“A destination for innovation.” The Switch is coming to downtown Birmingham

The Switch
The pink grid is the area now classified as “The Switch.” Map courtesy of REV Birmingham

Downtown Birmingham just. keeps. going. Big plans have been getting announced left and right, and we are loving in energy in our Magic City. A new brand for Birmingham’s innovation district was just unveiled, and we’ve got all the details.

The Switch

Video courtesy of REV Birmingham.

Birmingham has become a true hub of innovation, with new business and tech startups appearing all the time. The epicenter for all this entrepreneurial energy consolidated in one area of downtown, which gained the nickname “innovation district.”

That district is getting rebranded. Meet “The Switch.” By description, The Switch is a place for innovators and startups to go – both physically and digitally – for information, resources and community.

“Entrepreneurs and startups are building a new economy in Birmingham. This city’s educational institutions, corporations, governmental organizations and others in the ecosystem are committed to helping them succeed.

The Switch will provide a place for people, ideas and resources to come together and create a destination for innovation in our community.”

Ray L. Watts, President, University of Alabama at Birmingham

What’s in a name?

Switch map "A destination for innovation." The Switch is coming to downtown Birmingham
Spot the Historic 14th Street Switchyard. Map courtesy of REV Birmingham

The Switch.” Why the name? Well, it all has to do with Birmingham’s rich history—specifically, the history of this exact location.

“The name ‘The Switch’ has layered meaning for this district. The block around Innovation Depot orignally came to live as a railroad switchyard, and the oldest buildings still trace the curve of the former tracks.

Now, The Switch speaks to the information that flows here. Birmingham has made a ‘switch’ from our industrial roots to a tech and innovation-based economy, which is building a more vibrant and sustainable future for our city.”

David Fleming, President and CEO, REV Birmingham

As their website states: “Where trains once drove, innovation now flows.” Pretty clever, if you ask me.

So, what comes with the new name?

Screenshot 2019 12 26 at 6.41.17 PM "A destination for innovation." The Switch is coming to downtown Birmingham
New decade. New master plan for Birmingham. Photo via downtownbhamplan.com

Well, it’s all part of downtown Birmingham’s master plan. The whole area is getting redeveloped and revitalized piece by piece according to a strategy that’s been years in the making.

For The Switch, in particular, the goal is to encourage and foster the startup energy Birmingham has already developed.

“The Switch is a great tool to help us attract and retain innovative businesses and startups in Birmingham.

…we continue to bridge the gap and make it easier to start and grow a business in Birmingham as we compete in an innovation economy.”

Fred McCallum, interim president and CEO, Birmingham Business Alliance

What’s the draw?

The epicenter of innovation for the city. Photo via The Switch

Ok, so the whole idea of The Switch centers around bringing in innovation. So what makes this particular area attractive to startups and entrepreneurs? Several elements:

  • Easy access to area expressways, the airport, public transportation and the Central Business District
  • A home in a district rich in historic buildings primed for redevelopment
  • Gigabit Internet connectivity
  • Walkability to more than 2,000 residential units and Railroad Park
  • Connectivity to the Civil Rights District and the Fourth Avenue Business District

Leaders also have plans to build out a suite of tools on their website over the next year that will provide resources for entrepreneurs, companies and developers. Think—links to local organizations equipped to help with needs, from business development to real estate.

Who’s making it happen?

CRDIDmap "A destination for innovation." The Switch is coming to downtown Birmingham
The Civil Rights District and the Innovation District (now The Switch) make up key parts of downtown Birmingham’s northwest quadrant. Photo via Sharron Swain for Bham Now

REV Birmingham, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham Business Alliance are leading The Switch initiative. However, they’re not the only players in the game.

The Switch connects to the Civil Rights District and Fourth Avenue Business District, all of which celebrate different aspects of economic growth, business development, opportunity, equality and inclusion. These three areas make up the Northwest Quadrant—REV Birmingham and Urban Impact are taking the reins on the master plan for this area.

There are a TON of community partners playing all sorts of roles in this huge downtown redevelopment and revitalization. After all, it takes a village to rebuild a city… or something like that.

Want to learn more?

Parkside Rendering 4 "A destination for innovation." The Switch is coming to downtown Birmingham
Parkside is going through a whole lot of exciting change as part of this project. Rendering via Orchestra Partners

Bham Now is all about the growth of Birmingham. We’ve been covering new updates on the downtown progress as they develop. If you want to dive deep, here are a few highlights to check out:

If you have more questions about The Switch, visit their website to read all about it.

As always, be sure to stay tuned to Bham Now and never miss an update on the latest and greatest in Birmingham news.

Beth Cunningham
Beth Cunningham

A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.

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