The New Birmingham

Apart from months-long excursions in Austin and Cincinnati, I have always lived in Birmingham. Because Birmingham has always been home, I have long dealt with the perceptions and criticisms of my City. However, as I have had the pleasure of working with clients new to Birmingham (most often the family members or co-workers of my current or former clients), it’s been so refreshing to hear  how they were genuinely and wonderfully surprised when they first visited the Magic City and recurring themes on the “whys” that led them to choose Birmingham. 

As people move here from other areas of the country, they are astounded by our landscape – “It’s so green! It’s so hilly! I thought it would be flat! I can’t believe how beautiful the trees are!” are constant refrains. Add the tip of the Appalachians and the enormous lakes and white sand beaches within a short drive and people easily realize that Birmingham is one of the most beautiful places to live. Combined with the short commutes, great public schools, and plenty of activities, it does not get much better for raising a family than Birmingham. While this natural surrounding beauty sets the stage, it’s what happens on that lovely stage that makes people want to stay.  

No matter where you’re from, most family and social gatherings center around a great meal. Fortunately, a big-time food scene has developed in Birmingham and is attracting people from around the nation to sample the offerings of award-winning chefs and restaurants. Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings catapulted Birmingham to culinary fame with Highlands, Bottega, Chez Fon-Fon, Hot and Hot Fish Club, and Oven Bird restaurants. Not long after, James Beard Award Winning Chef Adam Evans launched Automatic Seafood (we are SO lucky to have direct access to fresh Gulf seafood!) and, on his coattails, more talent followed, centering mostly in the vibrant downtown area.  If fine dining is not your style, you won’t be disappointed – my husband and I are big fans of Johnny’s  – a meat and three in downtown Homewood, which has a line out the door by 11 am. 

Alongside a bustling restaurant scene, the social scene is also quite vibrant! The neighborhoods of Homewood and Mountain Brook are well-known for boutique shopping, trendy restaurants and being pedestrian-friendly. However, these communities recently underwent extensive residential and commercial revitalization which took the cozy and hip vibe to the next level.  Breweries galore, a professional soccer team, and one of the biggest skate parks in the world keep things active in Birmingham.

If outdoor recreation is on your radar, you will not be disappointed. Regions Field, Railroad Park, and Protective Stadium were built while, at the same time, the Birmingham airport was remodeled  (and more direct flights to more places were added) to better serve the increased traffic from visitors flocking to the Magic City.  Aligned with the outdoor opportunities downtown, neighboring Shelby County doubled down on economic development.  Over 100 miles of mountain bike and running trails were developed and remodeled.  Oak Mountain hosted the World Games and Xterra Championship.  Downtown has one of the largest skate parks in the nation and an immensely popular Top Golf.  Nearby Greystone and Shoal Creek host premier amateur and professional golf events. Sports enthusiasts are never bored in Birmingham-Birmingham has the events, the football, the SEC Baseball Championships, and an incredible resort hotel (amazing golf, pool, and a brand-new adults-only pool) at Ross Bridge.  If you want to stay downtown, your options are endless – from chains to boutique hotels, you will rest easy here.  

From an educational standpoint, Samford University and The University of Alabama-Birmingham continue to recruit globally and remake their campuses. No longer a suitcase university, UAB is now a vibrant and diverse campus where locals and internationals mingle in all aspects of campus and university life. As students and their families came for campus visits, Birmingham presented well and exceeded expectations of students, their parents, and visitors. As parents and families of students investigated housing options, they realized the relative affordability and word has spread! 

If relaxation is what you’re after, Smith Lake, Lake Martin, and other nearby lakes have rapidly developed and lake life has become mainstream in Birmingham.  Whether you decide to live in town full time or spend every weekend at the Lake, the diverse lifestyles that are available in Birmingham make it attractive to pretty much anyone (unless you can’t handle a few months of humidity).  

Birmingham also has several new healthcare facilities and a very deep bench of medical professionals.  With a strong pool of skilled labor, great builders, and a surprising number of well-known architects, it is easy to see how Birmingham has metamorphosized quickly – not Nashville or Austin level quick, but we will definitely take our steady growth in exchange for less traffic.  All these items matter in real estate.  With all these developments, many people realized Birmingham makes sense for them and provides a wonderful big, not-so-big-city lifestyle. This has all led to strong demand in housing even during this time of higher interest rates. Birmingham and its real estate are both moving in an extremely positive direction!