The Pizitz building renovation isn’t just saving a historic property, providing more Loft District housing or advancing our food culture, though the Birmingham Business Journal has reported on all those things. It’s also providing a new downtown space for the Sidewalk Film Festival, one of our favorite Birmingham events.
This year brought the Lyric Theatre to Sidewalk’s collection of venues. Next year, Sidewalk’s Executive Director Chloe Cook told the Birmingham Business Journal, the festival itself should have “a permanent home.” And it will continue all year long. Sort of.
Besides a new headquarters, the Sidewalk space will include an “arthouse” theater offering everyday access to festival-style films, according to the BBJ. The festival has already been holding screenings throughout the year at places like Carrigan’s Public House, but Cook told the BBJ that using borrowed space was hampering the festival’s growth:
“Every time we host an event, we are renting someone else’s room to do that. That means we’re packing up all of our supplies and taking it across town and setting it up and hosting an event. Then we’re breaking it all down and dragging it back. It’s sort of a very involved process and for a two-person, full-time team, it prevents us from doing as much high-level strategic work as we should be doing because we’re unloading a car twice a week.”
The BBJ story also reveals the power of mixed-use spaces like the Pizitz building to make bigger things possible. Cook said that the existing food hall plan would provide a built-in avenue for concessions, allowing Sidewalk to offer the theater amenities people expect.
And then there’s the economic argument. Cook estimated an additional $1.4 million in the local economy after last year’s festival, according to another BBJ report. And she’s talked about hiring another 6 staffers with the bigger project portfolio at the Pizitz building, reported the journal.
Even five years ago, downtown Birmingham still felt like a sleepy little place. With food and bars and event spaces, the Loft District has already grown tremendously, but Sidewalk means it’ll change even more.
“With Pizitz and everything else happening downtown, we believe this will be a major milestone in bringing that entertainment component that will operate 365 days a year,” Pizitz building developer Jeffrey Bayer told the BBJ.
A brick-and-mortar Sidewalk also means a defining moment for downtown’s Theatre District: We’re not just restoring theaters we’d lost. We’re adding something new.