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Category: Crestwood

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016: A Year in Posts

One of the big questions we ask ourselves for each blog post is “What does this say about the neighborhood?” It’s the guiding editorial principle we use on the spots everyone’s talking about as well as the ones sometimes overlooked. As we round out the year, it seemed fitting to look through our posts by neighborhood and pick the single most representative one. These are the posts we think tell you most about eight major Birmingham neighborhoods in 2016 and, just maybe, where they’re headed in the new year.

From game-changing openings to quieter expressions of community, here are the highlights.

 

Avondale’s Live/Work Expansion

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“We’re so used to thinking about Avondale in terms of its food and entertainment options that we forget the ways it’s also increasingly becoming a business district. Already there are some retail options and small business locations, but we can’t help thinking the new MAKEbhm space is Avondale’s defining business moment.”

 

Crestwood’s Community Character

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“It’s that community atmosphere that stands out most in Crestwood’s neighborhood branding. Crestwood is less associated with hip amenities than places like Avondale, or downtown’s Loft District. Instead, it’s a great community with close access to other great parts of the city.”

 

Crestline’s Choice Location

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Crestline is a best-of-both worlds kind of area, and that’s what we’ve tried to capture in siting our newest community development. The Gladstone location — 4447 Montevallo Road — lies between the neat single-family streets of Crestline Park and the everyday essentials available in the neighboring Crestwood/Irondale corridor. It’s convenient to the big-box resources of the Montclair Road Publix and the independent gems of Dunston Avenue.”

 

Downtown Loft District’s Landmark Re-Openings

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Downtown Loft District

Commentary on the Redmont suggests this renovation is more than just an exciting commercial project in the city center. It’s a clue to the city Birmingham once was and, we hope, an omen for what it’s becoming again.’The Redmont Hotel is important because it tells us what a particular era, the ’20s, was like in our city,’ Patricia King, then serving as a preservation consultant and as development coordinator for Operation New Birmingham, told the Birmingham Business Journal in 2000. ‘We know it was a boom time, and the richness of the hotel supports that.’ ”

 

Five Points’s Easy Patio Vibe

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Five Points South

With its casual vibe and blues soundtrack, Delta Blues seems destined to be a neighborhood hangout, like the ultra-Southern version of everything we love about neighboring J. Clyde. We can imagine more than a few warm evenings spent on their patio, catching up with friends over baskets of hot tamales and bottles of cold beer. ”

 

Lakeview’s Retro Future

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Lakeview

“The restaurant describes itself as a place “giving a nod to the past while shaping the future,” and we’re inclined to agree. With its throwback name and place in Lakeview’s premiere mixed-use development — 29 Seven — it has feet firmly planted in both local lore and present progress.”

 

Parkside’s Public Symbols

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016

In so many ways the Parkside area defines Birmingham right now, from its new construction to its existing transformation, its corporate conveniences and Smallbox startups. Baseball season at Regions Field is the epitome of Birmingham in the summer, and now Railroad Park is offering a quintessential winter balance.”

 

Woodlawn’s Modest Transformation

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Woodlawn

There’s also something very European about the idea of a modest cafe offering truly interesting food. That’s what we see as the cafe’s real strength. And it feels at home in the artsy, up-and-coming area around REV Birmingham’s office. There’s something a little under-the-radar about Woodlawn, where truly exciting things — mixed-income housing, musical hubs, an urban farm — are quietly boosting the area.”

What Crestwood Coffee Means for Your House Hunt


Crestwood is a funny little work horse of a neighborhood. It doesn’t boast the high-powered food scene of an Avondale or a Five Points. It doesn’t host scores of indie businesses or innovation incubators. And yet, it could be the sort-of secret nexus of the Birmingham revival, at least according to Birmingham Magazine.

In an August interview with the magazine, Crestwood Coffee owner Danny Winter detailed the Birmingham institutions that started as strategy sessions in his coffee shop. And many local artists had their first gallery show at Crestwood Coffee, Winter said, when he offered them space as a way to decorate the shop’s walls.

And Crestwood Coffee isn’t the only Shoppes of Crestwood owner to support new businesses. Seasick Records houses the micro barber shop Newman’s Classic Cuts in its front window, plus regular community events from fundraisers to art shows (and often both). The initial Hero Doughnuts pop-ups alone give it solid start-up bona fides. Then there’s Crestwood Tavern, which hosted a late-summer run for Tropicaleo, the purveyors of Puerto Rican specialties and new Restaurant Week participant.

The lesson? Crestwood is Birmingham’s creative incubation gem, a kind of lab for those with big ideas that’s open to the public. Instead of a place where folks create multiple anchors within the neighborhood, it’s a place where they gather steam to reach outside it. The Move I-20/59 campaign headed by neighborhood leader Darrell O’Quinn, Gross Out Science Camp and its Wacky Tacky Light Tour fundraiser founded by resident Verna Gates–these aren’t strictly Crestwood concerns.

Perhaps those things happen here because Crestwood is a crossroads kind of neighborhood. “I’ve said jokingly many times that if you sit in the coffee shop long enough, almost everyone in Birmingham will have come through there at least once,” Winter told Birmingham Magazine. And the piece points to Crestwood Coffee as a foundation of the local community.

And it’s that community atmosphere that stands out most in Crestwood’s neighborhood branding. Crestwood is less associated with hip amenities than places like Avondale, or downtown’s Loft District. Instead, it’s a great community with close access to other great parts of the city. Which may turn out to be a relief in your own home hunt.

When you’re looking at neighborhoods, you don’t necessarily need the big scene. You don’t have to live where everyone spends their weekends — though proximity is still worth considering.

Sometimes what matters most is the places neighbors gather. So as you’re home shopping, it may be worth asking yourself this: Where’s the Crestwood Coffee in this neighborhood?

Neighborhood Highlights with Hero Doughnuts

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Just when we thought we’d found the one doughnut type to make us believers, we went and found another that also makes us giddy. But our new doughnut crush offers more than a singular take on a classic sweet. With pop-ups around the city, Hero Doughnuts offers a delightful neighborhood tour.

They’ve shown up with Parkside views and brews at Good People. They’ve kitted out a shipping container in Woodlawn – fitting for a neighborhood honored as “most progressive” at the 2016 Hammy’s – and they’ve had a regular-ish run at Crestwood’s Seasick Records. That’s where we tried them, sitting outside over a Crestwood Coffee while we plowed through our pile of dough.

We had trouble settling on a favorite doughnut profile. Initially, it was the Brown Butter Crumb, with the perfect hint of saltiness and the highest rise. There’s something charming about a doughnut you can barely bite into. The Chocolate Crunch, though, has a semi-sweet topping studded with delightful chocolate crunch bits. Then there’s the Vanilla Glazed, a sly favorite. It flies under the radar, but the brioche dough makes a standard special.

But be warned, you’ll want to get show up on time for these. And plan on standing in a long line as well, because you won’t be the only one hungry for a hero. Don’t worry, though, it’s worth it. And there’s something fun about the experience, almost like lining up for concert tickets. A tense excitement, given the zero certainty you’ll walk away with the doughnut you want. Hero has, however, worked to ramp up their supply in the face of enthusiastic demand.

We’re still rooting for them to make a home in the downtown loft district, but we’re enjoying the ride in the meantime. They can be counted on to show up near new Birmingham gems, and that alone is worth celebrating. There’s also a case to be made for defining Birmingham neighborhoods through Hero flavors, and we’re ready for the field research.

Crestwood Spotlight: Urban Suburban

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Imagine you’ve just bought your perfect place, but your furniture remains an oddball collection of things handed down or acquired on the cheap. Your new home deserves better, but maybe not, like, Design Within Reach better. So you go the tried, tested, and proven route favored by the chic young(ish) designer: You go vintage. If you’re near Crestwood, that means you go Urban Suburban.

This is not your mama’s antique shop, in part because it’s more curated and in part because it offers plenty of new local arts. Shop here for classic midcentury furniture, adventuresome upcycling, and general goods for the modern eclectic home.

Urban Suburban’s mix of offerings reflects the home style hodgepodge in Crestwood – from Tudor to ranch – with everything from traditional chandeliers to mod bohemian rattan, stately dressers to model cars. It includes the practical (brass floor reading lamps) and the kitsch (Leaning Tower of Pisa table lamp).

Despite its suburban name, the store is a particularly great resource for those in smaller or, like loft district residents, simply more multipurpose spaces. On a recent visit, we found a rattan two-person dining set with chairs that tucked neatly into the table to form a single, tidy profile. It was a custom conversation piece for spaces that would otherwise require an ikea solution.

We especially like Urban Suburban’s booth setup, which offers many different visions in the same retail space. These booths don’t simply showcase a single vintage-lovers finds. Many of them have created their own sense of branding by focusing their finds on a single product category or style influence.

There’s an appeal to the digging for treasures approach of more standard antiquing, but it’s nice sometimes to source vintage finds in a more retail-friendly atmosphere. Some days, we simply prefer casual browsing to full-on hunting, and Urban Suburban fits that brief.

Bham Eats: Crestwood's The Filling Station

the filling station pizza

 

The Shoppes of Crestwood form the semi-official center of the neighborhood. And with its front-and-center location, the Filling Station is the Shoppes’ most noticeable tenant. Despite the broad boulevard exposure, it’s an understated, under-the-radar kind of place, much like Crestwood itself. That’s part of its appeal.

A former Chevron gas station, the Filling Station preserves the small original footprint, as well as working garage doors. At least half the restaurant’s seating capacity is outdoors, making use of the original car lanes and pump overhangs for casual patio seating. With TVs at just about every sight line and a draught beer list that invites multiple rounds, the Filling Station will be a football season star. But its solid pizza should draw a steady crowd all year long.  

For our first visit, we went with the House Special pie, and we’ve decided it’s an optimal starting point. The prosciutto and Italian sausage give the the pizza a solidly meaty flavor without overwhelming less assertive ones. Which is good, since the basil ribbons and earthy crimini mushrooms have their own tasty contributions. The sizing and crust remind us of California Pizza Kitchen, with thin-ish 8-slice pies sized to feed one with a little extra or two if you add a shared salad. There’s enough cheese for a satisfyingly gooey bite — the single most crucial characteristic in our books — but not so much that it feels heavy.

The pizza was so good, it will be an exercise of will to branch out from there. Fortunately, the menu has some unexpectedly interesting salad options – including a muffuletta version and an Italian cobb – that we look forward to trying. We have a good feeling about the Filling Station burger too — especially its caramelized onion and pimiento cheese topping options — if you’re looking for the ultimate bar food.

The Filling Station food is really about is an expected range of options with some unexpected touches. There’s the casual American comfort you may be craving with a cold beer but some flavors you won’t normally find in the neighborhood bar. This is not a foodie destination in the manner of Post Office Pies, though foodies will still enjoy the pizza. Instead, it’s exactly the kind of casual, intimate restaurant and bar that every good neighborhood needs.

Bham Events: Wacky Tacky Holidays in Crestwood

crestwood holiday lights

 

Driving around to look at Christmas lights is a time-honored holiday tradition for many families, but Fresh Air Family has made it even better. Their Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour bundles all of our irreverent favorites – tacky sweaters, processed snacks, and gaudy light displays – into one big celebration of holiday excess. And with its many Crestwood attractions, we think the tour is more evidence that Birmingham neighborhoods supply holiday spirit for the entire metro area.

“Crestwood is loaded; it’s great,” tour creator and Fresh Air Family Executive Director Verna Gates told us. Attractions include “Santa in all kinds of Caribbean-esque situations” at a Jimmy Buffet-themed house, live entertainment from kids on 5th Terrace, and Gates’s own brontosaurus. (“Nothing says Christmas like a prehistoric animal,” Gates said.) Also included is the Hanukkah House, which she said has beefed up its usual display this year with a menorah-bearing Vulcan.

Folks frequently ask Gates if being included on the tour hurts homeowners’ feelings, but Gates assured us participants needn’t worry. “Half of them are lobbying me to be on the tour,” she said. “If you get up and add 60,000 lights off of your roof, you are not cursed with shyness. You want people to come.”

Besides enjoying the holiday fun, tour participants can also feel good about what their ticket purchases support: scholarships to Fresh Air Family’s Gross Out summer science camps. “About 41 percent of our kids at the summer camps come on some form of scholarship,” Gates said.

“We just started recently an in-school education program based on the Gross Out Camps, so we’re doing all kinds of wonderful things,” Gates said. “With a small staff, we get a lot of bang for our buck. We do a lot, and this is one way we raise some money to keep our programs going.”

When Gates began the fundraising tour as a fundraiser, she wasn’t convinced it would find an audience. “Four years ago somebody suggested I should make it a fundraiser for Fresh Air Family, and I was like, ‘Who’s going to want to do that?’“ she said. But the numbers proved her wrong. “We’ve already sold 600 tickets, so apparently a lot of people.”

There will be 20 buses running during the tour’s two nights of operation, tonight (December 15) and tomorrow night (December 16). Click here to purchase tickets.

“It’s going to be quite an adventure,” Gates said, “but we have proved over and over again with Fresh Air Family that it really is the simple things of life that people enjoy the most.”

It’s also the simple things Gates loves about living in Crestwood. “It’s a real neighborhood,” she said. She described a place where residents have holiday block parties or take each other to the hospital. And some of the neighborliness is just good, old-fashioned wacky.

Gates has a collection of tacky Christmas yard decor that she said would be wasted on her small side street, so it decorates a neighbor’s more trafficked lot instead: “There’s not many neighborhoods that you can walk around the corner and say, ‘Hey, can I hang a bunch of tacky decorations in your yard?’ And to have other neighbors come over and help me do it.”

Welcome to the Neighborhood: Crestwood

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Crestwood is an urban/suburban hybrid, which is a great real estate option if you’re committed to Birmingham living but not to the loft lifestyle. From now on, think of Crestwood as best-of-both-worlds wood.

But there are really two Crestwoods–north and south–and the differences are more than just semantic. Some of Crestwood North’s homes predate the turn of the last century, notes Greater Crestwood Inc., with Tudor homes and bungalows from the historic Woodlawn Highlands neighborhood easing into mid-century ranch designs built after World War II. (For full specs on the neighborhood’s historic housing stock, check out the Woodlawn Highlands/Crestwood North Historic District’s registration form for the National Register of Historic Places.)

 

Crestwood South is more firmly mid-century in its housing styles and neighborhood design, like older sections of Vestavia Hills without the commute. Commercial areas are limited to the outer boundaries of the neighborhood at Crestwood Boulevard and Montclair Road. The arrangement preserves a strictly residential feel while keeping amenities close by. Homes here are generally within 5 or 10 minutes of Trinity Medical Center, Home Depot, The Edge 12 cinemas, the Levite Jewish Community Center, and the Publix at Montclair Place.

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The two neighborhoods come together at Crestwood Boulevard, where the Shoppes of Crestwood features local businesses next to the renovated Crestwood Park. The Crestwood South Neighborhood Association calls this 56th Street junction with Crestwood Boulevard “the crossroads of the Crestwood Community.” It’s certainly the heart of the area’s local business community, where Seasick Records has joined longtime favorites like Crestwood Coffee and Crestwood Tavern. The Filling Station will add pizza to the mix, and Urban Suburban is already a great place to wander away an afternoon.

Ultimately, choosing your Crestwood neighborhood is less about amenities and more about atmosphere. Crestwood South had gained ground by the early aughts, while Crestwood North’s resurgence feels more recent. If you like the proximity to Woodlawn and eastward growing Avondale, Crestwood North may be the way to go. For a more established feel, focus on Crestwood South. You might even end up with a rec room in some of the mid-century builds, a handy thing for game day hosting during football season.

 

Crestwood Eats: Sushi Village

The Crestwood Festival Center should be a throwaway. It should be another late-century strip mall struggling to survive in the face of newer, better, or just different places opening nearby. But it’s best not to count this one out.

Current owner Mark Gold, purchased the property in 2012 at only 52% occupancy, the Birmingham Business Journal reported, but had all spaces leased by late 2013. Gold also changed the property’s name (originally Eastwood Festival Centre) so it would be aligned with the surrounding Crestwood neighborhood, according to AL.com, and adopted a variation on the old “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham” slogan. In other words, he branded the center in line with the city’s current siren call for urban renewal.

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Besides two appealing strip mall staples — the Edge movie theater and the Home Depot — the center boasts a collection of affordable ethnic food stops. One of them, Sushi Village, has become something of a foodie-in-the-know destination. And a popular enough one that they’re set to open a second location on Highway 280.

In true strip mall fashion, the menu offers something for everyone: squid rolls for those into unique textures and tempura chicken for folks wanting a more familiar global food journey. There’s also a range of sampler platters for those who’d like a guided introduction. Among them is the Love Boat, a sushi voyage built for two, though it’s probably best tackled by at least three.

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Sushi Village is not a Soup Nazi-style experience of authenticity. It’s got friendly service and a menu to satisfy a whole family of tastes, from grandparents skeptical of newfangled raw fish to kids who prefer something fried, please. There are hibachi favorites without the tableside comedy routine, crispy veggie tempura, and thickly sliced sashimi for folks who are serious about their raw fish.

It’s an accessible foodie destination, in other words. It’s not high style, particularly, though it is cute. There’s also a thriving takeout business, which is handy for folks on the way home, or neighbors who’d just as soon eat in their pajamas. By rights it should be a nondescript suburban staple. Instead it’s a great addition to the uniquely Crestwood food scene, which features indie ethnic favorites among fast food and fast casual giants.

 

Crestwood Spotlight: The Edge

Image via AL.com

For a long time, the reality of living within city limits was trekking to the suburbs for all Middle American necessities like supermarkets, Home Depots, and movies. Happily, that time is over. Crestwood ended it.

The Edge theater’s twelve screens show your major first-run films, and they’re often your only local outlet for artier fare in limited distribution. This ability to be both indie and for everyone seems uniquely urban Birmingham, and we really, really like it.

The theater has the stadium seating and fancy sound systems we’ve come to expect of the movies, along with some extra perks:

– One line for both tickets and concessions, which can be annoying if you’re only after tickets, but we like the idea of a single line instead of multiple wait points

– Beer and wine service makes even kid-friendly features feel more adult, or makes movies you’re sitting through for a significant other infinitely more bearable.

– Tuesday night $5 features, which is more expensive than the Carmike 10 in Hoover, but you’ve made up the savings in drive time

Steel City Jump Park. We’ve never actually used it, but we imagine it’s a nice complement to the arcade games.

Like all your favorite suburban memories, they’ve crammed every possible point of appeal into one space. And it very much works. There’s always enough parking, plus solid budget mexican fare, foodie favorite sushi, and allegedly the best chinese green beans in town, all in the same Festival Village center.

So next time you worry about whether or not living in Birmingham means a reverse commute, worry no more.