“Planning is bringing the future into the present, so that you can do something about it now.”
― Alan Lakein
By David Fleming, REV Birmingham CEO
In less than a decade, Birmingham’s City Center has experienced a level of development and investment unprecedented in our lifetimes. That means more people making their homes here, more entrepreneurs starting businesses here and more people coming to find jobs and fun downtown. The renewed vibrancy in the heart of Birmingham empowers us all – throughout the metro region – to tell the nation and the world a compelling story.
Several years ago, citizens – supported by professionals in a City Center planning process – put forth ideas for a better city – ideas like Railroad Park, colorful light displays in the railroad underpasses, residential population growth, preservation of historic buildings, and tech and biomedical company development. Now the time has come to embark upon a new City Center master planning process that sets forth a 10-year vision for downtown and what it will take to get there. The planning is sponsored by the City of Birmingham and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, with support from our team at REV.
I believe this new vision for the City Center should take big swings and lay out actionable steps that will unite and excite the community about our shared future. Implementing such a plan is at the heart of REV Birmingham’s mission to create vibrant commercial districts.
Here are the three key questions we’re asking ourselves and others throughout the planning process to ensure we arrive at the best and biggest vision for downtown:
- Does it push for connectivity? The plan must prioritize connections between downtown’s catalysts and areas of concern, between neighborhoods and downtown. Future Birmingham should encourage all modes of transportation and allow easy ways into, through and out of downtown for all people. This means wayfinding and more pedestrian-oriented development. It means better parking solutions are needed, from better on-street payment technology to policies that incentivize real development on now fallow surface parking lots.
- Does it promote inclusivity? The plan must communicate how downtown supports its surrounding neighborhoods, the metro, the region, and the state. Strategies should drive equitable access to success through small business opportunities, catalytic development that leads to job growth, and increased workforce housing.
- Does it have authenticity? Any plan must celebrate and elevate Birmingham’s unique assets: its history, its historic structures, its current culture and citizens, and its distinguishing future identity. An authentic downtown brand should highlight Birmingham’s character. Local business development and small business recruitment and retention further add to the personality of downtown.
The City Center Master Planning process kicked off September 19-20 with two open house events that collected community feedback to begin setting strategies, policy recommendations and design guidance for the downtown area from BJCC to Red Mountain and Titusville to Lakeview. If you didn’t make it to an open house, you still have an opportunity to share your priorities, ideas and concerns for downtown in this survey (and share it with your friends!). Everyone’s individual perspectives add value.
REV’s team is pushing for the development of a big swing vision for the City Center – one that explores and defines Birmingham’s Unique Selling Proposition, which distinguishes us from our peer cities. Our City Center is an asset that should be valued, protected and enhanced. Take advantage of every opportunity to help set the vision for the next 10 years in Birmingham!
Learn more about the City Center Master Planning process at www.downtownbhamplan.com.