Diverse Population, UAB Help Retail, Restaurants Expand in Birmingham
It wasn’t until the last five to seven years that college graduates started looking at Birmingham as a place to live and work. Cities like Nashville and Atlanta were getting too expensive and too congested. Upon discovering how progressive Birmingham has become with the revitalization of the downtown area, it became the new hot place to live, play and work. So what was once an untapped market has started to grow with new retailers and restaurants to meet the growing demand. The addition of Topgolf to downtown Birmingham, for example, would not have happened without the influx of new multifamily projects in the downtown/southside area.
Birmingham has also seen a growth of new restaurants to the area because of the diversity of population. The number of medical and undergraduates students studying at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Medical complex has contributed to the diversity. As such, restaurants and retailers that cater to this diversity have begun to open in the area. The Pizitz Food Hall is a prime example as it includes two restaurants and 12 food stalls serving cuisines from all over the world, including Italian, Israeli, Ethiopian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian and traditional Southern soul food like fried chicken and waffles.
Bringing back Division 1 football with a new complex has only heightened the awareness of the UAB campus and the surrounding area as the undergraduate school has increased enrollment. Near the UAB campus is The Waites, a mixed-use project recently developed by Retail Specialists. New-to-market restaurants at Waites include Blaze Pizza, Farm Burger and Roll Up Sushi, and traditional restaurants like Birmingham-based Taco Mama, Which Wich and Smoothie King have joined the tenant mix as well.
Birmingham is also seeing successes of local traditional retailers like Shaia’s Men’s Store, Harrison’s and B. Prince, a ladies boutique. When you go into these stores, the owner is always available and like the show “Cheers,” does really know your name.
Every city thinks it has it all and can attract new business, multifamily development and office tenants, and Birmingham certainly fits in that category. Any building with “bricks and beams” is either under renovation or recently sold. There is no end in sight as to when the redevelopment will end.
— By Rodney Barstein, Executive Vice President, Retail Specialists. This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Southeast Real Estate Business.