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Category: Parkside

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

birmingham neighborhoods in 2016 avondale

“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

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Crestwood

“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

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Crestline

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.”

Neighborhood Cheer: Your Birmingham Gift Guide

a very birmingham holiday
birmingham gift guide
Window by Java Lewis at John’s City Diner

There are some great gifts to celebrate collective Birmingham pride–in fact, we rounded some up in our very first guide. But what of those who’ve cultivated their own corner of the city? They might like a more specific option. So we’ve put together a list of locally-inspired gifts we think are most emblematic of some hot neighborhoods right now: A Birmingham gift guide for the urban dweller.


Its biggest claim to fame may be the 41st Street restaurant & bar scene, but we think MAKEbhm is this year’s big neighborhood shift. Gift your own piece of that creative energy with a piece of MAKE resident Susan Gordon Pottery. From sculpted bowls to Magic City ornaments, there’s something for everyone. And if you want to support two Avondale businesses with one gift, Winslet & Rhys stocks select pieces.


The season’s big entertainment option is ice skating in Railroad Park. And with a run that extends through mid-January, December gifting is still feasible. But the most bated-breath stretch of this year has been watching the downtown Publix take shape. Its opening has been delayed until sometime in January, reported AL.com. But there’s nothing to celebrate the neighborhood’s practical convenience like a Publix gift card.


Redmont Vodka appeared in ABC stores this spring and served as Sloss Fest’s “official spirit,” reported AL.com. Lakeview’s entertainment options have grown leaps and bounds this year–Sky Castle, Ghost Train, Scene among them–and Redmont’s branding strikes the perfect balance between the area’s understated exteriors and its party potential. They’ve also released a Cotton Gin, which we can’t help but love.

Downtown Loft District:

Between the Lyric Theatre and the Redmont Hotel, it’s been a restorative year downtown. There’s more on the way, of course, with the Pizitz Building and the Thomas Jefferson Tower, but why not celebrate what we’ve achieved so far? Tickets to one of the Lyric’s varied shows–Russian ballet and Ben Folds are both on the calendar for 2017–are a thoughtful way to experience this now-functioning beauty. Or commit to treating your giftee to drinks at the Redmont’s rooftop bar, appropriately named The Roof, as another experience-over-stuff option. And tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Redmont make for easy wrapping.

Find Your “Winter Wonderland” Ice Skating in Railroad Park

ice skating in railroad park

ice skating in railroad park

Living in Alabama, it’s easy to be envious of falling snow and white Christmas movies. Santa’s not quite the same in shirt sleeves, after all. Wintry holidays are supposed to be crisp and a little icy, but that’s rarely been the outdoor experience here in Birmingham. It’s all changing this year, though, with the introduction of ice skating in Railroad Park.

The outdoor rink made its debut Thanksgiving weekend, but you’ll have until mid-January to visit. Festive features include a custom ice skating playlist on the rink website and Sunday appearances by the Birmingham Figure Skating Club. This is also a thoroughly social rink, so you’ll want to follow the @railroadpark and @brrmingham Instagram accounts and tag your skating posts with #brrrmingham.

Of course, it’s the setting that makes this rink so exciting. Railroad Park celebrates everything the city is becoming, and al fresco ice skating is one more way it brings our dreams into being. What are the holidays for, after all, if not a bit of improbable magic?

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.

Park staff have also created the ideal holiday shopping spot each Saturday through Christmas Eve: a marketplace of Birmingham-based giftables–in addition to the existing Rainy Day spot— surrounded by the charm of outdoor fun. Reclaim the holiday season from consumerist stress and enjoy where we are right now, simply by ice skating in Railroad Park.  

Two hours on the ice plus a pair of rental skates is only $10, but season passes are available too. Come on down. We’ll see you there.

Rainy Day Bham Brings Smallbox Arts to Railroad Park

rainy day bham

rainy day bham

When we wrote about Smallbox Co., we weren’t sure what to expect of the first one. Would the design itself be super high-concept? And what would it sell? There are practical problems, after all, with trying to stock and shop a true shipping container. But Rainy Day Bham is an excellent fit. It maximizes both the container and the Parkside location to create organic gallery shopping you’re sure to enjoy.

During off-hours, Rainy Day’s Smallbox looks like what it is: a basic shipping container. Open, though, it’s a combination of white box and outdoor room. White shelves along a back wall hold the more substantial goods: colorful abstract art, Birmingham pillows, pottery, even dog treats. Rope swing shelves on the window wall display art and cards and tea towels against the naturalist backdrop of a park view. Go on a sunny day, and you’ll likely be shopping in natural light.

Selling local arts and crafts could easily skew eclectic and folk art-y, but owner Saramia Arenas has kept the shop thoughtfully modern. Her clean but relaxed aesthetic makes Rainy Day Bham exactly the kind of place you’ll want to pop into while you’re in the area. And its local focus makes it easier to justify an impulse buy.

The shop is a little like a permanent Art Crawl, where its community location is just as important as the art on offer. We’ve talked before about Railroad Park being a kind of community center, and with its focus on modern, local craft, Rainy Day only ads to that feel. Meanwhile, the park’s ability to draw in a broad cross-section of Birmingham residents may be just the setting for Rainy Day’s mission to “help grow and nurture the creative community in the Magic City.”

It’ll be there through the end of the year to find out.

Parkside to Boast Pies Per Capita

We’ve written plenty about Birmingham’s pizza scene, but that was before Parkside was a neighborhood. And it turns out, it will be a neighborhood for pizza. With news reports of two pizzerias in the works, we like the look of Parkside’s pies per capita.

Pies and Pints is coming to Station 121, and the company’s online menus look promising. There are fancy pizza options, a decent salad range, a World of Beer-like drinks list, and maybe even lunch hour slices. Locations in other states feature modern industrial bar stools and reclaimed wood — both a nice complement to Glory Bound Gyro’s look at the other end of Station 121. Also like Glory Bound, its semi-healthy take on fast casual works well with Parkside’s active branding.

For a long time the commercial part of Station 121 was more of a goal than a reality. But as the BBJ reported, Pies and Pints fills the development’s final vacancy. The only thing better than living within walking distance of the UAB hospital complex and Rotary Trail? Living steps away from pizza. Unless you’re trying to make yourself cook at home, no matter what. In which case, this is not your neighborhood.

On the other side of Railroad Park, locally-owned Tortuga’s will launch its second location, the BBJ reported. The focus here is on Chicago-style pizza: thick, cheesy, rounds that make no pretense of health-consciousness. Its location near Regions Field feels right for a pizza style that boasts a sporting Midwestern attitude. There’s even a “Wrigleyville” pie on the Hoover menu.

There’s no beer on that menu, so setting up behind Good People Brewing Co. may be strategic in more ways than one. Either way, this Tortuga’s will be taking advantage of the surrounding industrial aesthetic. The restaurant will be built out in what is currently “a loading dock,” owner Matt Vizcaino told the BBJ, but “will be completely redesigned.” And that’s the prevailing model for this B&A Warehouse/Baker’s Row part of Parkside.

More than the sheer volume of pizza we plan to eat, that Parkside duality is the real moral of this story. It may be one district, but there are two Parksides. One is scrappy and post-industrial, the other is a mixed-use development. That could sound like a judgement, but it’s actually a nice balance, especially with the patterns of growth in the loft district. Indie-minded areas around Pepper Place and Railroad Park frame a corridor of convenience in the middle. It’s not a bad deal for anyone.

Finding Cool with SmallBox Co

railroad park

Plans for Box Row in Avondale gave us a hint that shipping containers might be Birmingham’s new retail incubators, and the announcement of Smallbox Co. has basically confirmed it. Want to know if your neighborhood will host cool new concepts? Look for the Smallbox.

The idea, a REV Birmingham newsletter reported, is that businesses trying to evaluate possible locations can use SmallBox’s retail-ready shipping containers to develop a temporary shop and see where it works. Birmingham’s Design Review Committee has approved SmallBox’s launch of a semi-permanent container in Railroad Park, according to REV.

The concept seems especially useful for places that don’t have a lot of accessible vacant space. REV-driven pop-ups have worked well in the Theatre District, for instance, but what if you’re considering a location like Five Points South or Railroad Park? Pop-ups there need different tactics, which is where Smallbox comes in.

smallbox rendering
Image credit: SmallBox Co

Owner Eric Tasker knows he’s not the only shipping container game in town and says folks often confuse his business with Box Row. But Tasker’s plan is game-changingly nimble. His eventual goal is to “have 15, 20 locations and be able to offer that, rotate people around,” Tasker told us. “And to let them test where they need to be.”

Because start-ups can move the entire space to another location, there’s also more room for custom layout and branding than your average pop-up. Tasker — an architect by training — told us he’ll be working through the details of space design and build as part of each tenant contract.

What makes us giddy about the news, though, is the idea that neighborhoods throughout the city will be able to host emerging businesses. Local retailers will be able to find their ideal neighborhood in the same way that our clients and blog readers might: plenty of reading and research, then some quality time feeling a neighborhood out. And for our clients, future SmallBoxes offer one more search filter for a neighborhood’s transformative energy.

Parkside-Style Mediterranean at Glory Bound

glory bound gyro parkside


What Chipotle is to the idea of quick, healthy-ish Mexican food, Glory Bound Gyro Co. is to Birmingham’s classic Mediterranean joint. Often, our city’s Mediterranean food niche is about a  certain hybrid comfort food, available at odd hours. Glory Bound offers a lighter approach, in line with the Parkside neighborhood’s active branding.

Despite gyro being part of its name, grease is hard to find at Glory Bound. The original gyro features meat that’s tender and fresh-tasting. It’s topped with a tzatziki that’s tangy and delicious, a partner to the meat rather than a counterpoint. The pita bread is warm and fluffy, and the cottage fries are thick potato wedges. The Greek salad is relatively light on dressing but wonderfully heavy on feta. And Glory Bound even has a liquor license, should you decide your falafel pairs best with a brew.

Glory Bound’s interior is charming — Parkside modern with just a hint of country store — but the restaurant’s outdoor space makes it special. Situated by the Rotary Trail entrance, it’s literally across the road from one of Birmingham’s best outdoor spaces. The combination of north/south traffic on 20th Street and east/west action on Rotary Trail rates Glory Bound high on the list for people watching.

This part of Parkside is becoming a corridor of convenience for both the UAB medical district and the downtown Loft District. Chains local to national bring all your basic essentials to the area: in the same block of Station 121, you can work out, get a haircut, and grab dinner. Add another block, and you can grocery shop as well.

It’s no accident that Rotary Trail is the defining outdoor feature on this end of the Parkside district. Unlike the lingering vibe around Railroad Park, there’s a forward energy to the trail that works well with the businesses here. The area is an urban reimagining of a well-stocked suburban shopping complex, and it’s Birmingham’s newest lifestyle center.

Original Parkside at B&A Warehouse

b&a warehouse


Before there was a Parkside — before there was even a park — B&A Warehouse was establishing the neighborhood’s modern reclaimed vibe. B&A epitomizes the area’s propensity toward low-slung brick spaces with large windows offering a combination of space and proximity. With its rustic interiors, multiple space options, & in-house catering, it has a lot to offer for your biggest of days.

That barn-chic wedding you’ve admired on Pinterest? B&A’s raw wood beams & strings of cafe lights can give you the look without driving out of the city. Or subjecting your fancy-dress guests to the sweaty indignities of an un-airconditioned Alabama summer.

But its best feature — keep in mind, this is a real estate blog, so you can guess where we’re going — is location. Nestled between LIV Parkside and Regions Field, snuggled into the edge of Railroad Park, a friendly neighbor to Good People and Baker’s Row, B&A offers the full Parkside perspective.

Besides the wedding-themed photos inside, you can easily plan on some of Birmingham’s greatest hits as a photo backdrop, not to mention a wide shot of the city skyline. B&A’s long call list of photo ops exists in part because the neighborhood is so compact. Like the venue, it packs many visual gems in a tidy, linear footprint.

If you time it right, there’s also no reason you couldn’t continue the party at a Baron’s game. There’s no baseball fan like one that shows up in wedding gear, after all. And besides the epic photos you’d earn, we reckon the ice cream float with coffee oatmeal stout is the ultimate cake chaser.

Even if you don’t take advantage, your guests well might. And they’ll love you for it. Before you know it, there will be a neighborhood hotel as well.

Most of all, B&A sets your event at the original epicenter of the neighborhood, the beta version of transforming neglected spaces into true destinations. It’s never been a low budget venue, but like the residential spaces nearby, it offers all sorts of options at an attainable price.

Neighborhood Highlights with Hero Doughnuts

hero doughnuts


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.

Bham Fit: Workouts for All at Railroad Park

railroad park


We started this fitness series with local gyms and fitness studios in mind — the kind of specific small businesses that help define a neighborhood’s wellness bent. But one of Birmingham’s best fitness secret isn’t a business at all; it’s Get Healthy on the Railroad at Railroad Park. If you live Parkside, in the Loft District, or even in the northern sections of Five Points South, this is a seriously wonderful neighborhood fitness amenity.

All year long the park is open to walkers, joggers, and those interested in body weight exercises on the park’s west side equipment. It may be cold and rainy some days, but it’s always there and always free. (Though the park definitely accepts donations to help fund the upkeep on this jewel of a public/private partnership.)

From April through October, though, the park offers weeknight group fitness classes that are free to the entire city, courtesy of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. The park’s website has full class descriptions, but we’ve distilled them to a quick guide. Want high-energy music and fun choreography? Try Jazzercise and Zumba. Looking to work on your personal running program? Get help at Happy Feet. Relax with Yoga on the lawn, or rev up your week at Boot Camp. All classes start at 6 p.m.

We like that Boot Camp and Happy Feet can give you ideas for independent fitness pursuits at the park, which comes in handy during the class off-season. And while the yoga classes may not be as hands-on as a local studio could offer, can you think of a more beautiful place to practice?

There’s no exclusivity to the atmosphere at Railroad. It’s the ultimate example of Parkside’s healthy neighborhood branding by making fitness accessible to everyone: You simply show up, sign up, and work out. With the park and Region’s Field at its core, this neighborhood is more or less the playground of the city. Living here means it’s in your own backyard.