9 things you need to know about CityWalk BHAM, under the 59/20 bridges in Birmingham (PHOTOS)

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People looking at renderings for CityWalk BHAM
Birmingham residents looking at plans for CityWalk Birmingham, a linear public space that will be under the 59/20 bridges. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) recently hosted public meetings at Boutwell Auditorium where people could come review plans for CityWalk BHAM.

Three of us from Bham Now went and bumped into local architects, planners and lots of people who work with ALDOT. Everyone wanted to take a look at what will be under the bridges, now that they’re getting closer to completion. Keep reading to find out what we learned.

1—CityWalk BHAM is brought to Birmingham through the Federal Highway Administration through ALDOT

CityWalk BHAM
CityWalk BHAM: where Birmingham connects. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

One of the things we learned is that CityWalk BHAM will be a unique type of public space for Birmingham. We can think of it as a gift of sorts, from the Federal Highway Administration through ALDOT. What this means is that the land is all on a public right of way, and the federal government is going to build us a nice public space.

Of course this raises the question of who will take care of the space once it’s built. Word on the street is that The BJCC hopes to add CityWalk to its family of venues.

Whether that happens or not, right now, ALDOT, the City of Birmingham and The BJCC are working closely to ensure the project’s success.

All that sounds like a win for Birmingham.

2—There are 265 parking spaces in the current plan . . . and a dog park!

Dog park and parking at CityWalk BHAM
Dog park and parking. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

We know from past stories about the 59/20 bridge project and The BJCC that parking is on Birmingham residents’ minds, so we asked Paul Darr of Barge Design for the inside scoop.

Bottom line: before the highway revamp, there were about 400 spaces under the highway. Current plans include approximately 265 spots. In planner lingo there will be “surface parking lots and on street parking.”

Yes, we did the math. So this is a net loss of 135. And, we hear rumors of new parking solutions coming in the not-too-distant future for this part of town, so hang tight and we’ll get you details as soon as they’re finalized.

3—CityWalk BHAM will start at 15th Street and go ’till 25th Street, covering 10 city blocks under the highway. Here’s the westernmost area.

Open spaces for recreational sports at CityWalk BHAM
Open spaces for recreational sports could be part of the public space. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

We’re not sure how set each of these areas is. We got the sense that these were proposed ideas, and how it really turns out will play out over time. But for now, it seems fun to have a place for soccer, ultimate, or other sports under the bridges.

4—Moving east, here’s the next proposed area of CityWalk BHAM for social space and action sports. Could it really include a skate park?

Skate park at CityWalk BHAM
Could Birmingham finally get a skate park? Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Anyone who’s ever watched the guys skateboarding in the bowls at Railroad Park, or who remembers that skate park that was at Homewood Park for approximately five minutes knows the city could use a skate park. It’s fun to imagine that we might get one. Or a climbing wall, which could be fun, too.

5—Next up, a performance space and outdoor classroom

performance space at CityWalk BHAM
So many ideas for a linear public space. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

It’s so interesting seeing how designers envision segmenting a 10-block linear public space into different programmable areas.

6—CityWalk BHAM’s Central Pavilion can be a place for all kinds of fun activities

Central pavilion ideas
Central pavilion ideas. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

So much of the success of a public space like this will depend on the programming, marketing and upkeep. That said, exercise classes, public art and dance classes would certainly liven up the area!

7—The pop-up retail / market / street bazaar could add a lot to Birmingham’s street life scene

Wouldn’t a street bazaar be 💯? Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Right across from The Pizitz, where Bham Now works, we’re getting a taste of pop-up retail with Rev’s Upswing. It’s fun to look out into a previously blank space and see shipping container shops. I’ve lived in cities that had vibrant street markets, and it really adds to the vibe of the city.

8—The outdoor food hall / art park could add even more to the street scene at CityWalk BHAM

Outdoor food hall / art park
Imagine meeting your friends for a bite to eat under the bridge . . . Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Everybody loves to eat, and public art makes everything just feel better, so it’s cool to imagine this part of the public space.

In case you’re wondering, the dog park fits between here and the gateway park. We just put it near the top because we knew y’all have parking on the brain.

9—The Gateway Park can be CityWalk BHAM’s gateway to the Eastern side of town

proposed gateway park as part of CityWalk BHAM
Proposed gateway park. Photo by Nathan Watson for Bham Now

With potential green spaces, raised beds and water features, this could be a nice segue to the eastern side of town.


Now tell us, Birmingham, what do you think of these ideas for CityWalk BHAM? What are you most hoping for in an under-the bridge public space? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know!

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Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference