Birmingham boosts region’s growth

Downtown Birmingham is undergoing a big transformation.

Office, retail, industrial and apartment increases in downtown Birmingham, Ala., are spurring overall growth for the area, according to officials who recently gathered at the 20th annual CCIM/NAIOP Central Alabama Market Symposium.

Two projects in particular are generating big change, including a new $40 million, 15-story apartment tower and another $30 million apartment development near Birmingham Railroad Park, according to Alabama.com. Each development also includes retail or restaurants, which will encourage more to work, play and live downtown.

"There is no comparison between the perception of downtown versus five years ago," Mark Elgin, chief executive of Stonegate Realty, said at the symposium, according to the news source.

All the developments in the downtown area have led to an occupancy rate of 95.4 percent. Elsewhere in the district, vacant warehouses near Railroad Park and Regions Field baseball stadium are being transformed into restaurants, breweries and other businesses, Alabama.com reported. Regions Field is home to minor league team the Birmingham Barons, and about 600,000 people visit annually, leading to new interest in redeveloping the surrounding area.

Downtown Birmingham's transformation is mirroring those of cities around the country, as more people are opting to live in urban areas instead of the sprawling suburbs. Doing so often cuts down commute times and minimizes the environmental impact, as many live within a short walk of all amenities they need, including work. Therefore, many developers are transforming such areas in an attempt to capitalize on the more densely populated neighborhoods.

"People are starting to see it for what it really is," said Robert Simon, chief executive of Corporate Realty, which was behind the facelift of Regions Field. "I think the awareness of downtown is already at the top. I hope it stays at the top."

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