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Tag: downtown

Urban Style: Bar Stools With Big Impact

satellite urban style bar stools

satellite urban style bar stools

There are lots of ways to personalize your home with big renovations, or even custom installation work. But what if you want big style, no professionals required? For that, we suggest interesting accessories that stand out in streamlined spaces. One key example for urban style: bar stools with big impact.

The sheer power of repetition makes it an effective style trick. When you have three or four of something, after all, it tends to command notice. Be warned that a great bar stool rarely comes cheap, but it is an easy and portable style choice.

And you need not look through decor magazines or even the rabbit hole of Pinterest. We’ve simplified matters by drawing on our own local inspiration. We’ve looked at ideas around town and found these bar stool examples for your kitchen style game.



Paramount’s bar stools are unusually linear, a heavy metal frame supporting a pale rectangle of wood. Part of their job is not to overshadow the more flamboyant automotive references in the space, but they’re well designed in their own right. We can easily imagine them adding a bit of industrial edge to a nearby downtown loft.

Harvest plays up the Redmont Hotel’s architectural gravitas with a smart variation on a classic bar stool shape. A single cutout punctuates an upholstered backrest for the custom tailoring of the stool world.



Trimtab Brewing Company’s stools bring an automotive age to mind, befitting the former neighborhood of the Barber Motorsports Museum. The smoothly engineered curves, chrome bases, and integrated armrests remind us of great American cars. They’re sleek but road-tested.  

Slice Pizza & Brewhouse combines the retro feel of red vinyl with a sleek sculptural base. The color shines against a reclaimed wood bar and ties in nicely with other new restaurant openings in the area like Cashio’s Meatball Market and Babalu Tacos and Tapas. The base offers a place for the eye to linger and a nice reminder of the area’s recent industrial past.



Satellite plays up its space age styling with the stool version of a modern molded plastic chair. Long wooden legs angle out from the base with simple black supports. It’s a dose of nostalgia that still feels fresh, much like its 41st Street scene.

Hot Diggity Dogs has the most retro offering, which works for a brick-and-mortar hot dog stand in this neighborhood of casual nostalgia. The chrome stools with vinyl seats are a familiar shape with room for personalization.



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.


Louis Nequette on Buying Downtown Birmingham Living

nequette architecture downtown birmingham living

Wondering if downtown Birmingham living is right for you? And if so, which part of the Loft District really has your name on it? Our friends at Nequette Architecture & Design recently made the leap from renting a downtown office to creating their own downtown development on 2nd Avenue North. They loved the neighborhood enough to buy into it, and we think it’s worth sharing why.

Even since we started this blog–two years ago now–the 2nd Avenue corridor has undergone some dramatic changes. Urban Standard, El Barrio, and Charm were all there, but Bamboo’s owners were still running Tavern on the Summit. And Paramount was an empty former yogurt shop. The “walkable energy” of this now very mixed-use area was part of the draw for his firm, Louis Nequette told us.

“We were trying to find a walkable community environment,” he explained. The firm considered our two favorite over-the-mountain spots, Homewood and Mountain Brook, but also set their sights on the downtown market. They quickly honed in on Second Avenue, according to Nequette.

“We said, let’s move down here and do a short-term rent and just see what it feels like. But it didn’t take but a few months to fall in love with the energy down here and the people and the character.”

Sold on the neighborhood, we helped them close on a building within the same block. A combination of street-level retail, upper-floor lofts, and their own penthouse design studio, Nequette said construction on the development should be completed in November 2017.

And their current space won’t have a chance to be empty, Nequette said. Not only is there a tenant lined up to replace his firm, but an art gallery should be moving into the ground floor as soon as April 2017.

For a firm with a big stake in building community, Nequette believes 2nd Avenue is the ultimate design lab for his firm. “It represented everything we wanted to embrace and the type work we do and learn from by participating in.

“We said, why not find a way to be permanently involved.”

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.

Modern Glam at Downtown’s Redmont Hotel

redmont hotel modern glam

redmont hotel modern glam

Loft District interiors lean industrial modern, but they may not for long. There are grand renovations underway at the Pizitz Building and Thomas Jefferson Towers, plus the upcoming Marriott in the Empire Building. If the newly reopened Redmont Hotel is any indication, downtown Birmingham design will be getting a serious dose of glam.

Its redesigned spaces “embrace the glamour of the 1920’s,” according to the hotel website, layering a “boutique hotel” aesthetic over the building’s dramatic period features. We call the result modern glam. 

What does that mean in practical terms? We’ve scrolled through the Redmont interiors to produce the following style cues:


Subway tile need not be white.

We’re used to seeing white subway tile as the new classic. After all, it works everywhere — from open commercial kitchens to renovated historic homes. But the Redmont proves subway tile is more than a one-tone wonder. As if heavily veined marble flooring weren’t glam enough, they’ve accented the grand lobby with a wall of mirrored subway tile.


Formal dining can still look comfortable.

Truly glam dining requires some formalities, but it can still have some casual flair. At the Redmont’s Harvest restaurant, the secret is in the upholstery. Tufted wingback loveseats add a buttoned-up look befitting fine dining. But couch vibe of a loveseat and the light neutral color suggest an inviting coziness.


Dramatic lighting always wins.

With its grand original chandelier intact, the Redmont Hotel lobby was always going to be a showstopper. But what mixes well with history’s most glamorous details? Spare but dramatic fixtures. The Redmont’s pair exposed edison bulbs with oil-rubbed bronze and brass accents look effortlessly twinkly–the interior equivalent of the perfect black dress.


Rich materials glam up quieter spaces.

Redmont Hotel rooms are less shiny than the lobby, and for good reason. Public spaces can handle higher drama. Reign the bedroom in to preserve a relaxing feel. To keep the glamor consistent, repeat some lux materials in simpler applications. Blue velvet appears in thick lobby curtains and tailored bedroom headboards with nailhead trim.


Go forth, then, and glam. And show us how you’ve styled it.


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.

Bigger Bistro Heralds Fine Downtown Food Scene

bistro 218

bistro 218

When we’ve talked about the downtown Loft District’s culinary scene, we’ve tended to focus on its inventive range of high-quality, mid-priced options. But with news of Bistro 218’s planned addition, we see fine changes afoot in how we characterize this foodie district.

But with the folks involved in bringing Bistro 218 to fruition, it’s really no surprise that the restaurant has made an impact. Local real estate developer Joseph McClure, who helped owner Tom Saab find the space, also had a hand in adding Trattoria Centrale and Brick & Tin to the 20th Street foodscape, according to AL.com.

Building owner Harsha Hatti told the site he saw his native Pasadena reinvent itself during his childhood. “So I’ve seen it happen before, and I want to be part of something like that because I have the means and the ability to actually do that,” he told AL.com. “I want to be part of that downtown revival.”

With several years under its belt, Bistro 218 isn’t a new player. But increasing physical size has been uncommon in the current wave of restaurants. The pattern typically has been to open a new concept nearby, as Trattoria Centrale’s Brian Somershield & Geoff Lockert have with El Barrio and Paramount, and Bamboo’s Bernie Smith is reportedly developing with Puro.

We’ve known for a long time that this was a foodie district, but it’s quietly become a fine dining district as well. Cafe Dupont has been a long-time standout. With the bistro’s steady success and the recent Harvest opening, well, we call 3 a solid pattern.

So what had to change for higher ticket restaurants to succeed downtown? Loft District living helped, of course, but two other things are swiftly upping the neighborhood’s draw after business hours.

There’s the excitement around the Theater District for starters. A continuing catalog of events — from film series to live music — at the Alabama have continued to draw folks downtown, and the recently re-opened Lyric has definitely added to that energy.

There’s also a new emphasis on luxe travel downtown. The newly re-opened Redmont hotel, which houses Harvest, and the coming Empire remodel as a Marriott hotel should bring well-heeled visitors to the district.

Frank Stitt recently told a panel in New York that being near UAB’s bustle convinced him Five Points was the right location for Highlands in 1982, reported the Birmingham Business Journal. We think a similar principle will hold true downtown. Maybe even more so. High-end travel and arts patronage both create the sense of occasion that helps fine dining thrive. And “seven magic words” never seemed so delicious.


YP Tips: Brand Evolution with John's City Diner

john's city diner


Shannon Gober opened John’s City Diner in 2004 on the bones of Birmingham’s iconic John’s restaurant. The recession took its toll on the downtown neighborhood, he said, but he’s also seen a Loft District rebirth. Throughout the changing business environment, Gober has developed a clear sense of his diner brand and a healthy perspective on Magic City competition.

We tend to think of business competition as being one against external forces, but Gober said John’s has struggled mightily against its own history. The inaugural years of John’s City Diner were plagued by mistaken identity, he said, with customers unclear about the difference between the diner and the former restaurant. “We want to pay a lot of homage to that restaurant being there, to what it meant to the city, but also at the same time let people realize that we are a completely different restaurant,” Gober explained.

Part of that effort has been the series of physical changes to the diner, creating a space that’s visually distinct from the old John’s restaurant, according to Gober. But he’s also created a food perspective that sets the diner version apart, he said, focusing on local ingredients free of things like antibiotics and GMO tinkering.

Gober hasn’t simply had to differentiate himself against the old John’s, though. He’s also had to face a classic business problem: if an idea you helped pioneer has become the new standard, where do you go from there? The standard, in this case, being chicken and waffles.

“One of the things that we put on our menu several years ago was chicken and waffles, and we were really the first restaurant that I’m aware of to really go full-force with chicken and waffles,” Gober said. “And that has been something that really has almost developed a cult following if you will, and now, if you look around, you see chicken and waffles on menus all over the place.”

The waffle tale doesn’t come up as a complaint, but in the story of John’s newest menu revisions, which include two variations on the original dish. By adding Nashville and Hong styles, Gober is able to evolve the dish and incorporate new food ideas. The new dishes “introduce some things that are really who we are, which is elevating these old-school classics,” he said, “so we constantly look for those things that are popping up or things that might be a little different that people in Birmingham maybe haven’t had.”

Meanwhile, Gober acknowledges that the growing restaurant options in the Loft District around John’s could be construed as a threat. But he doesn’t see it that way. More business density means more people in the neighborhood, he explained, and more potential customers. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re happy to have it,” Gober said.

“And so before, where downtown really felt more like a city center, now our area in particular — here within a couple blocks of the restaurant, in the loft district — has kind of become a neighborhood area, almost like you would see in any residential neighborhood out there.”

Bham Eats: Standout Sides at Urban Standard

urban standard


Urban Standard is no stranger to our posts on Birmingham living. It’s shown up as a recommended first date spot, a great place for a client meeting, a doughnut purveyor and a defining vegetarian option. But in all that talk, we’ve never really discussed their meals. Consider this post a remedy, a return to the basic elements that have made Urban Standard such a downtown Loft District staple.

Like Woodlawn Cycle Cafe, Urban Standard thrives on the combination of delicious coffee and an unexpected food menu. Before there was a Starbucks or even a Revelator within walking distance, Urban Standard anchored the neighborhood with your basic coffee creations, including the kind of smoothly milky iced latte that keeps Birmingham summers both caffeinated and bearable.

When we were debating our lunch order, we thought hard about the grilled cheese — a not so basic combination that includes provolone and herbed cream cheese spread — and were told that the chicken panino is the most popular menu item. We ended up with the nopalito BLT, a sandwich that combines buttery toasted bread, crispy bacon, mixed greens, tomato slices and pimento cheese. The pimento cheese had a classic tea sandwich texture any native Southerner will recognized, updated with a Southwest kick.

What stands out the most, though, is the way Urban Standard has cleverly re-thought the lunch side. You can get potato chips if you want, of course, but with options like marinated broccoli and parsnip salad, there’s no good reason too. We tried the parsnip salad with our meal and loved its tangy red onion and fresh Italian parsley as an alternative to potato salad.

The result is a meal out that feels like real food. We’ve mentioned that phenomenon before at places like Feast & Forest, and we say it’s a critical niche in neighborhood food options. Assuming you stay out of the dessert case, eating out at Urban Standard feels like an indulgence only in the sense that you’re not cooking your own food. For the neighborhood’s on-the-go live/work mix, that’s a powerful amenity.