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Tag: parkside birmingham

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.

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.

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.

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 Events: Barons Begin 2016 Home Games

“Regions Field has emerged as such a fixture of the city and of downtown in particular, and to me, it represents a lot of the optimism, the excitement for where the city is going, and that’s something we really want to be a part of now and forever.” – Harris Stewart, owner of Trim Tab Brewing Co., to AL.com


regions field birmingham


There are many markers of spring – the time change, the equinox – but in Birmingham there’s only one that really matters. Spring isn’t officially here until the Barons are, which means spring 2016 begins today, April 12. It’s the season of Thirsty Thursdays, racing tacos, and the occasional kiss cam proposal. Mostly, though, it’s the season where we remember how great it is to be in Birmingham right now.

From the skyline views to the brand new beer garden, Barons games are a celebration of Birmingham. The team has built its brand around “civic pride” the Birmingham Business Journal reported, and that investment has paid big dividends. Their Parkside stadium setup “helped the city rank among the top half of minor league markets by the Sports Business Journal,” according to the BBJ.

Regions Field has become not just a sports venue but a full-on destination. Good People Brewing Company Co-Owner Michael Sellers compared the field’s Birmingham sign to the iconic Hollywood letters, telling news station WVTM that it constantly draws a crowd for pictures.

To visit Regions Field and the Parkside district is to simultaneously inhabit Birmingham’s past and its future. It is to enjoy both simple outdoor pleasures and the exhilarating challenge of this city’s rebirth. So much of what’s good and bad in this city can be told through the baseball lens, and the new Negro Southern League Museum nearby helps honor Birmingham’s complicated history.

Yet, the sheer presence of so much growth around Regions Field is a reminder of all that is possible. Where once the Barons were part of a revitalization outpost, they’re now features of a recognized community. Having America’s pastime return to Birmingham was the experiment that proved the Railroad Park hypothesis: People want to spend time in Birmingham. We have to keep giving them reasons to.

Bham Development: Rotary Trail in the Magic City

rotary trail birmingham


Our city used to be connected by streetcars. Neighborhoods like Five Points South sprang up as “streetcar suburbs” where the city’s workers domiciled within an easy ride of its center. But with Birmingham’s most dramatic growth happening closer in, we’re seeing something of a technological reversal. We’re seeing less focus on expanding outward but on linking inward.  We’re seeing greenways become the streetcars of this century, with Rotary Trail their flagship route.

Rotary Trail, REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming told AL.com in 2013, “expands momentum from ground zero around the Railroad Park and the new baseball field and extends it to another area of downtown.” The spatial continuity of that growth is central to REV’s mission, he explained, so it’s important that Rotary “helps connect districts with each other.”

When the trail opens on April 6, we’ll suddenly have a pedestrian and bike-specific route from Parkside to Pepper Place. It will be a scenic yet efficient underpass for low-tech transit.

But the best part about Rotary Trail is that it isn’t just a passageway. Yes, it can get you speedily from points A to B, but it does so much more. This is no mere rails-t0-trails program, after all, but a high design urban space. The multi-use ethos of its design suggests an exciting future, where spaces aren’t meant simply to serve us but to engage us.

New York City’s High Line — another stunning conversion of an old rail route — created interaction not just in the park space but also between park visitors and surrounding residents. High Line neighbor Patty Heffley began Renegade Cabaret shows on her fire escape, the park’s website explains, and they have since become an official High Line staple. With AL.com reporting an amphitheater space at the Rotary, we’re excited to see what the trail inspires on its sleepy little stretch of First Avenue South.

If you’ve been following locals on Instagram, you’re sure to have seen the Rotary’s sign, inspired one that once stood outside Terminal Station. The new sign is an homage to the past, Rotarian Cheryl Morgan told AL.com, a trail entrance conceived as “a gesture to our history.” The trail’s other end, she said, “gives the opportunity to look at future development.”

We think the updated sign is also a subtle acknowledgment that there’s no correcting old mistakes. There’s no resurrecting the grand old Terminal Station. All we can offer is a promise: that what’s been lost will be remembered with something beautiful.

Bham Markets: Loft District Rents and the Non-Driving Discount

downtown birmingham


There’s no question that loft district living comes at a premium price, as our own Lynlee Hughes agreed in a recent story for ABC 33/40. But, she pointed out, you’re also getting new construction, in a great location, at a relative bargain compared to cities like Atlanta. Still, other cities may not be the best point of comparison if you’re weighing the rental rates downtown versus other Birmingham neighborhoods of relative convenience. We put together some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations to help you decide whether or not ditching your car for downtown living might actually offset the higher rental costs.

We made a few assumptions in our base calculations. The biggest one was that you’d be within walking distance of work – meaning no car expenses for your daily commute – and weekly essentials, including nightlife. After all, Parkside resident Will Summers told ABC 33/40 that his new place was so convenient day-to-day that his car had been parked for three days. Piggybacking on Summers’ comments, we assumed you could go carless downtown, which is where we see the bulk of savings. For a couple living downtown, we also calculated the savings if neither partner drove to work but you kept one car, living a more or less carless life without going entirely car free.

For expenses, we assumed a 6 mile roundtrip commute to work, roughly the distance from downtown to Forest Park or just over the mountain in Homewood. Using AAA figures, we assumed a cost of 11.2 cents/mile for gas and 5.11 cents/mile in maintenance for the 6-mile daily commute. We also used AAA’s average cost of insurance, $1,115 per year, though AAA admits that number may be dramatically different depending on your location and driving record. Finally, we assumed that if you weren’t living near a nightlife hotspot and wanted to enjoy a few drinks without risking a DUI, you’d be taking a cab or Uber for that 6 mile distance about once per week. We kept that figure the same for a couple, assuming that although sometimes you’d be socializing in different places, you’d also have the occasional built-in designated driver.

All that said, here’s what we found:

A one bedroom apartment in the loft district or Parkside will run you between $1,200 and $1,400 per month (the price Lynlee quoted to 33/40), or between $14,400 and $16,800 per year. Expect to spend $161.28 in gas and $73.58 in maintenance costs for a single person’s work commute, along with $1,115 in insurance and $1,104 in Uber/cab fares per year. That’s $2,453.86 in commuting expenses saved with central living, potentially subsidizing your rent cost down between  $11,946.14 and $14,346.14 per year. Assuming you keep the insurance payment on a car but not the regular commute, you could still save $1,338.86 each year.

You might also consider the commuting time saved. We estimated 30 minutes per work day for a total of 120 hours per year. Of course, you’d still have to walk or bike to work. That might well zero out your time saved, but it would at least offer the benefit of physical activity and cut down on time you’d otherwise spend at the gym.

The Loft District will probably never be our city’s cheapest option, but it can still offer a surprising level of savings. Not to mention a lifestyle that’s hard to beat.

YP Tips: Parkside Lessons in Personal Branding

railroad park

In our social media age, everything and everyone is a brand. Our online presences are carefully crafted avatars for the people we are in real life. We know this to be true, but building our own brands can feel like one more chore at best, and a deeply inauthentic one at worst. To help, we’re exploring one of our favorite current real estate brands: the new Parkside neighborhood.

The website lays out clear boundaries of the 9 x 5 block neighborhood: I-65 to 20th Street, 4th Avenue South to the train tracks. Black-and-white line drawings of neighborhood landmarks fill in the compact map to lay out a district with a strong point of view. Parkside has a concentration of offerings within a discrete, high-design space.

Parkside’s logo is iconic Birmingham imagery reshaped into a railroad park footprint. Its strong linear design and accent curves are just the right level of busy. The logo keeps your eye active, cycling through the surrounding images and the name that connects them all. The font is part deco, part street art, and lots of negative space. We also think it’s influenced by the Birmingham font on Regions field, which is a nice touch.

“There are other mixed-use districts in the city, but Parkside is the first in Birmingham to combine upscale living with an ideal location in the heart of the city, driving toward a walkable, healthier, more diverse future,” the website says. “If you’re looking for the ideal urban neighborhood for the 21st century, look no further.”

Parkside touts a neighborhood with a best-of-both-worlds perspective: local indie offerings and national chain convenience, easy access to the city with some of its best amenities in your own backyard:

Within easy walking distance of the historic Central Business District, the Loft District, UAB, Five Points South and more, Parkside also serves as an urban trailhead to begin your exploration of Birmingham on a human scale, at a human pace—whether that’s on foot, your bike, skateboard, rollerblades, or with the kids in strollers, Parkside is a great jumping off point to experience Birmingham.

So that’s Parkside, but what about your brand? Here are some branding 101 lessons we think Parkside helps illustrate:

Show, don’t tell.

In LinkedIn profiles, as in resumes, a strong turn of phrase matters. But beware of empty words. Focus on showing what you are and fill in from there to follow the ubiquitous “show, don’t tell” writing advice. Parkside takes it a step further with a time-lapse video of the city featured well before any marketing language.

Be a source of information.

Parkside’s site features news about the community from multiple sources, situating itself as a one-stop shop for all neighborhood news. Hootsuite has the following rationale for content curation:

It shows your audience that you know the industry well, that you’re collegial and are aware of competition. It shows that you’re collaborative and confident enough in your own brand to share another’s content. It also doubles your exposure by potentially connecting you to another brand’s audience or online community.

Target a clear audience.

It’s no accident we use words like energetic to describe Parkside’s branding. The fact is, the neighborhood skews young (and YP-friendly, at that). It’s for dedicated urbanites with a sense of adventure, and that’s not a category that describes everyone. But having some limits to your marketing is the way to go, according to the Brown Creative Group. “Remember the best advice that your mother gave you — not everyone will like you, so don’t worry about making them,” the group’s blog notes. “Market to the kinds of consumers that need the services you offer and you’ll see your customer base grow.”

Parkside Spotlight: Railroad Park

railroad park

The thing about Railroad Park is the space. It feels expansive, even though it’s really only a few city blocks. Its native grasses and streams manage to be both manicured and wild. Water drips across a landscape of wide lawns while train tracks highlight a charming city skyline.

We tend to think of it as the most integrated place in the city, not just racially but socioeconomically as well. With fitness classes and special events it’s almost equal parts outdoor community center and urban oasis. And for those who like the convenience of a running track but not the circular monotony, Railroad’s multiple paths and shifting views are a refreshing option.

Most events are both public and free, creating an enduringly democratic feel about the park. This is truly a space for everyone, and that feels like real growth in an oft-divided city. But what’s really generated attention for Railroad, of course, is the role it’s played in Birmingham’s revival. Consider the accolades:

2012 Urban Open Space Award Winner:

Railroad Park occupies the historical seam created by a rail viaduct that bisects downtown Birmingham. The new topography integrates the train experience with a variety of new open-space activities that help organize and stimulate growth in the southern part of downtown while promoting connections north of the railroad.

USA Today’s 10 Best: Parks that have helped revive their cities:

Alabama’s largest city had been an industrial powerhouse that largely ignored its physical environment, [Urban Land Institute CEO Patrick] Phillips says. But this 19-acre park turned a former rail yard into a city showcase with outdoor event spaces, adult exercise areas, a central dining pavilion and high-quality design. “It’s an outstanding transformation.”

Thrillist’s 14 Coolest Urban Spaces (#7):

Once a weed-ravaged eyesore, Birmingham’s 19-acre Railroad Park now boasts nine acres of open lawns, a natural amphitheater, a 2-acre pond, and a series of undulating trails that will make that 3/4 of a mile loop feel like a lot more. If you really want to hit it hard, check out the Muscle Beach, California-style outdoor gym equipment. Or… you could always just sit in the grass and enjoy that free WiFi. Up to you.

Railroad is also helping create a more walkable lifestyle in the city, which may be its most important development contribution. Beyond getting folks out to sweat, it’s helped fill in some dead lands between areas north and south of the tracksa connectedness noted by both the Urban Space Award and Suzanne LaBarre for Co.Design. It’s made an area that you could walk through feel like a neighborhood you want to walk through. One that, as Parkside branding suggests, is best explored on foot.

Perhaps our very favorite part of the Railroad conversation, though, is the suggestion that Birmingham has embraced its own uniqueness. Instead of a sad-sack, downsized re-creation of innovation in bigger cities, Railroad Park has laid its own track: “At a time when several American cities want to build their own High Line, Railroad Park is an object lesson in how a small metropolis can create an affordable, valuable public park by exploiting the stuff it’s got instead of mindlessly aping the particulars of west-side Manhattan,” LaBarre opined.

But there are also folks suggesting we shouldn’t rest on our development laurels. The Birmingham Business Journal’s Ty West says now’s the time for another Railroad-level move, without the usual dance of dragging our feet. And we tend to agree. “It means we need to find a transformative project, idea or initiative that we’ve been talking about for years, build the necessary consensus and make it happen,” he writes. The only question is, where is it?