Filed under: AL, Alabama Politics, baseball, Birmingham, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, Civic Engagement, Civil Rights, Commentary, Cooper River Bridge Run, Dr. Martin Luther King, News Media (as source & subject), people, The Birmingham News, The Rambles, urban issues
The nuances of the 2007 mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Alabama have begun, despite efforts to the contrary. Though it speaks to a much broader issue.
Councilwoman Valerie Abbott presented a resolution at the most recent city council meeting that has been adopted by “…167 cities and towns in 40 states, representing more than 16.9 million people” according to the National League of Cities official website, specifically the page describing their Partnership for Working Towards Inclusive Communities. Rather than repost the resolution here for those that are not familiar with it, I’ll link to Kathy’s post of the document. I found it slightly disturbing that the resolution did not pass, especially considering this council’s somewhat public record of supporting initiatives that would lead the city towards what many consider its rightful place among the South’s elite. I’d read before hopping on a plane for an extremely long flight back from Seattle that the resolution would be reintroduced with opportunities to tweak as necessary, so I figured that it was only a matter of time before the council approved words that better reflected their agenda, though I was starting to doubt just what that agenda is.
Then, as I’m getting ready to run the Cooper River Bridge Run Saturday morning (I’m runner #26726 – results are normally up late Saturday if you’re interested) I decide to hop on my friend’s laptop and see what the latest is from town. Imagine my surprise when I see that a resolution will be introduced at Tuesday meeting by Frank Matthews apologizing for slavery that will be introduced by Councilor Hoyt. (FYI - comments are closed for the linked News article post.)
At first glance, it would make some sense, except when you realize that the city of Birmingham did not exist until after the end of the Civil War. Slavery could be pointed to as a reason for the levels of racial discrimination that still at times seem to permeate the city even as members of the same race nitpick about what it truly means to be “black” or “white” as we progress into the 21st century. I guess it bothers me plenty considering that this will probably be finished at 1 a.m. and I have to be awake at 5:20 a.m. (though you probably won’t be reading this until 7:30 a.m., about the time every year when I ask myself why in the world am I getting ready to run over this bridge AGAIN?) Read on though… (more…)
Filed under: AL, Architecture, B'ham Wiki, Birmingham, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, BJCC, Cities, Commentary, Legion Field, The Rambles, urban issues
The numerous online forums here in town are always interesting to click through, especially when there is a hot button issue dominating the boards. In recent weeks, the issue in question is the expansion of the BJCC and the development of an entertainment district for the convention center district by Performa Entertainment Real Estate, Inc.
The development of the entertainment district is a no-brainer; locating such an attraction near Malfunction Junction provides visibility near one of the busiest intersections for interstate traffic in the Southeastern United States. The area’s redevelopment will most likely generate additional revenue for the city and the county through encouraging passersby to stop and take a moment to find out just what’s happening around town.
The more interesting debate among those that take place in the forums is the one about the expansion of the BJCC. Everyone points to all of these reasons why the expansion must include a 70,000 seat “dome” and not a 40,000 seat “arena”. In a city that is quick to point out how quickly something is out of date and needs to be replaced, maybe the real issue is whether or not the current situation is really broken. Maybe it’s also a case of deciding whether political grandstanding in an election year will keep us from exploring the possibility of doing what is truly best for the city and the region.
Legion Field is currently sitting by minding her own business, waiting for people to decide a fate that is not based on whether or not it can be salvaged and reborn, leading a renaissance of an area, but rather whether or not it’s heir apparent can support one game out of the year that locals most identify with it. I will not say I’ve taken an extensive poll, but I have heard from several people that they come to the Magic City Classic not as much for the game, but for the tailgating and the socializing. Neither of these issues would be addressed with a new facility downtown, though general parking for those that do attend the game for… well, the game would be, relieving many from being worried about being blocked into someone’s personal lot by others that want to stay for the entire experience.
Now I am one of the biggest proponents of seeing this city’s downtown grow and thrive, however this is an opportunity to take advantage of an existing asset and help bring back a great community. Yes, I said great community. My last merchants association meeting took place at Rickwood Field this week. I decided to drive down 5th Avenue North to get to the ballpark, taking me past Legion Field’s front door and through its neighborhood. I’ll save my piece on Rickwood’s needs for a later date…
The area surrounding Legion Field still has signs of its commercial past, one that would have been its entertainment district of the day, and one that would not be that hard to return to the area. The field still hosts international events, including the upcoming Futbol Internacional opening event next month. The field serves a purpose and provides a backdrop that few other cities can provide in the age of the enclosed multipurpose facility. In an ideal situation, the expanded BJCC could be hosting a concert and a convention while the Magic City Classic or an event like it takes place on the West Side and something else is happening at both Railroad Reservation Park and Fair Park. In other words, the urban synergy that so many people talk about would actually be taking place. The area around Legion Field is worthy of seeing some additional investment in it, though it will not come until someone decides that renovating one of the most revered structures for football in the South can be done.
This is a case where it is not an all or nothing proposition; you can have as much as you desire. I’ve had people tell me why you have to have an expanded BJCC or a renovated Legion Field. Why can’t you have both? While naming rights are not necessarily the purist’s way of dealing with issues, selling the naming rights for Legion Field and using the funds generated from that “sale” to upgrade the facility would allow for football games and the real reason that many come out, the idea of “sitting out in the elements” to enjoy the game or event, to rule the day. The need for expansion is definite, however let’s not forget about what makes Birmingham, Alabama unique.
Share ‘em if you got ‘em. One more later on today…
Filed under: AL, Architecture, Birmingham, Birmingham Alabama, Birmingham, AL, Cities, News Media (as source & subject), preservation, The Birmingham News, urban issues
This morning the city’s Design Review Committee narrowly approved demolition of the former home of the Birmingham News at 2200 4th Avenue North. The building will be removed to provide dedicated assigned parking for employees of Birmingham, Alabama’s daily newspaper. The parking will be fenced with brick piers, using trees and shrubs to edge the property. A compactor will be refaced with brick to match the design of the fence and the new home for the paper, located directly across the street.
During the presentation to the committee Hanson informed committee members that he had been able to acquire original drawings of the building as well as drawings that showed additional modifications to the 1917 structure. He also agreed to document the building’s exterior and interior using digital and traditional photography as well as video, submitting these items to the city’s archives. Hanson told those in attendance that efforts were made to transfer the entryway of the original structure to the new building, completed last year. Research led to that decision being scrapped after learning that what was believed to be stone was in fact terra cotta.
Hanson told the committee that it will take up to eleven months to complete the changes to the site. The project must still return to the committee for approval of its landscaping plan and to provide visuals of what the view will be with your back against the existing structure looking across the street. If you want to get some pictures of the old building for nostalgia, now’s the time to do it.
Enjoy the day!
Existing site plan
Site plan after demolition