2012 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, Al 35203

Resident Portal: Existing Client? login here.


Tag: bham development

Our Top 3 Birmingham Development Trends for 2016

“Birmingham’s housing market has been on a hot streak in 2016,” reported the Birmingham Business Journal earlier this month. And Alabama Center for Real Estate graph shows just how dramatically the market has picked up, with home sales staying relatively flat after 2011 until a big jump in the past year. But there’s more to the marketplace than macro growth patterns, and today we’re looking at Birmingham development trends that affect the market.

We’ve narrowed it down to three top trends that are impacting our city’s real estate climate:


National Buzz

Birmingham has made headlines–in a good way–over the last several years. From Avondale’s anointing as the state’s Brooklyn in 2015 to Birmingham’s spot on the Travel Channel’s list of “The Next Great Destinations” for 2016. Just recently, we earned the number 14 spot on Zagat’s list of “The 26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016.” In fact, the piece named Lakeview’s Ovenbird “one of the biggest openings in all of the South.” And of the eight restaurants name-checked in the piece, all but one–Real & Rosemary–was within Birmingham proper. Like us, the Zagat folks love El Barrio, Fancy’s on Fifth, and Saigon Noodle House.


Historic redevelopment

One of our biggest achievements as a revitalizing city is the adaptive reuse of historic spaces. In cases like Railroad Park and this year’s addition of Rotary Trail, we’ve successfully turned a forgotten landscape into an enchanting urban greenspace. In those of the Redmont Hotel or the nearly-finished Pizitz Building and Thomas Jefferson Tower, we’ve taken a storied past and reinterpreted it for a modern city. This phenomenon isn’t new to 2016, but the year has boasted some high-profile progress.


Cosmopolitan living

Birmingham has long featured some trappings of a thriving city scene–culinary and cultural resources among them–but less glamorous resources have often lagged behind. Besides the many mixed-use projects opening this year and next, we’re witnessing complementary features that make full city living possible. Besides entertainment and green spaces, we’re seeing transit options like Uber and Zyp, and we can nearly boast of a downtown Publix.


From style to convenience, there’s really never been a better time to #liveinBham. If you’re ready to make the move, contact us today.


Talking “Comeback Town” Birmingham

railroad park

We love sharing stories from happy clients who’ve decided to live in Birmingham, but we also love when we find similar feelings from neutral parties. David Sher’s Comeback Town blog offers plenty of useful perspective, but the posts that have stuck out most to us are the ones on Birmingham living. Two posts from this year looked at why people chose to #LiveinBham and how they felt about that decision. (Spoiler alert: they wouldn’t change it.)

So what’s living in “comeback town” Birmingham actually like? Here are the themes we picked up from posts by Mimi Shannon and Claire Parker:

Unbeatable Amenities

Shannon describes the incredible diversity of public spaces like the Rotary Trail and how “completely safe” she feels in her new neighborhood, despite having a thoroughly suburban upbringing. She describes the beauty of light installations and the institutional necessities like the (almost here!) downtown Publix that help communities thrive. She talks about the features many new developments offer that make living downtown an exercise in luxury and not a brave vanguard.

Parker said she and her husband made the real estate leap when they constantly found themselves doing things downtown. Now instead of trekking in from the suburbs, their Avondale home is a quick bike trip away from the big attractions downtown and walking distance from Hotbox.

Vanguard Community

“People ask if we feel safe,” Parker writes. “Yes.  I have never lived anywhere that neighbors took such great care of each other.” She also defines this “urban lifestyle” as “real,” explaining that she’s found not just the accoutrements of community but a genuine network in her neighborhood. There’s a sense of looking out for each other that she hadn’t found before. And in some ways the urban revival–with its emphasis on street life and community fabric–is a return to a different time. A more connected one, despite the leaps and bounds we’ve seen in technology.

Shannon talks about how much downtown’s success means for the broader Birmingham community. Downtown defines an outsider’s view of the entire metro area, she explains, from pride points to crime numbers. On the flip side, she finds exciting opportunity here, too. Shannon moved downtown, she writes, because “there was sense of urgency inside of me to be part of this revolution, and fast.”

Feel the same way? Check out our listings in Downtown and Avondale.


How the Gladstone Adds Character to Crestline Park


Our Birmingham developments are a way to access older neighborhoods without living in an older home, our own Carter Hughes told AL.com. The Gladstone townhomes in Crestline Park are no exception. They’re a best-of-all-worlds model, and we asked architect Louis Nequette, of Nequette Architecture & Design, to explain how he created it with us.

The Gladstone provided “a unique opportunity to take a larger piece of property in the middle of a pretty thriving neighborhood area and add some affordable, more urban living offerings,” Nequette said. And of course, it was right in line with our goals for development in Birmingham more generally.

“There’s really been nothing developed in the Crestline area in probably 60 years,” Hughes told AL.com as Gladstone Building One was reaching completion. “Our focus is really to provide products that people haven’t had lately to encourage people to live in our city.”

But there are also the realities of urban infill, of putting a new development into an older area. The design brief for Nequette? “We had to fit into the price points of the area, we had to fit into the character of the area, and we had to create a sense of place,” he said.

Crestline Park “is a collection of influences,” Nequette explained. But there’s a prevailing English character his firm captured in the Gladstone’s “simple, cottage-inspired” design. “So you have some traditional influence mixed with modern-day living,” he said.

Nequette has also been conscious of designing a community, not just a collection of homes. The Gladstone is “its own little destination–a nice green surrounded by townhouses that look out onto a walkable street, rather than just being townhouses surrounded by a parking lot,” he said. “It’ll be its own little district within Crestline.”

Instead of an isolated enclave, it’s a model of the way new communities interact with older ones. Or, in our book, urban development at its best.

Topgolf Birmingham’s Lessons on Downtown Development

With Kinetic Communications’s adorable rooftop putting green, it was only a matter of time before golf arrived in the downtown Loft District. And this summer news broke that a Topgolf Birmingham may be coming to Uptown.

There’s no definitive announcement, the Birmingham Business Journal reported. But the combination of zoning changes and press statements the journal could confirm sounds promising.

“With all the recent development in the downtown Birmingham area and all that the Uptown Entertainment District around the BJCC offers, we look forward to continuing our efforts to finalize a venue in the Birmingham market,” Topgolf executive Zach Shor told the journal.

The BBJ put together a slideshow of other Topgolf locations as part of its reporting on the news. It’s an impressive highlight reel of fire pits and city views, casual streetwear and virtual sensors.

Topgolf’s vibe is very much young professional, not simply professional. Uptown’s fun restaurant concepts and the nearby Birmingham Museum of Art’s Art on the Rocks have a similar feel.

Topgolf Birmingham wouldn’t be a place you bring your custom clubs or get trailed by a trusted caddy. The facility would have a “driving range style,” according to the BBJ. Besides adding a faster downtown pace, that approach should make the golf experience more novice-friendly.

Golf has a longstanding association with business culture, and Topgolf makes sense with the high-end business travel new downtown hotels expect. We’ve already outlined those boutique effects on the district restaurant scene.

This isn’t just any golf though. Which has us thinking it’s a nice tie-in to the tech atmosphere Birmingham’s building with Sloss Tech. The twin boom of hip loft rentals and high-end hotels is creating a downtown friendly to both the business traveler and the digital native.

Like downtown’s Loft District, where our own Matt Neal noted a shortage of units for sale, Topgolf would represent a chic rental game. It’s less a story of ownership–neither fancy equipment nor expensive memberships needed–and more one of experience. It’s more cool than opulent, more new world than old.

But for all of Topgolf’s flash, it seems the fundamentals would remain: the driver, the clubhouse, the conversation. It would be a start-up layer over a game with history.

Live in a Landmark: The Thomas Jefferson Tower Renovation

There are lots of reasons to be excited about the Thomas Jefferson Tower renovation, among them the availability of more apartments in the downtown loft district. But now there’s one more: the newly restored zeppelin mooring atop the building.

Both the Birmingham Business Journal and WBRC reported on the reproduction mooring last month not just as an addition to the building but a mark on the city’s “skyline.” WBRC even called the mooring “a return to the city’s iconic skyline,” based on comments by Robbie Cather, a project manager for Stewart Perry Construction.

And it’s clear–both from their own writing on the mooring and from published comments on the project–that its developers see the Thomas Jefferson Tower renovation as a landmark project for the city. Developer Brian Beshara told AL.com that once opened the mixed-use tower would be “a really impactful center of gravity for this area.”

Birmingham already has an edge on the number of downtown residents compared to other US cities, project developer Scott Reed told the site. And he believes that bodes well for the broader outlook.

“Great cities have great downtowns,” he said. “If Birmingham wants to be one of the great American cities, it has the potential to get there.”

We agree with Reed on both counts, and we think the city’s skyline is a critical branding factor. The new mooring will even have customizable LED lighting, according to Stewart Perry’s Planting Acorns blog, to “light it as a modern symbol of our city.” The best part of this particular symbol, though, is the ability to live in it.

Inhabiting the skyline is unique to the downtown living experience. There’s a funny fizzle of excitement that happens when you realize your home is part of the city’s visible landscape. When you can literally tell people they’ll be able to see it as they enter the city, well, that never gets old.

Birmingham Craft Breweries Center Urban Community

good people brewing birmingham craft breweries

good people brewing birmingham craft breweries

It’s no secret this city loves its craft breweries. But what’s interesting is the way the model has expanded. Birmingham craft breweries have become, in their own funny ways, our new urban community centers. Not that any of us are complaining.

So what makes the brewery more than just a glorified bar? Many have helped launch a neighborhood — Avondale was the first 41st Street draw, and Good People pre-dated Regions Field. They also tend to be located in repurposed older buildings–originally a legislative requirement–making them an important part of a neighborhood’s architectural heritage.

Each brewery has its own personality, but all of them offer draft beer and, more recently, sales of growlers for off-site consumption. They’re laid-back, kid-friendly places that usually have a food truck in tow for good measure. And in neighborhoods that tend toward smaller housing, a brewery’s casual meeting space is a big draw. Bars this size would not have the same community feel.

There’s a universality to the craft brewery scene. It’s not a hard party but a casual get-together that happens to involve beer. It’s the bar equivalent of a backyard barbeque. Fun fact: we know an octogenarian grandmother who has been to Cahaba twice. Of her own free will. In fact, the second time it was her idea.

But back to that community center idea. Consider the range of events that happen at your local brewery. Most offer regular public tours and host community events, like parts of Birmingham Design Week or the Birmingham Creative Roundtable. Trim Tab hosts art shows, and last year Good People launched a Sunday market. Cahaba, Good People, and Avondale have all been offering yoga classes, albeit in very different configurations.

And in truth, it’s the yoga proliferation that prompted our community center association.

After all, yoga doesn’t fall into the typical alcohol/music/entertainment nexus. We’ve always thought the breweries had a more balanced feel than standard bar culture; yoga classes have made that distinction more literal.

Birmingham craft breweries aren’t the places you go for a big night out but for easy socializing. Or maybe even for your health. Either way, they’re one of our favorite neighborhood amenities.

Rotary Trail’s Model for Modern Design

rotary trail

rotary trail

We’ve talked before about the Rotary Trail’s value from a real estate perspective, and about its importance to both our civic infrastructure and public memory. So you might well wonder what else we could possibly have to say. But with time to finally explore the trail on foot and soak in its design, we found ourselves continually inspired. What we see now is how the trail carefully balances high design in an existing neighborhood.

Walking Rotary Trail echoes the experience of a rail line — passing through tunnels then emerging topside. The vision, Rotarian Cheryl Morgan told AL.com, was of “a gesture to our history” shifting toward an “opportunity to look at future development.”

We wonder if that isn’t the way to approach any project in an established neighborhood. It’s not that the design should be limited to what’s come before, but that it makes sense to honor a neighborhood’s history.

AL.com reviewed the Rotary Trail’s many visual references: its own prior form, Birmingham’s 20th century emblem, and the city’s most notable design idea today. More impressively, those references all lie in a single, contiguous space along four city blocks. If that’s not multitasking design achievement, we’re not sure what is.

One of our favorite features, the flowing rock formations beneath the viaducts, are both practical and highly conceptual. Architecture firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood’s portfolio explains that “the design’s rail-bed-to-river association” highlights “Birmingham’s development around locomotives, as opposed to steamships.” The rocks also function as a stormwater filtration system, according to the firm.

And then there’s the sign. The sign that’s shown up on every Birmingham Instagram feed and seems destined to be part of our city’s revival branding. It calls to mind Birmingham’s former Terminal Station and the underpass below it, without allowing the station’s more ornate style to muddy a modernist sensibility. Plus, its bare framing works with the area’s surviving industrial buildings.

Of course, Rotary Trail’s not alone in the neighborhood for blending modern architecture into an existing landscape. The nearby Pullman Flats are one of our very favorite modern/historical mashups. The Appleseed Workshop-designed Walding Law renovation carved out modern interiors in a historic facade. The Williams Blackstock Architects office streamlined longstanding brick with a flowing marquee awning.

It turns out the trail is a reflection of its corridor, where some of the city’s major architecture firms have set the stage for a restrained modernism. The lesson for other places in the city? To honor the existing landscape, both natural and built. Not recreate it, per se, but keep time with its visual rhythms and repeat motifs that transcend their age.

Pizitz Building to Redefine Downtown Entertainment

pizitz building downtown birmingham

pizitz building downtown birmingham

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.

Affordable Upgrades Define Woodlawn Development

Woodlawn development at 55th Place

Woodlawn development at 55th place

We love the excitement of lightning-speed revitalization, but modest pacing also has its merits. Smaller waves of people and businesses can bring new community energy without drowning a neighborhood’s past. We’ve talked before about the slower, quieter Woodlawn development process, and our own Matt Neal pegged it as a neighborhood to watch. But what are you watching for? Potentially Birmingham’s crowning revitalization achievement.

The neighborhood is no stranger to affordability-minded upgrades. Mixed-income housing is a Woodlawn Foundation priority, Executive Director Sallie Mackin told Weld last year. But a recent announcement by Washington D.C.-based Smart Growth America promises even more resources for inclusive development. The organization will work with REV Birmingham in Woodlawn “for economic revitalization without displacement,” the Birmingham Business Journal reported in June.

The Woodlawn neighborhood will be one of three sites participating in the Planning for Successful and Equitable Revitalization program. It’s designed to “help communities revitalize successfully and capture benefits from the revitalization process for families of all income levels,” according to Smart Growth’s blog post on the program.

“We’ll work with REV Birmingham to help independent retailers and small businesses in the Woodlawn neighborhood remain in their existing locations and expand their offerings as the area grows,” the post explained. Besides an analysis of the community’s business potential, the program will “develop marketing materials to help recruit diverse and complementary businesses that will serve the community.”

What does that look like in Birmingham terms? We imagine something a little like Five Points South, where high-profile developments share blocks with family-owned stores. Certainly the blend of older homes for renovation and newer multi-family housing might mirror it. Or perhaps like neighboring Crestwood, whose main shops remain relatively modest.

Either way, it won’t be the neighborhood to see an instant return. But continued affordability attracts creative communities and early-career professionals. We’re unlikely to see overnight growth with Woodlawn’s long-term goals. But it’s a neighborhood with a vision, and that has value too.

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.