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02.21.2012 by acnatta · No Comments

UPDATE: The plan and its name – The Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System – was announced this evening – along with a website that allows you to see the entire plan.

A possible Norwood greenway gatewayThe photo you’re looking at off to your left probably doesn’t mean a lot to you right now. But it may mean something to you a little later on, especially if you feel like dreaming…

It’s safe to assume that this evening (Tuesday) a large crowd will be gathered in the Steiner Auditorium at the Birmingham Museum of Art. They’ll be there to witness the unveiling of the Freshwater Land Trust’s “Our One Mile” plan. They’ll also be among the first to learn the name of the system – the result of a contest held at the end of last year. The level of excitement filling the space will undoubtedly be insane.

Well, this is where I bring up one more thing to keep in your mind as we get started – the under-construction Greenwood Park. Folks that normally travel along I-20/59 westbound that have wondered why all those bulldozers have been active just after you pass Tallapoosa St., here’s your reminder. This new green space could be viewed as a trail head for the 26-mile Village Creek Greenway, a project viewed by many as an integral part of the Our One Mile initiative.

You’re starting to connect the dots, aren’t you? These first two have been brought up before, courtesy of the Norwood Plan developed by Auburn University’s Urban Studio back in 2006.

The park would connect with the greenway, which could hypothetically have another touch point along Vanderbilt Road. That connection would just happen to be about ¼ of a mile from the easternmost edge of Norwood Blvd – and be right about where that photo I told you to pay attention to at the beginning of this piece was taken.

Assuming there’s access to the greenway at Vanderbilt, it’d only be a little over ½ a mile along the creek to get to the edge of Greenwood Park that touches Coosa Street. I’m not even focusing on the fact that this could potentially bring a whole new group of users over to Patton Park on the other side of the Interstate.

What does all of this mean?

It means more once you include the recent donation by Red Diamond – their former headquarters on Vanderbilt Road (valued at approximately $2 million in an online listing) to the Birmingham YMCA.

The distance from the edge of Norwood Blvd. to 1701 Vanderbilt Road is approximately half a mile. If you’re running, this means you’re probably no more than 5-7 minutes away.

It could be the jump start  needed to encourage potential investors to take a look at the section of Norwood referred to by some in the neighborhood as “the bottoms” as an option for renovation projects. It’s safe to say there would be several young professionals that aren’t looking for a mortgage but instead for an inexpensive place that’s relatively close to downtown and some of those intangible quality of life benefits.

It might also lead to some changes in traffic flow in the area surrounding all of these things – changes that could influence whether or not we see significant development along 12th Avenue North, particularly the eastern end of the street. The western edge may already see some influence from a entertainment district that will soon go from dream to reality in the coming months.

It’s just an example of what happens when the dreams of a community are thought through and given the potential to be realized. It’s all out there – including pieces like Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain Park, and the (soon-to-be-added-onto) Shades Creek Greenway. Now it’s simply time to see if folks want to connect those dots all the way.

Many of these thoughts about the northside are assuming that the YMCA decides that it can move ahead and make the additional improvements to their newest piece of property – suddenly the largest of the properties held by the organization. It also depends on how empowered and motivated the citizens of metro Birmingham get to make this greenway plan presented this evening a reality.

That last sentence is probably the most important one. As Wendy Jackson said in this morning’s Birmingham News piece by Thomas Spencer,

People need to be a voice for their greenways.

The days of people waiting for someone to take the lead need to end soon. As former UAB president Dr. Joseph Volker once stated, “We would do Birmingham a great disservice if we dreamed too-little dreams.”

This greenway – and many projects like it currently in the pipeline – are probably what Volker may have been thinking of as he spoke. It’s now up to the general public to lead the leaders to the city they want, rather than have a disjointed one given to them instead.

Maybe coming out to the event tonight’s a good first step.

André Natta is the stationmaster of bhamterminal.com.

Filed under: development