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Bham Development: Rotary Trail in the Magic City

rotary trail birmingham


Our city used to be connected by streetcars. Neighborhoods like Five Points South sprang up as “streetcar suburbs” where the city’s workers domiciled within an easy ride of its center. But with Birmingham’s most dramatic growth happening closer in, we’re seeing something of a technological reversal. We’re seeing less focus on expanding outward but on linking inward.  We’re seeing greenways become the streetcars of this century, with Rotary Trail their flagship route.

Rotary Trail, REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming told AL.com in 2013, “expands momentum from ground zero around the Railroad Park and the new baseball field and extends it to another area of downtown.” The spatial continuity of that growth is central to REV’s mission, he explained, so it’s important that Rotary “helps connect districts with each other.”

When the trail opens on April 6, we’ll suddenly have a pedestrian and bike-specific route from Parkside to Pepper Place. It will be a scenic yet efficient underpass for low-tech transit.

But the best part about Rotary Trail is that it isn’t just a passageway. Yes, it can get you speedily from points A to B, but it does so much more. This is no mere rails-t0-trails program, after all, but a high design urban space. The multi-use ethos of its design suggests an exciting future, where spaces aren’t meant simply to serve us but to engage us.

New York City’s High Line — another stunning conversion of an old rail route — created interaction not just in the park space but also between park visitors and surrounding residents. High Line neighbor Patty Heffley began Renegade Cabaret shows on her fire escape, the park’s website explains, and they have since become an official High Line staple. With AL.com reporting an amphitheater space at the Rotary, we’re excited to see what the trail inspires on its sleepy little stretch of First Avenue South.

If you’ve been following locals on Instagram, you’re sure to have seen the Rotary’s sign, inspired one that once stood outside Terminal Station. The new sign is an homage to the past, Rotarian Cheryl Morgan told AL.com, a trail entrance conceived as “a gesture to our history.” The trail’s other end, she said, “gives the opportunity to look at future development.”

We think the updated sign is also a subtle acknowledgment that there’s no correcting old mistakes. There’s no resurrecting the grand old Terminal Station. All we can offer is a promise: that what’s been lost will be remembered with something beautiful.

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