Tag Archives: announcement

UPDATED: Trader Joe’s arrives in Birmingham in late 2015

UPDATE: 9/17/2014As suggested in the second paragraph below, this afternoon the Birmingham Business Journal has confirmed the space Trader Joe’s will occupy is the current Banana Republic location.

trader-joesMembers of the “Bring Trader Joe’s to Birmingham” fan page on Facebook, rejoice! Trader Joe’s has announced their intention to open at The Summit during the second half of 2015, according to reports from AL.com and ABC 33/40 this morning. Both cite a release from the Monrovia, California-based company, notoriously tight-lipped about proposed locations until absolutely necessary, saying the 12,600 square foot store will be at 209 Summit Boulevard – the development’s southern portion.

The address suggests there will be other announcements in the coming days about new construction or the relocation and/or closing of stores (though the AL.com version of the story has been updated with the exact address being removed) as there is no vacancy currently in that portion of the lifestyle center.

A search of the city’s permitting database in late February and early March suggested a new project was coming to the popular lifestyle center. The location is more central to the metro area than people realize (and still within Birmingham’s city limits — as are the Nordstrom Rack and Target locations in Shelby County). The announcement also does not contradict a statement made back in 2011 — and comments made by the store’s founder at that time. The store’s size and announced location follow a trend first examined in 2011 by the Los Angeles Times — one seen as a way to capture more revenue. It will be the first full-service grocer at The Summit since Bruno’s closed in May 2009 following its parent company’s bankruptcy filing.

A representative for the chain informed the Birmingham Business Journal as recently as March that the market was not on the radar. This was shortly after an anonymous tip sent to this website led to attempts to reach out to both Trader Joe’s and Bayer Properties this spring. No response was received.

Huntsville was optimistic about its chances of landing a Trader Joe’s (as evidenced by this Reddit thread), but today’s announcement came with a statement similar to that one about Birmingham in 2011. It may only be a matter of time then, Rocket City…

The app battle may shift to carpooling soon

rideshareappoptionsThe responses after the July 29 Birmingham City Council vote creating a classification for digital services like Lyft and Uber in the city’s transportation ordinance have been varied and loud. The day the changes were passed, Mike Smith of AL.com filed this report explaining the definition of ridesharing in Alabama compared to how the companies had been using it. The report included the potential issues for existing options if Uber’s requests had been granted (issues currently being looked at and considered throughout the country). Today’s planned public beta launch of a new offering by Uber (UberPool) — on the heels of a similar one offered by Lyft (LyftLine) — may help provide a clearer picture of what’s next — and a chance to expand the practice of ridesharing in the metro area.

New York Magazine published a story on August 6 via its Daily Intelligencer explaining the latest offerings by the two visible players in the marketplace. (Note another company,  Sidecar, announced a similar ride sharing service that same day.) The post pointed out Lyft’s purchase in April of a  transit-focused app called Rover; the suggested rush to get announcements up suggest the plans were well underway well before the City Council vote. Now, the services offered by the first two haven’t exactly launched without problems (as a report filed onGigaOm from August 12 points out), but their potential long term impact is one being watched by livery service industry insiders, with some media outlets like Vox suggesting it could have an impact on public transit as we know it. They allow users to be matched with either other based on whether or not a driver was headed close to their destination. The passengers would share in the cost of the ride, resulting in it being less than a regular ride and slightly more than a similar journey via transit (though with door to door service available). It potentially makes it even more palatable as an option for residents here with complaints about transit and existing taxi options driving much of the support for the introduction of another option.

Long before the emergence of “ride sharing” apps for smartphones, the term was normally used interchangeably with carpooling by many cities, including those in Birmingham’s metropolitan area. Other companies, like Hitch (in San Francisco) and Carma, have long offered versions of the new services being launched by Lyft and Uber, with their emergence providing an opportunity for carpooling to expand rapidly. It could potentially lead to increased participation in programs like CommuteSmart — the one highlighted in Smith’s piece. One question that still remains is whether or not their entries into the ridesharing ecosystem would affect funding for the programs now or in the future. This website has reached out to the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, the local organization responsible for the ridesharing service, for comment and we will update this post when it is received.

While both new carpooling offerings are in their earliest stages elsewhere in the country, both provide the opportunity for the companies involved to enter the market in a different way than originally anticipated. It could lead to what The Verge suggests could be a new form of public transportation or a dimmer view similar to one shared by Wired — that of neither one of the current industry giants surviving.

Sherri Ross Walters named a runner-up for 92Y Genius competition

walters headshotBirmingham, AL resident Sherri Ross Walters recently learned she was the only non-New York City resident among four winners to place in the 92nd Street Y’s Genius Start-Up Competition. She was among the 50+ that entered the contest, organized as part of the organization’s  7 Days of Genius festival.

Walters learned of the competition via a friend on Facebook sharing the link to an article from Inc. publicizing it in February. Her entry involved developing a citywide resource “to help the homeless find information in real time.” Information accessible would potentially include identifying which area shelters are open, available beds, and where meals will be served. All of this would be available to users via a small box mounted on bus stop poles. How she came up with the concept is indicative of the passion she’s shown to other efforts in the city in recent years, including the Birmingham Girls Club and Birmingham Dance Walk.

“I chatted with a sweet homeless man named Dave at a restaurant one day after buying him lunch,” said Walters via an email exchange earlier today. “He described having to get to the shelters early to get a place in line for a bed that evening. That really spoke to me.”

The area’s recent winter storms also had an impact on the development of the idea. “As our community was posting away on Facebook offering up shelter, baby items, medications, food, and the like, I knew that a lot of homeless people would never see that information,” she said.

“I love what our city does by opening Boutwell (like this) for them in extreme weather circumstances along with the amazing work our shelters and various groups do, but I wondered about the other nights of the year, along with what Dave told me,” she continued. “How many hours do they spend in line at a shelter and do they always get a bed? What if there were a fast, easy way for them to get the information they needed before trekking across down only to find out the shelter is full. Or that an organization that normally serves meals has run out of food for the evening. We have so many wonderful groups in our community that offer help – I wanted to create one place where the homeless could get that information.”

Walters finished as second runner-up in the competition, securing a pass to the 92Y Spring 2014 Talks Season Pass. She is currently investigating ways to move forward with the project locally, including pursuing conversations with city officials to determine feasibility, and the homeless community to “help pinpoint the greatest needs for the first phase.” She is also hoping to work with others to “develop a prototype and plan, including entrepreneurial friends to discuss business plan and funding and engineers to talk about the application once needs are determined.”

She points out, according to the website OneRoof, that Birmingham has nearly 1,500 people on any given night who experience homelessness. Walters thinks her idea can make a difference. “I am hoping that with this new communication system, they can find the resources they need to spend a safe night indoors, as well as get food, toiletries, and the help they need. I also envision this being a tool they can use to help each other by staying in touch, finding lost friends, and reporting emergencies if needed,” she said.

According to the competition’s webpage, “The entries were judged by 92Y, Cornell Tech and venture capital firm RRE Ventures on the ideas’ innovation, potential impact and implementation plan.” The winners were announced at the Genius of the Start-Up event held on Monday, March 3. The series of events continues through March 10 and can be watched via live stream on the 92Y’s website or follow the Twitter hashtag #thatsgenius.

A chance for college students to work at the airport this summer

new BHM concourse under constructionIf you head on over to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport the back way (maybe to grab some lunch at VJ’s on the Runway), you’ve probably been paying a lot more attention to the facility’s modernization project than most. Well, you and the folks that regularly line that one stretch of fencing along East Lake Boulevard to watch the planes take off and land…

This year’s Summer Internship Program at BHM is going to give a few lucky individuals a chance to probably know a little more about the project. It’ll give students currently enrolled in a college, community college, technical institute, or university who’s planning to return to class in the fall an opportunity to work on various projects at the state’s busiest airport.

Of course, you could always visit the website set up to chronicle the progress of phase one. That phase is scheduled to be completed this coming December. The entire $201 million project is slated to be finished in 2014.

Photo: BHM’s new concourse under construction from East Lake Boulevard.

Magnetic strips just the beginning of BJCTA changes

Things have been staying busy over at the BJCTA‘s Central Station in recent weeks following Peter Behrman’s recent departure. One of the most recent changes was the recent introduction of magnetic 31-day transit passes. While the announcement was made back in April, a video announcing the change (which was not accompanied by a fare increase) was posted to YouTube earlier this month embedded in this post.

There have also been ads announcing the new cards visible on buses throughout the city.

The county’s transit authority also started accepting credit cards and debit cards for purchases back in early March and launched a fan page on Facebook (though they may want to also claim one of the two place locations already in existence) as well as a Twitter account to share information about the short range plan. Based on what’s been shared on their page so far, the organization has also been making regular appearances on WATV-AM and WJLD talking about upcoming changes to the system. These outreach efforts follow a series of public hearings held in February giving riders an overview of proposed changes to several BJCTA routes.

There will also be continued focus on the system beginning this summer as the fuel-cell bus demonstration project begins where a hydrogen-powered bus will be operated among the regular fleet. The project is one of several National Fuel Cell Bus Program initiatives taking place across the country under the watchful eye of the Federal Transit Administration. Needless to say that the BJCTA’s board won’t be the only ones watching to see how the area’s transit network is re-made.

What’s all this talk about the USFL being back?

USFL Logo 2012There have been posts written about the All-American Football League and the United Football League wanting to bring football back to Birmingham (and, as a result, to historic Legion Field) during the early days of the sites existence. For some reason there were not posts talking about the potential launch of the American Football League in 2011 and our potential franchise, the Birmingham Yellowhammers (though that one never got off the ground either).

For some reason though, there’s a little more hope tied to the most recent effort to bring back professional football to Birmingham – especially since its tied to the return of the USFL – sort of. Who knows, it could even mean a return of the Birmingham Stallions.

The Washington Post filed a report late last week about the pending return of the league next spring as a developmental league – an announcement originally made by EndZone Sports Management, LLC, the league’s owners, during the Vegas Unwrapped show (and the company’s website) back on February 15. It was also reported by NBC Sports in April, though considering what day the story ran, we could see why folks wouldn’t necessarily believe it.

Something adding to the increased attention in recent days may be the fact that the cities selected for the relaunch are expected to be announced this summer. Considering that according to the WP story (as well as the pieces from the Birmingham Business Journal and The Birmingham News) there were only 10 cities being looked at for eight slots, the Magic City’s chances are looking pretty good so far.

Sister Cities Commission recognized as Best Overall Program

Bham Sister City Commission logoTuesday, May 1, saw the Birmingham Sister City Commission win Sister Cities International’s 2011 Best Overall Program Award for a city with a population between 100,001 and 300,000. The press release from Sister Cities states the award “recognizes sister city programs that demonstrate outstanding accomplishments in advancing the goals and mission of the sister cities movement.”

Efforts included establishing an E-Pal program with Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel that now includes two schools there and four in Birmingham, enabling more than 300 students to communicate each week via email and video conference. It also included several art exchanges with sister cities Guadiawaye, Senegal; Hitachi, Japan (where they helped organize disaster relief following last year’s earthquake and tsunami and sent two local college graduates to serve as English teachers for two years); Karak, Jordan; and Plzen, Czech Republic.

Representatives of the commission, established in 1982, will have the honor of attending a ceremony recognizing the honor with other winners in Jacksonville, Florida (currently scheduled for July 14).