It’s a good time for some out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to outdoor spaces. Useful outdoor spaces have always been important contributors to downtown vibrancy. COVID-19, and the need for more square footage to spread out, has pushed us to rethink how one specific public space should be used: city streets.
Beginning in 2020, the City of Birmingham and REV Birmingham have partnered on several projects that reclaim streets (or sometimes specific sections of streets) for pedestrian use. A better pedestrian experience leads to more foot traffic, which means more support for our local businesses and more fun in our urban districts. Here are a few things we’ve done:
The City of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation and REV are planning to make good use of some previously underutilized public space along 20th Street North. 20th Street North is technically one very wide lane, but it has always functioned more like two. Traffic typically moves on the left, and other uses—from valet to delivery to construction supply storage—happen on the right. The City, with support from REV, is now formalizing the flexible usage of that right lane with funky new paint and clarified policy. The creation of a flex lane is an exciting and tangible step in the implementation of the larger 20th Street refresh plan. Read more about the 20th Street plan and how flex lanes can be used!
The City of Birmingham launched Shared Space Permits in 2020 to help bars and restaurants safely welcome customers back for an on-site dining experience while also maintaining social distancing rules. The City created a special permit that allows the temporary use of designated, outdoor, public space to promote safe distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak. The permit allows for seating or dining, retail use, and curbside pickup. REV worked with the City to create a design guide, and has consulted with several restaurant owners to create their Shared Space plan and file for a permit. Learn more about the process and how we can help!
Eat in the Streets
A breath of fresh air for Birmingham restaurants and the diners who love them, Eat in the Streets allows diners to dine outdoors while also social distancing. Last fall, the City of Birmingham closed key streets in downtown Birmingham, Pepper Place and Avondale and spread tables across the asphalt for several vibrant and delicious evenings in 2020.
Parkside Trail (Open Streets)
Parkside Trail was an Open Streets demonstration by Orchestra Partners and REV on 1st Avenue South that transformed a space normally designated for cars into space for people to enjoy. Every Saturday and Sunday in May of 2020, more than ½ mile of street space was transformed into a multi-use trail/parklet using temporary road paint and light traffic cones and barricades. Road paint consisted of six-foot-wide, multicolored Parkside logos, placed six feet apart to encourage social distancing. REV uses temporary interventions like Parkside Trail to gather data and create experiences that can inspire long-term positive change in the districts where we work.
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.