Archive for the ‘Bessemer Downtown’ Category

>Our One Mile

October 13, 2010

>Last night I attended the Our One Mile meeting sponsored by the Freshwater Land Trust.

Our One Mile seeks to establish and connect over 100 miles of greenways in Jefferson County.
Bessemer is part of Jefferson County, but you wouldn’t know it because of the lack of elected official representation at the meeting. Mayors and council members and even school board members from other cities in the County were there.

What is a greenway, you ask?

A greenway is a long, narrow piece of land used for recreation, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. A greenway can be anything from a narrow grassy path or a concrete sidewalk to a wooded trail. Greenways can connect neighborhoods, parks and businesses to downtown city streets.

Our One Mile will be a system of greenways through which you will be able to walk or bike from your home to such daily destinations as parks, schools, libraries or shopping areas – without the car.

Our One Mile from jason hamric on Vimeo.

“The need of public parks is generally recognized in this day and generation by thinking men of growing and progressive communities; it needs no argument.”

That’s not one of today’s progressives saying that. It’s from the Olmstead Brothers, who developed “A Park System for Birmingham” in 1924 that city leaders failed to implement. that was a missed opportunity.

Now we have another chance.

One hundred fifty or so people crowded the room and each person was able to suggest a trail or two. I proposed the connection from the greenway near the Hall of History in Bessemer to Red Mountain Park south of the city by way of the “high line” railroad trestle and rail bed that curves to parallel 14th street.

They had large maps of the county and wax pencils that we could use to draw our trail, and I drew this one. I also personally pitched the connection to Brian Rushing, the Director of Land Conservation for the Freshwater Land Trust (who I found out had learned a bit about Bessemer from this blog) and to Jane Ross of Goodwyn Mills and Cawood who is the Landscape Architect heading up that aspect of the project. They both expressed keen interest in the connection.

Whether this trail becomes a reality will depend a lot on the new mayor and new council and their attitudes toward developing greenways in our city. They can expect the same information from me that I gave the group last night.

They will learn that studies have shown that green spaces and parks positively impact a community by increasing tourism, sustainability, health, water quality, biodiversity, transportation, recreation, business and quality of life. These are all measurable benefits that could be impacted in a positive way with this trail.

I agree with how the Auburn University Urban Studio described such a connection in 2007.

“This extension of Red Mountain park west to Highway 150 could transform the city.”

Well, only if Bessemer connects to it.

Here’s a short video about Red Mountain Park.

Our One Mile is a partnership between the Freshwater Land Trust, Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Clarus Consulting Group, Health Action Partnership and Modern Brand.

>The changing look of Bessemer

August 19, 2010

>This is picture day. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures will show you how the south east corner of downtown Bessemer is changing. We have two new restaurants opening soon, a new DHR building going up, the oldest restored outdoor advertising in the state, the only brick street in the city, an expanded Simmon’s Sporting Goods, and a building just waiting for somebody.

This is the old freight depot, now owned by the Hall of History, and this accurately restored sign is the oldest piece of restored outdoor advertising in the state. It was original in 1904. It has attracted the attention of historians across the state. The restoration was funded by the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. No, a saloon is not opening nearby, and you can’t really buy alcohol here. (However you could throw a rock and hit a couple of beer stores, so don’t worry.)

The building next door is privately owned, but it may be the next project for the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, which according to its bylaws, is charged with preserving and protecting homes, buildings and sites of historic interest; promoting and encouraging historical research; enhancing the cultural, social, educational and economic well-being of the Bessemer area; among other things that actually relate to the historic homes in the community.

There are more pictures, and an announcement, after the jump, so click “read more.”

Eateries are springing up in the blocks near the new courthouse. Nukes Sports Grille has already been in business for a while and already has a faithful following.

Their burgers, wings and shrimp poboys are favorites of our group, but they may get some competition on the poboy when Boateng’s opens just up the street. Boateng’s Cajun Creations was first announced here on June 10, 2010, and was expected to be open by now. They have been a little bit delayed, but I still see progress on the building every time I drive by, so it shouldn’t be too long.

Also opening soon, and being announced here, will be a bakery and deli in the spot formerly known as Tippi’s in the restored Berney Bank Building.

The restaurant is not named yet, so the sign just says “Coming Soon,” but it’s bound to be good because Van Sykes is the one opening the place and we know he can do barbecue and pies. This will be more deli style food, though. And we need a good bakery in the area. Oh, and they will be serving O’Henry’s coffee.

Also in the area will be the new DHR building. Site work has been underway and now if the weather will cooperate (meaning no rain) the foundation work will begin. The crew from Argo Construction was out there today marking the site for the upcoming work.


That building in the background of the above picture is Simmons Sporting Goods, and their expansion is now complete.


In front of Simmons, and for the length of the block, is Bessemer’s only remaining brick street.


If the vote getting paving spree gets crazy enough to cover these bricks I know plenty of people that will be s***ing bricks. Pardon my middle school language.

And nearby is an old theater, and I have no idea what it is used for now, other than a place for people to gather outside while waiting to get their haircut next door.

But I see it being restored. I see art films and independent films being shown. I see children’s matinees on Saturdays. All we need is a group, or a person that wants to take on the project (assuming the building is available) and the silver screen could light back up with classics and cartoons and Gone With the Wind or Brokeback Mountain (two classics).

>South Bessemer gets more good news

June 10, 2010

>More good news for Bessemer’s south downtown.

Boateng’s Cajun Creations Restaurant will open on the South side near the railroad tracks on 19th Street in this building in mid-July.


The owner is interested and committed to keeping the historic nature of the building.


Many of us have been wishing for something to go into this historic former gas station. What better than a Cajun restaurant?

The restaurant owner plans to have some outdoor seating in the front, but maybe not at opening. There will be seating for about 48 indoors, with some booth seating and tables.

Boateng’s was formerly at Watermark Place. Here are owners Carolyn and Graham Boateng.

Picture credit Birmingham News

Here’s a review of their food when it was at Watermark.

Improvements are being done by Darden Contracting and Remodeling. I had a conversation with contractor Willie Darden. Willie sees great potential for downtown Bessemer, and has an eye for historic buildings and such. Between he and I, we had the south area of downtown made into a showcase. We can dream, can’t we?

I can walk to this restaurant and really am looking forward to it opening. Who wants to go on opening night? Stay posted to Bessemer Opinions for the latest.

>DHR Groundbreaking

June 4, 2010

>The groundbreaking ceremony for the new DHR building took place this morning.

This building is going to turn a neglected corner in Bessemer into a showcase.

The crowd that gathered included all 7 Bessemer City Council members and at least one announced council candidate, local and state DHR officials, the president of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, Bessemer Chamber of Commerce officials, the architect and others from his firm, the contractor, Fire Department officials and other city officials.

From left to right – Ron Gilbert, city engineer; Aaron Killings, attorney; Anthony Windsor, Public Building Authority (PBA) President; Mayor Ed May; Joe Openshaw, PBA Vice President; Sadie Harris, PBA treasurer

Council Members, PBA members DHR personnel and Mayor Ed May and city engineer Ron Gilbert playing in the dirt

Construction will begin within a couple of weeks and progress will be recorded on this site. In a year, DHR will be moving into their new facility!

>Bessemer gets some good news

April 16, 2010

>

Jefferson County Commission president Bettye Fine Collins said that the new Jefferson County Courthouse in Bessemer will open in June. The building was completed last year but has sat empty because the county couldn’t afford to staff it and run the operations there.

Now Collins says opening the courthouse is “prudent” because taxpayers are paying $5 million a year in debt service on the building.

“We’ve built that edifice out there…”

Let’s not forget she was against building the courthouse in the first place and in 2006 said: (Much of this comes from a previous Bessemer Opinions post).

”Is Bessemer growing residentially that it needs to serve more people? No,” Collins said. ”We’ve got a courthouse satellite in Forestdale, we’ve got one in Center Point, we’ve got one in Homewood and now one in Gardendale. Why in the world are we building a $100 million deal in Bessemer?”

I wrote a letter that was printed in the Birmingham News that pointed out that she didn’t understand the history or the importance of the Bessemer Cutoff and the courthouse, and invited her to come visit Bessemer and learn about us. I mentioned that historic neighborhoods are being restored, plans are in place to revitalize downtown, our public education is improving, and new families are moving to Bessemer. (All of that was true in 2007, still true in 2010).

She took my advice, and showed up for the groundbreaking in April 2007, saying, “Bessemer has a rich and wonderful history. This groundbreaking helps the resurgence of downtown and reflects the renewal going on all over the city.”

At any rate, we welcome the news that the courthouse will open, and with the new DHR building groundbreaking scheduled to take place next month just a couple of blocks away, it looks like the south downtown area of Bessemer will lead the way in the revitalization of downtown.

Look for a new coffee shop and a restaurant to open in the area in the next year. Oh, that’s just a wish, sorry. But maybe it will give someone an idea.

>Oasis

April 15, 2010

>Our backyard is an oasis.

Seriously.

I don’t look at Bessemer as a suburb of Birmingham. It is an urban city, with the same opportunities that other urban communities have. In fact, more opportunities.

But it also has the same problems many urban communities have. A neglected and deteriorating downtown. Lack of leadership. Missed opportunity. Perceived and actual crime. Traffic. Noise.

But we have a place to retreat to, where the hustle and bustle of Bessemer and the street noise and sirens can be forgotten.

Our sanctuary. Our oasis. Our backyard.

This pergola is covered with half a dozen antique climbing roses that will be exploding in color and scent over the next few weeks.

But already, this rose, known as Mermaid, which actually towers in a nearby magnolia tree, has sent a cane down to the pergola from above, and allowed a bud to open early. Mermaid’s canes can grow 40 feet or more, and this specimen does not disappoint.

Even at night there is beauty (and I need a tripod to get better pictures).


This Flame Azalea, a native, deciduous azalea, is a spring favorite, but was almost overtaken by weedy vines and had to be rescued.


Spring bulbs are still coming into play, as these yellow irises opened yesterday.


Sweet Shrub is a childhood favorite, one of the shrubs that grew in the woods near my Vestavia home, and that my dad pointed out to me. It does have a pleasant scent, that’s for sure.


The Lady Banks Rose is in its full splendor, and this is not all of it. A cane from this climber has travelled about 50 feet up into a nearby cedar tree and is blooming now also. What a surprise to look high op in a cedar tree and see yellow rose blooms!


Columbine. These perennials have sowed their seeds all over the place, and this is the result.


Most of the pesky Wisteria that we have is the familiar purple, but this vine has white flowers.


If you need respite from your busy life, come pay us a visit, and relax for a while in the Oasis we call our backyard. Just give me a call or send a message. A cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a hundred different birds and the floral scents will let you forget your troubles, if only for a while.

This is a good weekend for gardeners. Petals from the Past in Jemison is holding their Antiques in the Garden event.

The weekend event you have been waiting for has arrived. Our annual Antiques in the Garden event will be April 16 and 17. Shop the many antique and craft vendors we have joining us this year. There will also be food vendors and Southern Sweets will be serving lunch in our educational barn. We are looking forward to seeing you this year.

Closer to home, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens annual plant sale takes place at Brookwood Village near the old Bruno’s.

Today’s the big day for the 2010 Spring Plant Sale! The Preview Party is today from 5-6:30 p.m. & tickets are $45 now/$50 at the door! The Members-Only Sale (free for members) is from 6:30-8:30 tonight…if you aren’t a member or you were but need to renew, come on anyway, you can join or renew right there… at the door! The doors open to the public Friday morning at 9 a.m.! See you there everyone!

>New Bessemer State DHR building

September 11, 2009

>Here are drawings of the new Bessemer State Department of Human Resources building scheduled to be built next year. After completion the DHR services for our area will be consolidated into one building. This will increase both efficiency and security for clients as well as employees.

The building will be situated at the corner of First avenue and 20th Street. Currently the lot is vacant.

This is the view from the front, along 20th Street.

This view is from the side, along 1st Avenue.

The building will be around 52000 sq feet, two story. Around 150 employees will work in the building.

The Bessemer Public Building Authority has approved these preliminary drawings as well as the preliminary plans.

Ground breaking will probably be in late January or early February, 2010.

Things to do Tonight

October 16, 2007

There is too much going on.

Over the Mountain Democrats are hosting a forum tonight to discuss our outdated state constitution and what to do about it. They have even invited republicans to join in the discussion.

Constitutional Reform: The Next Generation
A Forum to Evaluate the Best Methods for Reforming an Unjust & Outdated Document
Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 6:30pm
Linn-Henley Lecture Hall, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Keynote Address by…Albert P. Brewer, Jr., Governor of the State of Alabama, 1968-70

Followed by a Panel Discussion including…Former Governor Brewer, Rep. Paul DeMarco, Lynn Douglas, Board President, Alabama ARISE, Gary Palmer, President, Alabama Policy Institute, Lenora Pate, Shareholder, Sirote & Permutt, Co-Chair, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, Inc.

I am pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog believes constitutional reform is crucial, and I don’t need to convince you of that. But finding a solution has been difficult because there are powerful entities that want to hold on to the outdated racist and class based document. You know who they are.

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The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is meeting tonight at 7:00 at The Bentley House, built in 1928, and home of Jason Kirby and Benjamin Faucher. This is an important meeting, at which the nominating committee will announce it’s choices for next years officers, plus we will get to see the house which was added to the Jefferson County Historical register earlier this year. You can see the house at the above link. Blogger picture uploading is not working today.

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Finally, the final meeting of Auburn students and those wishing to bring life back to downtown Bessemer is tonight, 6:30 to 8:00, at the Foundry sanctuary, formerly First Baptist Church of Bessemer. At the last meeting the students presented preliminary ideas, and received comments from citizens and business owners, and now they share their final ideas. Restoring downtown is important if Bessemer is to retain its identity and have a future as anything more than a place to get your car tag and pistol permit. Here is an example of the groups work, and how it is being used to improve the downtown area in Fairfield.

*******************************************

All three of these are important and interesting events. We all have different interests and priorities and committments, but we should all be involved and attend one of these.

>Things to do Tonight

October 16, 2007

>There is too much going on.

Over the Mountain Democrats are hosting a forum tonight to discuss our outdated state constitution and what to do about it. They have even invited republicans to join in the discussion.

Constitutional Reform: The Next Generation
A Forum to Evaluate the Best Methods for Reforming an Unjust & Outdated Document
Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 6:30pm
Linn-Henley Lecture Hall, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Keynote Address by…Albert P. Brewer, Jr., Governor of the State of Alabama, 1968-70

Followed by a Panel Discussion including…Former Governor Brewer, Rep. Paul DeMarco, Lynn Douglas, Board President, Alabama ARISE, Gary Palmer, President, Alabama Policy Institute, Lenora Pate, Shareholder, Sirote & Permutt, Co-Chair, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, Inc.

I am pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog believes constitutional reform is crucial, and I don’t need to convince you of that. But finding a solution has been difficult because there are powerful entities that want to hold on to the outdated racist and class based document. You know who they are.

******************************************

The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is meeting tonight at 7:00 at The Bentley House, built in 1928, and home of Jason Kirby and Benjamin Faucher. This is an important meeting, at which the nominating committee will announce it’s choices for next years officers, plus we will get to see the house which was added to the Jefferson County Historical register earlier this year. You can see the house at the above link. Blogger picture uploading is not working today.

******************************************

Finally, the final meeting of Auburn students and those wishing to bring life back to downtown Bessemer is tonight, 6:30 to 8:00, at the Foundry sanctuary, formerly First Baptist Church of Bessemer. At the last meeting the students presented preliminary ideas, and received comments from citizens and business owners, and now they share their final ideas. Restoring downtown is important if Bessemer is to retain its identity and have a future as anything more than a place to get your car tag and pistol permit. Here is an example of the groups work, and how it is being used to improve the downtown area in Fairfield.

*******************************************

All three of these are important and interesting events. We all have different interests and priorities and committments, but we should all be involved and attend one of these.