Birmingham is one of those towns I have hesitant feelings about. On one hand, Birmingham feels like a forgotten gem in the rough, starving to experience a rebirth, while on the other it feels downright dusty, dirty and old, subsisting mostly off a university hospital and few financial institutions with large buildings in town.
I have spent a few weeks in Birmingham doing client work over the last few years in a row now and at each return, I never cease to be amazed at just how little has changed since my last visit. I am also always shocked that the town is almost completely devoid of traffic (or even people for that matter), even in the heart of rush-hour.
At 7am, where traffic would be backed up for hours in most cities, I have found myself wondering around abandoned streets in the heart of the Birmingham downtown, snooping around almost completely uninterrupted.
Wondering around in Birmingham always makes me wonder what the city was like back in its hey-day. Exploring the 4th Avenue District suggests that Birmingham used to have a vibrant theater and entertainment district, but today it is mostly boarded over.
Here and there you might find signs of life such as some nice urban art, but for the most part even the large buildings topped by corporate logos appear almost uninhabited.
Venture south a few blocks towards UAB and the atmosphere changes a bit. You can find a decent restaurant to grab some shrimp and grits…
Or sample some super tasty local brew…
By the end of the week, I am always ready to pack up and head home, but I do always wonder what I could really discover in the city if I tried to scratch below the surface. Is there more to be explored?
Maybe one day I’ll visit for pleasure, capture some amazing photos and truly get acquainted with the town.