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Big dreams can hurt sometimes

08.1.2007 by André Natta · → 2 Comments

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I am always one for dreaming big dreams; it’s what leads to the development of great cities. After all I’m from a city where dreams are encouraged and sometimes fulfilled. That being said, I am still dumbfounded by people who are convinced that the future of Birmingham lies in the construction of a new Birmingham “Megaplex” outside of the city center. Rep. John Rogers hand Waymaker Properties made an announcement about the proposal yesterday according to this report in The Birmingham News.

This is not to say that the rumored locations would be bad. Despite the fact that no one will say where this might be located, conventional wisdom says that one proposed location would be near the Birmingham Race Course (close to Trussville) with another of the potential spots being in Ensley. In both cases, the redevelopment of the area would bring many good things and few negatives to the surrounding area as well as the county and state. But is there really cooperation taking place or is it some chest beating to show who has the bigger ego?

One of the things that is consistently pointed out by outsiders and locals alike is the lack of cooperation among our elected officials and the nonexistence of a cohesive plan for the future (at least a shared one). It simply baffles the mind why with all of the announced development plans for our city center, whether it’s the various hotels and businesses being lured in, plans for an entertainment district near our existing civic center facility or movements throughout the city to bring new life to our older commercial districts that we are still obsessed with reckless expansion. It is particularly disheartening when you constantly hear commercials asking us to “do your share for cleaner air” while we, at times intentionally, encourage more automotive use in our region. It’s even more disturbing that instead focusing on regional development we see everyone worrying about their tiny little kingdoms (sorry Anne) and commercials about moving your business to Moody playing within the metro area rather than outside of it.

Legion Field is about to host a professional franchise for the first time in a long time this spring. We are seeing people take leaps of faith all over the city, whether it’s new business ventures downtown in Birmingham, or Ensley. There are endless developments taking place around the region, whether it’s in Calera or Trussville, Hoover or Bessemer. While people may be proud of being separate, it will actually hurt us in the long run as the area’s sprawl will only make our traffic become more of an issue, similar to the parking lots that exist during rush hour in Charlotte in Atlanta.

Rather than take away from some of the beacons of opportunity that are happening, we need to be moving to support them more. Are there not more important things to focus investment dollars on like actually getting on the same page to expand and restore our existing convention facilities downtown and generate the energy and excitement necessary to lift the region to its ever growing potential? We can use our tax dollars to fix our transit issues or improve portions of our educational systems in a real way instead of worrying about who’s going to steal a business from someone else. Part of this is due to the reliance on sales taxes to provide services (but that’s another for another time).

If we are to shake our moniker of being The City of Perpetual Promise, perhaps the egos need to be checked at the door and the good of the region, the entire region, need to be considered. Let’s keep the excitement going where it needs to be instead of creating it somewhere else just because you don’t like the way the game is being played so you want to take your ball and play somewhere else.

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Filed under: Alabama · Birmingham · Commentary · regional