2012 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, Al 35203

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Tag: magic city

First Avenue Rocks and Birmingham's Fitness Trail

Image via First Avenue Rocks

In our experience, folks move to Birmingham’s urban core looking for a different kind of lifestyle, for unique offerings that aren’t available throughout the metro area. With its functional fitness attitude and pop art palette, the First Avenue Rocks climbing gym does not disappoint.

First Avenue Rocks is perfect when you want a modern, minimalist fitness approach along with a sense of fun. It’s exercise for folks who like camaraderie but hate group classes. And while sitting down and watching will prompt questioning expressions in most gyms, it’s the norm here.

This gym is not the kind of place where you drop in for a quick workout. Folks hang around to watch other people’s technique and soak up the strategy used to execute a tough route. But that casual communal learning makes it especially beginner-friendly.

And unlike the large-scale climbing wall at UAB, First Avenue Rocks does not require assisted climbing. The focus is on indoor bouldering, so you can pretty literally walk in as an absolute beginner and start climbing. Individual instruction is available if you’d like some guidance, though.

Either way, we think a session at First Avenue Rocks is a great way to embrace the area.

There’s a toughness about climbing that makes sense for the gym’s semi-industrial location between the Loft District and Lakeview. For years it’s been a place that’s convenient but off the beaten path. Lying just past the coming Rotary Trail, it’s in a strip of low brick buildings that have seen a gradual sprucing as surrounding districts grow toward each other.

Soon the Rotary Trail will connect those districts and add another marker of accessible fitness attitude in the area. After all, there’s the line of trails from Railroad Park to Sloss Furnaces, free group fitness at Railroad Park, and a drop-in-friendly climbing gym, all along First Avenue South. In fact, the just-released Parkside neighborhood branding promises a health-minded mobile mindset.

We’ve heard that urban environments are good for fitness by encouraging people to move more in their daily lives. Morgan Spurlock talked about the daily fitness fix of his New York life a decade ago in Supersize Me. But the development trajectory here goes above and beyond that standard.

There’s neighborhood walkability, after all, and there’s neighborhood fitness friendliness, which is another amenity altogether. If you’re looking for a healthy community lifestyle, this might be the area for you.

Building Bham: Made in the Magic City

Image via Made in the Magic City

Ever wonder what screen printing sounds like? Like a squeegee, mostly, though the Birmingham version – as documented by Made in the Magic City – also features a break in drum beat courtesy of St. Paul & the Broken Bones.

The Made in the Magic City web series kicked off with a feature on local screen printing company Yellowhammer Creative, just as they were prepping concert posters for St. Paul’s 2013 Art on the Rocks show. “At the time it was really exciting having camera crews following us around,” said Yellowhammer Co-Founder Brandon Watkins. “It made us feel like big shots when we were just, you know, screen printers.”

But Brett Forsyth, Yellowhammer’s other creative half, thinks the audience felt a bit of that stardust too: “I think folks generally really liked it and were really excited to see somebody showing folks in the city trying to do things for the city – and actually for themselves as well – but also kind of shove the city forward.”

For those of us who grew up here, Birmingham often felt like a city trapped in time, an afterthought to the suburban sprawl. It was a nice enough place to live but not a place where interesting things happened.

Made in the Magic City is working hard to change that perspective, featuring people you haven’t necessarily heard of, no matter how plugged in you think you are. “People can’t imagine that the sort of cool things that are happening in other places are happening here, that the kind of people they read about living and working in other places are living and working in Birmingham,” said Chloe Collins, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival.

Collins also sees the series as a crucial archiving project: “I think it’s super important for us to embrace sort of a new way of record keeping” she explained, “…and using film is probably the best way to do that.”

The series is documenting Birmingham as it is now in this moment of transition, moving forward from its complicated past without abandoning it, writes co-creator Ryan Kindahl, and it’s a job no one else has taken on. Kindahl and series co-creator Dan King are also co-owners of local production company 2threefive. Made in the Magic City is their web-based labor of love.

Image via Made in the Magic City

As with any pet project, the challenge is protecting it from the pressure to prioritize paid work, Kindahl explained, and their initial production goal of one feature per month has slipped by (they’ve produced 7 over the last 18 months or so). Now they’re raising money on Kickstarter to pay for the series and help keep it going. With a fully-funded campaign, King and Kindahl promise six month’s worth of stories.

The crowdsourced funding strategy also means a chance for greater community involvement in the series: “This can be a complete citywide project that everyone can be involved in and everyone can be proud of,” Kindahl said. And remember, Kickstarter is something you can do even in the midst of a post-Thanksgiving food coma.

So go on and be an armchair activist and click here. But do it now. The funding deadline is tomorrow at 7pm.

It's Nice To Have You In Birmingham

You may have noticed this already, but just to be clear: We really (really, really) love Birmingham. Like, we love it so much we want to marry it. (And we might as well have, since we’ve built our livelihoods around it.)

We’ve made a habit of passing along the great Birmingham stories we’ve seen, but it seemed like we could do more. We live, work, and play here, after all, and we can think of lots of reasons you should too.

Topping our list right now are the folks behind the Magic City Mural Collective, who are set to begin their fourth project this month with Trim Tab Brewery. Their most ambitious piece to date, the completed Trim Tab mural will shout “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham” from 120 feet of rooftop to all passersby on the Red Mountain Expressway.

The funding process was ambitious too, relying on an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign. (Remember? We shared it back in July.) In the end, they raised $9,652 dollars in 44 days from 168 people.

The mural will be a lovely visual, but why put so much energy into what is basically a giant, non-profit love letter to distracted drivers? Because just like all of us at H2 Real Estate, the collective believes that spaces can connect people.

“As a community we are creating landmarks,” they explained. “Ideas and Energy that we are choosing to broadcast, and there’s something important about that choice. Choosing to do it together may be the most important part of all.”

You could say it’s the chance for a little bit of magic. We look forward to sharing more of it with you.