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Tag: forest park

Forest Park’s Growing Restaurant Scene

  
With its single-street layout and proximity to stately homes, Forest Park’s business district feels like a quieter, quirkier cousin to English Village. What the park has sometimes missed is an atmosphere for lingering, but restaurant changes announced this year signal a new neighborhood era. Building on the goofily fabulous momentum of the Tour de Loo, Forest Park is set to become a more social neighborhood any night of the week.

The shift began in February, when AL.com reported that Mac Russell, the culinary chops behind Shindigs would be opening “a fast-casual restaurant and bar that will also include a produce and meat market and a kitchen for his catering business.” So while we stand behind our ideas for small business occupants of the space, we’re really pleased to be wrong on the final result.

Russell’s business concept — named DMac’s after himself and his aspiring restaurateur grandfather, according to AL.com — doesn’t sound too far off from the V. Richard’s model. The difference, it seems, is a shift in focus: the AL.com description emphasizes restaurant and bar elements, while market goods appeared to be more of a bonus feature. It’s a sound business strategy, given that there will soon be two Publix options (Montclair and 20 Midtown) within a short drive.

Even more recently, AL.com reported a reworking of the Little Savannah menu. “For years, we’ve sort of had this theme, if you will, of fine dining or trying to be a little more upscale,” Cliff Holt, the restaurant’s chef and owner, told the site. “I really want to get back in touch with the neighborhood, to be more of a neighborhood bar and restaurant.”

Holt also mentioned adding a burger option to the menu, and the currently posted sample menu does include the BHMBurger, served with roasted jalapeno goat cheese and “truck-stop” fries. There also seems to be a greater emphasis on snacks and sides than some older menus. Little Savannah’s still not a budget option, but it now seems much more drinks-and-snacks friendly.

All told, the changes suggest Forest Park will have the culinary appeal of the loft district a few years ago — a combination of Birmingham institutions and fresh start-ups. It will have the genteel neighborhood feel of English Village but close proximity to Avondale’s lively 41st Street district. In other words, Forest Park is looking better and better.

Forest Park/Avondale Spotlight: Free Wifi at Local Businesses

forest park

 

We’re used to wifi options at big box stores, the kind that to lure us into downloading specialty coupon apps but also speed comparison shopping. Then we’ve heard of entire cities providing free public wifi as a progressive move to create universal high-speed access. The recent debut of free wifi networks in the Forest Park and South Avondale business districts is somewhere in between, a combination of convenient neighborhood service and clever marketing that makes us excited to see what the area’s forward-thinking merchant group comes up with next. But first, we checked in with Forest Park South Avondale Business Association President Marco Morosini to find out more about the rationale behind the network and the impact it’s had so far.

A big part of the service, Morosini told us, is creating a kind of instant neighborhood directory for wifi network users. So many interactions and information searches happen on our handheld devices, Morosini said, “what we created is a way for businesses, part of the merchant association, to be put in front of the customer, even before the customer looks for the business.” Users who accept the terms and conditions for online access will be instantly redirected to a landing page that lists participating businesses, he explained.

In essence, visitors to the neighborhood can get a fairly instant picture of what’s available nearby, even if they’re unfamiliar with the area. Asked if businesses are seeing an uptick in foot traffic with the wifi addition, Morosini said it’s “too early to tell” but that the network had seen roughly 800-1200 new users per week since its debut.

This is only the latest move from a neighborhood business association that’s helped drive local renewal. Even before the association reached the participation levels it sees today, it was still active in the move to renovate Avondale Park, Morosini said. These days organization materials outline a clear set of goals — which include attracting both visitors and investors to the area — and its partnership with REV Birmingham to achieve them. Morosini particularly credits Richard Stewart, the association’s vice president, with helping “truly rally the merchant association” and attract new businesspeople like Avondale Brewing Co.’s Coby Lake.

After all, an area with local businesses is part of the urban neighborhood charm. But not all businesses are created equal. Some will struggle to find an audience within the neighborhood, let alone attracting new customers and new energy. The Forest Park South Avondale Business Association, in contrast, feels like the very best of what advocates like localist Carrie Rollwagen say small businesses offer – reinvestment in the neighborhood, support of local charities, and a general sense of community. In fact, Morosini said the association has plans for a capital project at the 41st Street and Clairmont Avenue corridors, but details are still under wraps.

The merchant association may well be one of the biggest sells for making your home in South Avondale or Forest Park, since you’ll know you’re not alone in wanting to create something special. Existing stakeholders have already laid the hard groundwork; all you have to do is show up.

If you’re ready to test the waters, Morosini reminded us to mark our calendars for the following spring and summer events:

  • April 24th: Alabama Symphony Orchestra at Avondale Park
  • June and July: Movies in Avondale Park
  • July 16th: Park in the Park

 

Bham Design: Bungalow Porch Life

bungalow porch

You know that summer is for enjoying outdoor living, but not all settings are created equal. Our recommendation: the deep bungalow porches that dot neighborhoods like South Avondale/Forest Park, Glen Iris and Five Points South. These historic gems take porch sitting from warm weather practicality to true Southern art.

They’re deep and wide, welcoming folks in or allowing easy sociability with street life from a (relatively) cool perch. They can be big enough to host a rustic-chic dinner party or to accommodate a porch swing daybed for napping. Deep enough to fight mosquitos naturally with a steady ceiling fan breeze, or to watch a summer thunderstorm with a glass of dry wine.

And while we love a bungalow porch anywhere, Birmingham features a local style that we really love. Architecture student Thomas Shelby explains:

In the case of Birmingham, the hilly and rocky land around the city supplied an abundance of chert rock and fieldstone for Craftsman homes, which further reinforced the notion of relating the home to the land. More often than not the stone would be collected and split on-site, and local masons would develop their own style of laying the stone, often using board-forms to hold them in place.

bungalow porch 2

There’s plenty of design talk these days about indoor-outdoor living, but it tends to focus on the backyard. Magazines and internet alike are full of open kitchen and dining areas with seamless access out back. But we think there’s something delightful about an old-school, porch version of seasonal living, and it’s all about the front.

Part of the appeal of Birmingham’s older neighborhoods is the focus on sidewalks. These communities were built before cars were a way of life and assumed folks would pass each other on the street, or at least wave from the front porch. We think the renewed focus on city living is a chance to rediscover close-knit communities, and the porch is a key part of that.

We may be partial, but a porch always feels like home.

YP Tips: Collect Art Without Breaking the Bank

“Almost nothing makes a home feel more finished and considered than art hung neatly on the walls, but achieving that is often easier said than done.” – Jill Singer for Refinery 29

Image via Naked Art Gallery

You know you can’t live with blank home or office walls forever, and that a clearance canvas from Bed, Bath, & Beyond is a total cop-out. But you also have limited luxury dollars and zero degrees in art history, so you end up stuck in your own style inertia. You can do better, though, and Naked Art Gallery can help.

Located in charming Forest Park Village, Naked Art isn’t is dedicated to making art collecting a hobby for everyone, not just a high society crowd. “The name ‘Naked Art’ was chosen because we want you to understand and appreciate all of the artists’ work with the ‘naked eye’, without intimidating, ‘hi-brow’ hidden meanings,” the gallery website explains. “We also make a real effort to keep the prices reasonable because we strongly feel that art should be within everyone’s reach.”  

Everyday art fits well with Forest Park Village’s genteel Bohemian atmosphere. After all, it’s the neighborhood of vintage sequins at Zoe’s consignment and garden cocktails at Little Savannah. That bohemian vibe is what allows affordable apartments to coexist with historic brick condos and Forest Park’s grand detached homes. Like art you love, it’s a neighborhood that can grow with you. And Naked Art is a great source at any life stage.

Still not convinced? Consider what owning local art says about you as a young professional: It says that you’re paying attention. It says that you’re driven by value, not status. There’s an authenticity to local art, a commitment to community that folks look well on here. Most importantly, local art is a low-key way to personalize your space without the pressure of big money collecting. It’s a worthwhile investment that doesn’t have to be a large one.

To help speed your shopping, some favorite Naked Art artists who produce affordable work:

Scott Thigpen –  digital prints ranging from cute to ever so slightly weird, but not so much so that it’ll cost you clients.

Chad Moore – a play on scale and action figures at local Birmingham scenes, or what Naked Art calls, “Photography with a twisted sense of humor.”

Veronique Vanblaere – record sleeve doodles, which steps your collection up a notch from interesting cover art.

Shawna Ross – charming acrylic canvases for soft color and a touch of cute; we dare your visitors to ignore the ocelot eyes.

Eric Johnson – metal art of local landmarks, perfect for adding shape and texture with rustic materials that work in most any space.

Jill Marlar – intaglio prints offer nearly photographic views of Birmingham sites, with prominent clouds for a touch of whimsy.