiculously wide. To be fair, though, it's not any recent administration's fault. If you look at pictures of Birmingham from 100 years ago, the street grid was always that wide. It's historically an industrial city and I suppose that had something to do with it. Perhaps it was because of the trolleys.
Also most of the streets are 3 lane, but it's still not necessary and they're never full.

If the city is wondering what to do with the area by the new entertainment district, my opinion is that they should enter a public-private partnership to make some kind of small public square with a dense neighborhood behind it and just get even more uses in there while building a much smaller street grid on the land. There are several acres of just empty land there, with some nice old industrial buildings providing a backdrop behind and a setting to integrate any new development in.
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