By David Fleming
CEO & President, REV Birmingham
Birmingham has award-winning green spaces, renowned restaurants, a multi-million dollar tech company whose logo will soon grace the top of downtown’s tallest building. Right now, we have more momentum, investment and growth than Birmingham has seen since the early days when we earned the name “Magic City.”
But amidst all these triumphs, I believe that Birmingham is still missing something important—something that inspires people to experience downtown on foot, that can tell the story of our city and its cultures.
It’s retail—one of the most vital ingredients for vibrancy in a city—and we need more of it.
Join us for Fri-YAY, Upswing’s official launch!
When: Friday, Oct. 4, 7 a.m. -7 p.m.
Where: The Upswing lot on 2nd Avenue and 19th Street North
What: Starting at 7 a.m., the first 50 Domestique Coffee Outpost customers get a FREE Hero Doughnuts with purchase of coffee, tea or kombucha.
From 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., get $5 handcrafted hot dogs from The Noble Dog and enjoy a special drum performance by John Scalici of B’ham’s Community Drum Circle.
We’ll end the day with a toast to Upswing and Birmingham’s yaysayers. Join us from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. for beer & bubbly with an uplifting toast from REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming and Ladd Tucker of Ladd Real Estate (owner of the Upswing lot).
Vibrant business districts embody the soul of a place. They make you tout your hometown, or broadcast where you travel, and reminisce when you return home. They draw you in and call you to explore, to lay roots, to share what you discover with family and friends.
It’s about even more than how our city makes us feel, though. Lively retail districts have tangible effects on a city.
- Retail encourages walkability. People don’t like walking past vacant storefronts. A filled-in fabric communicates that a district is established, safe and treasured.
- Retailers of all sizes connect major anchors. That means destinations like the McWane Center and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute draw people in, but retail keeps them here to spend money longer. We need urban fabric to feel connected, and we need revenue to build a stronger city.
- An active retail market allows us to incubate locally grown businesses—which shape our city’s personality and celebrate its character.
- Unique, convenient retail options add to the quality of life for the growing residential population in the district. It’s as beneficial for those who live here as it is for those who work and visit downtown.
In Birmingham, 2nd and 3rd Avenues west of 20th Street were once the city’s primary retail destination. This district’s history can also be a painful reminder of our city’s role as a battleground for civil rights, because, in its heyday, not all were welcome here.
Now, in a place full of historic buildings ripe for adaptive reuse, it’s time to renew this retail district for everyone.
That’s why REV Birmingham launched Upswing on 2nd—a 3-month-long demonstration project designed to prove and improve downtown’s market for retail.
From September 29 through December 14, REV has transformed a surface parking lot at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 19th Street (across the street from The Pizitz and McWane) into a mini retail district with Birmingham businesses operating out of converted shipping containers. Brightly colored hammock swings will flank the shipping container shops, and bistro sets and rockers will line the sidewalks, inviting people to stop and enjoy whatever bit of fall weather Alabama gets. A full calendar of events will occupy the space many nights and weekends, giving people reasons to enjoy downtown throughout the week.
We believe our city is ready for more authentic, vibrant retail – and we’re looking forward to proving it through the Upswing experience this fall.
More Upswing stories:
Magic City Match is a program that transforms lives and opens doors for Black entrepreneurs and business owners. Led by REV Birmingham and powered by Prosper, this initiative aims to create opportunities for Black-owned businesses by matching them with brick-and-mortar spaces where they can thrive. After a successful pilot program in 2022, Magic City Match is back in action and ready to empower a new wave of entrepreneurs.
One of the most legendary and storied neighborhoods of Birmingham is Woodlawn. It is a community, anchored by one of the great public high schools of Birmingham, that has produced many citizens who contributed to the life of our city and has had an impact beyond the neighborhood itself. In a short post like this true justice cannot be done to the rich heritage and legacy of Woodlawn. However, we hope that this narrative brings together many of the diverse threads that make up the fabric of the community’s historic arc in a concise piece.
Woof, woof! I’ve been having an absolute blast visiting my sister in Downtown Birmingham. I can hardly wait to share all the details with you once you return from your vacation. In the meantime, I wanted to put paw to paper and tell you all about it, with the hope of convincing you that moving Downtown could be the most wonderful decision ever.