Wade on Birmingham

The Future of Birmingham: TBD

Regions Field, National Anthem

Photo: Rob Briscoe (CC)

Cub Scouts hold the flag during the National Anthem at Regions Field. The ballpark’s opening in 2013 brought the Barons back to Birmingham and changed the city’s landscape.

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Details at the end.

By Carrie Rollwagen

The Future of BirminghamBirmingham is a city that’s both hopeful and humble. As a transplant to this place, I’ve been impressed by the ability of Birminghamians to remain hopeful for change. Lately, that has been rewarded with some amazing projects growing out of that optimism.

Community and civic involvement

Our city’s nasty history with civil rights includes so much tragedy that we should do our best to honor the sacrifices of those Birminghamians. We do this by taking an active interest in our civil rights and government.

Many problems that still plague our city — the sad state of Birmingham schools, our Jefferson County bankruptcy and the abysmal condition of our virtually nonexistent public transportation system — could be solved if more of us took an active role in our political system. The story of Alabama politics is a story so laced with corruption that it’s hard to imagine anything different, but lately Birmingham has changed in ways that give us hope.

Read an excerpt from Carrie Rollwagen’s
book, “The Localist.”

Birmingham, especially downtown, looks so different than even what the most optimistic supporters imagined years ago. I lived in a loft at the Phoenix Building on Second Avenue North about a decade ago. I couldn’t buy groceries nearby, I couldn’t find a coffee shop that stayed open regular hours, and I certainly couldn’t watch a baseball game.

Now, Regions Field has brought the Barons back to the city, and I regularly go to Railroad Park to read or have a picnic. Community development projects downtown have buoyed business (I now have my choice of great coffee shops: Urban Standard, Octane and Revelator), and they’re attracting new stores to the area (Publix will finally bring a full grocery store to downtown residents in 2016).

Businesses like these are important to the growth of our city, but community projects like parks and stadiums create infrastructure that brings people together (and attracts more business to the area, too).

A hidden benefit to this civic activity is better health. Like all American cities, and especially all Southern ones, Birmingham has a weight problem. Too many of us carry so much weight that affects our health, not to mention our image of ourselves. Being overweight can make us sluggish and unwilling to try new things in our city.

We can help ourselves by nurturing the small businesses and community projects that get us up and moving. Iron Tribe is a huge CrossFit organization that began in Birmingham. Zyp, the new bike share program from REV Birmingham, will give us opportunities to get from place to place more easily in the city center. And we have dozens of small local gyms in almost any discipline to keep us continually active, along with free fitness classes at Railroad Park.

So many individuals work hard to do good in our city, but we aren’t always great at rallying behind them. Our future will be stronger if we create a culture of volunteering and prioritize helping those in need. More organizations need to make it easy to jump in.

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Social Media for Small Business and Personal Branding: Carrie Rollwagen will hold her daylong popup workshop on Sept. 19 at Innovation Depot downtown. Participants will learn blog management, keyword optimization techniques, techniques on communicating through social media and more.

Beginners will get a good start on their personal accounts and learn how to leverage business accounts; freelancers and artists will learn to brand themselves better with social media.

Tickets are $100, which includes lunch. For more information and to register, visit the event page.

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Carrie RollwagenCarrie Rollwagen is author of “The Localist” and co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books in Mountain Brook.

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The Future of BirminghamThe full version of this essay and many more are available in the free ebook, “The Future of Birmingham.”

All you need to do is fill out this simple form. We’ll email you a link to download the book. (And, at no extra charge, we’ll add you to the mailing list for the free Y’all Connect newsletter.)


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Read more essays in our special 10th anniversary series, The Future of Birmingham.

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