Orchestra Partners and REV Birmingham have partnered to launch The Parkside Trail, a temporary conversion of First Avenue South into a car-free, multi-use trail modeled after The Open Streets Project.

Beginning Saturday, May 2, the First Avenue South corridor between 12th Street and 20th Street will be closed to vehicles and become a multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month of May. Orchestra Partners and REV Birmingham will be working with local retailers and restaurants to install pop-up activations along The Parkside Trail to reinforce walkability and provide businesses with more opportunities to generate revenue.

“Converting city streets into a multi-use trail is a great way to give Birmingham residents a space to practice social distancing while enjoying this great weather and supporting our local businesses,” said Hunter Renfroe, Orchestra Partners Co-Founder and Principal. “Promoting walkability is a core aspect of our mission at Orchestra Partners – and we’re proud to lead this initiative alongside partners who share our vision for a walkable urban center.”

Founded in 2011, The Open Streets Project is a celebration of walkers, runners and cyclists taking back the streets from vehicles and demonstrating the demand for multi-modal infrastructure across the country. Forward-thinking cities such as Denver, Des Moines, Minneapolis and Oakland have recently implemented successful Open Street models to promote public health and safety during COVID-19.

Following the lead of these and other Open Streets concepts, The Parkside Trail, a natural western extension of the Rotary Trail, is not just a temporary relief measure during the pandemic, but a trial for a potential long-term solution for a safer, more walkable urban district.

“The Parkside Trail solves an immediate need for expanded exercise space as our community works together to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said David Fleming, REV Birmingham President and CEO. “But the beauty of this plan is that there’s a bigger picture, because we’re also testing a model that has worked in cities across the country well before this crisis. Open Streets is about reclaiming streets for pedestrians, cyclists and more to move through the city, which could bring a new kind of vibrancy to Birmingham once social distancing exercise is no longer necessary.”

Introducing slower, pedestrian and bike-friendly streets has been a goal of city stakeholders like Orchestra Partners and REV Birmingham for years, and the pandemic has only increased the urgency to make Birmingham streets safer and more spacious for non-motorists. The project is being supported by the City of Birmingham Department of Transportation and the Birmingham Police Department to ensure public safety is a top priority. City officials urge residents to abide by the newly adopted face mask ordinance and follow CDC social distancing guidelines. Partners are installing educational signage and street paint in six-foot increments to guide social distancing.

“Safeguarding the health and safety of Birmingham residents is our primary goal,” said Rick Journey, City of Birmingham Director of Communications. “We are proud to see our community working together to provide innovative solutions that promote wellness and address challenges faced by COVID-19.”

The Parkside Trail is a timely extension of Orchestra Partner’s vision to transform the district into Birmingham’s central hub of connectivity, with mixed-use redevelopment plans slated for the historic Powell Avenue Steam Plant and soon to be developed Urban Supply District in the blocks immediately west of Regions Field.

To enhance these connections, Orchestra Partners continues to work with Freshwater Land Trust to leverage the Red Rock Trail System as a pathway of connection between Birmingham’s central business district and surrounding neighborhoods. Connecting with the Rotary Trail at 20th Street, The Parkside Trail will extend from the east to the west end of the Parkside District and help educate more citizens on the benefits of trails.

“Pop-up parks and trails are very effective at demonstrating how streets can be transformed when we prioritize walkability and urban green space,” said Carolyn Buck, Red Rock Trail System Director at Freshwater Land Trust. “We are excited for the unique experience The Parkside Trail will offer Birmingham residents and visitors this month.”

Orchestra Partners expects to announce more details on trail pop-up amenities throughout the month to support local businesses. The Parkside Trail will officially be open to the public on Saturday, May 2 from noon to 8 p.m. and will remain open on Saturdays and Sundays during these hours through May 31.

Free public parking will be available in the Urban Supply parking lot at the corner of 13th Street and First Avenue South. For more information, visit www.parksidebham.com.

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