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As part of Bham Now’s neighborhood series, we’re taking a look at Birmingham’s Grasselli community. It’s home to an award-winning culinary arts program and a university that partnered with the tech giant, Apple, to expand coding education opportunities throughout the state. Lastly, there’s a local fashion designer that you’ll want to keep on your radar.
Where is Grasselli?
Grasselli sits southwest of the city center. It sits between Midfield and Vestavia, right above the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Oxmoor Valley. The community consists of six of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods, including:
- Grasselli Heights
- Hillman Park
- Industrial Center
- Tarpley City
- West Goldmire
A little bit about Grasselli
I’m a Birmingham native yet have managed to somehow never hear someone refer to Grasselli. It’s a shame because it’s a pretty cool name if you ask me. Grasselli is an industrial community with parts being originally developed as residential neighborhoods for the managers at the Grasselli Chemical Company.
In the early 1900s this manufacturer of chemicals was breaking down barriers by promoting company culture, unlike most large corporations at the time. Their programs would seek to improve employee health, loyalty and overall welfare to attract a stable workforce. Seems like a no-brainer now but back then, that was a big deal.
So what’s there to do in Grasselli?
Despite being a highly industrial and residential area, I was pleasantly surprised to see that several notable local spots are in Grasselli.
Haskell Hideaway at Red Mountain Park
One thing that this neighborhood guide has taught me is that several Birmingham neighborhoods make up Red Mountain Park. One trail could be in Grasselli and a few miles down, you could be in Southwest.
My personal fave spot is the Haskell Hideaway located in the West Goldmire neighborhood. It’s the Instagram-worthy rope bridge and treehouse that everyone takes a picture at to prove they hiked for once…or is that just me?
The hike to Haskell Hideaway is an easy trail with rewarding views of Birmingham. Not to mention, it’s a safe activity to do while we’re still experiencing a global pandemic.
Wenonah High School
The Tarpley City neighborhood is home to Wenonah High School. Since 1948, the high school has paved the pathway for young students to enter into a career or higher education. The campus is equipped with a career-technical wing containing an electronics classroom and a fully equipped commercial kitchen for the school’s culinary arts program. There are also classrooms dedicated to welding and cosmetology. How many high schools can say they have these features?
Wenonah High School recently made headlines when their Hospitality and Tourism Academy won a prestigious award before heading into the school year when Birmingham City Schools open for remote learning on September 8.
The National Academy Foundation held its annual conference online and awarded Wenonah with the Sanford I. Weill Award, the highest level of achievement. According to WBRC, Coordinator Angela Smith attributed the program’s success to partnerships and said:
“Our students are required through the national academy foundation to perform an internship with pay and we have the luxury of partnering with organizations to come in and either during school, after school, weekends and work, and get hands on experience.”
Needless to say, it’s programs like this that broaden students’ horizons and open their eyes to opportunities beyond their close-knit community.
Lawson State Community College is a public two-year college located in the West Goldmire neighborhood of Grasselli. The college gained national recognition in 2011 when it was named as a “Champion of Change” by the Obama administration after a brief presidential visit to the campus and ranked among the top five community colleges in the U.S. in 2013.
It doesn’t just stop there either. In August, Lawson State was dubbed as a Apple tech hub for HBCUs. At a time when many industries are switching to online platforms, the timing couldn’t have been better. The pandemic caused the world to go digital—although it was already headed in that direction. With Apple’s partnership and Lawson’s coding program, students can jumpstart their career in the diversifying tech industry.
A fashion designer to keep on your radar
Remember the name Chanel Williams. This Lawson State Community College art graduate officially launched her clothing and shoe brand, Coco Nelly. She gained international recognition during her time in New York City at The Shoe School with The Shoe Surgeon when she created a shoe from scratch. How many people do you know who can do that?
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For those who don’t know, my name is Chanel Williams. I’m 21 years old and I’m from Birmingham, Alabama. One thing I enjoy is creating wearable art. My clothes should serve you, I work for YOU, so you are the one that’s important. When you wear my products, you should get to know me; My character, my love for life, how I feel/felt, my optimism and my purpose. My brand should serve you and make you feel emotions: Happiness, confidence, authenticity, comfort, and most importantly DIFFERENT 💕 With all that being said, welcome to my story. Follow @coco__nelly and you will have fun too once you watch us grow and see what’s in store for you.
So what’s so unique about her brand? Her colorful products aren’t just made in a factory like larger brands. They’re designed with attention to detail and unavailable until she’s completely happy with the final product.
Where Can I Read About the Other Neighborhoods?
This article is the 22nd installment in a 23-part series Bham Now is doing to feature Birmingham’s 23 communities, comprised of 99 neighborhoods. So far we’ve featured the following communities:
- Red Mountain
- Roebuck/ South East Lake
- North Birmingham
- East Lake
- East Pinson Valley
- Five Points West
- West End
- Airport Hills
- East Birmingham