3 downtown spots that connect people + businesses with outdoor spaces


Mercantile on Morris
The perfect spot to enjoy time with friends: Mercantile on Morris. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

What do you see when you think about a lively city? Vibrant local businesses? Pedestrians on bustling streets? Outdoor dining? If so, you’re in luck—there are multiple mixed-use spots in Birmingham offering thriving retail, dining and outdoor options, just like you imagined. We rounded up several of our favorite mixed-use spaces in Birmingham to learn more. 

BONUS: Learn why Orchestra Partners, a local planning and redevelopment advisory firm, places an emphasis on pedestrian spaces + see what they’re doing to create more right here in Birmingham. 

Top local spots to enjoy + why pedestrian spaces matter

You may be scratching your head right now and wondering: what exactly are pedestrian spaces and why are they important? I spoke with Hailey Oliff, a Senior Development Associate at Orchestra Partners, to learn more about the goals of pedestrian spaces and to see what Orchestra Partners has planned for the future.

Pedestrian spaces are a very important component of any vibrant city. Whether it’s a small common plaza, a sidewalk next to a row of local businesses or even a small local park, pedestrian spaces help connect pedestrians to the local businesses and experiences that make Birmingham unique. 

“The goal of cities to create places where people want to live, work and play. From a pedestrian experience, being outside or hanging out in a plaza is the perfect example of playing at no cost.

We’re creating spaces where there’s an atmosphere where people can interact with others, and in those environments, people are willing to spend money. From a real estate perspective, there’s a value in expanding. From a community perspective, having outdoor space is a great way to build communities and let people get to know their neighbors and feel a sense of ownership in the place they live.”

Hailey Oliff, Development Manager, Orchestra Partners

There are a few different examples of places in Birmingham that are already pedestrian-friendly… and thankfully, even more are on the way.

1. Mercantile on Morris

Thanks to their convenient location on Morris Avenue, you can usually find me at Mercantile on Morris at least once a week. This mixed-use development is an Orchestra Partners project and includes residential units as well as retail and dining options on the ground floor. 

Spend a few hours browsing the fantastic specialty stores, then meet up with friends in the spacious patio to enjoy rich gelato or a slice of pepperoni pizza.

2. Founders Station

Another Orchestra Partners mixed-use development, Founders Station connects Birmingham’s historic Morris Avenue with First Avenue North to make it even more accessible. Walk along Morris Avenue and stop into the equally iconic Alabama Peanut Co. for boiled peanuts, then head to Cayo Coco or Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar for drinks.

3. Pepper Place

You might already be familiar with the Market at Pepper Place that happens on Saturdays, but have you spent time browsing all of the retail and dining offerings in the area? Pepper Place features a variety of offices and retail, dining and drinking options, all just a short walk from each other.

COMING SOON: Powell Steam Plant + The Frank

There’s even more coming to Birmingham to keep your eyes on—including two Orchestra projects: The Frank and the Powell Steam Plant. The Frank, a multi-family property with 180 residential units, will feature a ground floor of retail shops like Trattoria Zaza. In the future, Orchestra will introduce even more features available to tenants and the public, including one that will help connect members of the community: a two-story outdoor terrace that’s open to the public.

Beyond being the home of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Powell Steam Plant is also going to be a hub for pedestrian activity with retail and restaurants coming soon. Plus, Orchestra is working on turning Powell Avenue into a pedestrian plaza that gives more outdoor space to restaurants and connects people with Railroad Park.

What Orchestra Partners is doing to enhance pedestrian spaces

If you check out any Orchestra Partners project, you’ll notice a common theme: connectivity. Current and future Orchestra projects include space for walkability, retail and dining options and residential or office units. Combined, these elements can help create a positive impact on Birmingham.

“Any good urban environment has people on the streets, so if we can create developments within walking distance with pleasurable walking paths between each of them, you’ll get the masses of people walking around. The community will feel even more vibrant, but it will also create a sense of safety for other people to walk.

At the end of the day, Orchestra wants Birmingham to be a city where people don’t feel obligated to own a vehicle because everything they need is within walking distance. That’s good for the environment, for community building and for business. It overall makes Birmingham a more desirable place to live.”

Hailey Oliff, Development Manager, Orchestra Partners

Learn more about Orchestra Partners + their exciting projects by checking out their websiteFacebook and Instagram. Plus, see if a career at Orchestra Partners might be right for you.

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