Expert: Birmingham can be the most walkable city in the South

Birmingham Alabama
Birmingham Alabama
Rotary Trail – photo from Freshwater Land Trust

Last week, at the conclusion of a two day tour of Birmingham, Christopher Coes,  Vice President at Smart Growth America and a leading expert on transportation and walkable communities declared that Birmingham can be one of the most walkable cites in the South.

Coes  made the proclamation during a presentation at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Southern States Exchange  2018 tour.  A number of the South’s leading regional planners, developers and community leaders were in attendance.

ULI Southern State Exchange 2018 participants at Sloss Furnaces. Photo from Catherine Sloss Jones

The event was hosted by the ULI Alabama chapter. The focus of the ULI  Southern States Exchange is to learn what neighboring Southern cities are doing to improve the urban landscape and revitalize their neighborhoods and cities. The Exchange has toured  Louisiana  and Memphis in previous years.

Titled Renaissance in the Magic City, ULI Exchange participants got to tour the Civil Rights District, Pepper Place, Railroad Park, Rotary Trail, Sloss Furnaces, UAB, Vulcan Park, Thomas Jefferson Hotel, Alabama Theatre, Lyric Theatre, Pizitz Hall, and the 1st Avenue North Loft District. Sally Mackin, Executive Director of the Woodlawn Foundation also addressed the group.

ULI Birmingham
Cheryl Morgan, former director of the Auburn Design Studio provided a walking tour of downtown Birmingham
Birmingham is so authentic
Christopher Coes

“What is happening here in Birmingham is so authentic,” stated Coes.

“Birmingham is viewed as the most affordable city in the Southeast according to Forbes magazine. People are moving here because Atlanta, Charlotte, DC are too expensive.  Companies want to be here because there are great universities, great talent and a rich history.”

Florentine Birmingham
ULI Southeast Exchange luncheon at  historic Florentine. Photo from Bham Now.

Along with affordability,  Coes pointed out several reasons why Birmingham is poised to become a more walkable city.

“One of the first steps that Birmingham can do right now is maintain the course it is on around creating the Bus Rapid Transit corridor.  It is not just about the bus system. It is about how you knit together the neighborhoods and community to make them all more walkable,” noted Coes.

Birmingham Intermodal Facility – photo by Hunter Drinkard for Bham Now

According to Coes, federal funding is available for communities near new railroad intermodal facilities which coincides with the opening of Birmingham’s new facility that opened last month. The city’s efforts to pass a new Complete Streets ordinance  will also provide greater pedestrian access and a new tool to make the Magic City  more walkable.

Cathy Sloss Jones, Chair of the ULI-Alabama summed up the significance of Coes’s comments about Birmingham’s emergence as a walkable city.

“Chris gets money on the ground to make more walkable, vibrant, and sustainable communities. When he says Birmingham can be the most walkable city in the South – that’s saying something.”

Want to learn if  your neighborhood is “walkable”?  Get your “Walk Score” – HERE.

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.