While the formerly industrial South Avondale neighborhood has been exploding with new restaurants and bars (Fancy’s on Fifth is set to open imminently on the NW corner of 5th Avenue South and 41st Street, above), the clientele of these venues has often seemed less than truly local. Instead they come from the nearby precincts of downtown, Forest Park, and Crestwood–or slightly more distant suburban locales–with the assumption being that Avondale proper isn’t a “safe” place for hipsters, craft beer drinkers and assorted urban aficionados to call home, even if they like to eat and drink there. As it turns out, this isn’t quite true–and may become even less so as pioneering developers respond to increasing demand.
Just east of the 41st Street spine of taverns and cafes, the block bounded by 42nd and 43rd Streets and Third and Fourth Avenue South is illustrative of a changing attitude towards housing. Above looking north towards Third Avenue is the Avondale Apartment project redevleoped by Kahn Properties. Formerly shabby apartments are being renovated for rent to medical residents, young professionals, and others for whom Avondale may not have been on the radar even a couple years ago. Response is brisk and shows that a certain demographic doesn’t mind–and perhaps appreciates–living in a transitional neighborhood still known for low-income housing both substandard and decent (framed across Third Avenue is Avondale Gardens, an award-winning low-income development we helped design about twelve years ago).
On the SE corner of 4th Avenue South and 43rd Street is a vacant and severely damaged apartment complex (above) which is currently for sale. Unsightly, yes–but it’s not hurting the traffic at Avondale Apartments. While an older generation may look at the vacant property and shake its head at “blight without hope,” a younger generation shrugs and sees “future development coming soon.”
On the south side of Third Avenue a collection of older houses lines the street (above). Despite the fact that Third Avenue is also a busy state highway–with too many lanes and higher traffic speeds than a rejuvenating neighborhood deserves–once these houses are even modestly renovated, they have no problem attracting tenants. One local resident who owns a number of rental properties told us that a professional couple recently rented one of these renovated bungalows sight-unseen: they were that anxious to find something decently renovated in the middle of Avondale.
In the end, to develop a critical mass of attractive housing options, places like the Havenwood (above, Third Avenue just west of the bungalows previously pictured) need change. Long a haven for drug dealing and related crime, it is a destabilizing influence on on otherwise improving block. Whether this means a sale, redevelopment, or another outcome is unknown–but our guess is that pressure in the real estate market will force something to happen. It’s just a question of when.
It is easier to visualize the promise of this faded beauty on the SW corner of Third Avenue and 42nd Street (above). Over 100 years old, It is in the process of being stabilized and secured. Having served initially as a doctor’s residence, it followed the pattern of many large houses in declining neighborhoods across the City and became a low-rent boarding house for many years. Now that the boarding house partitions have been removed, and the massive ceilings and elegant staircase structure have reappeared, the possibilities for the future are many.
While downtown itself has been subject only rarely to gentrification conflicts due to the historic absence of housing in the CBD, it is interesting to watch the process unfold in South Avondale. There is a lot of lower-rent housing for people of color; right now the influx of new residents (often white, though not always) has been modest enough that no fundamental balance seems upset. However, as the Zyp bikeshare stand on 41st Street attests (above looking south to Second Avenue), this neighborhood is changing. If the right mix of market and affordable housing joins the newly rejuvenated commercial storefronts, Avondale could demonstrate that a neighborhood of diverse economic, racial, and other groups can truly succeed. Stay tuned.
[Thanks to Fancy’s on Fifth for the mural pic]
I knew Avondale was finna change, once I saw them put up new street signs and knocked down the self car wash! Sad that alot of the minority residents don’t have the knowledge to take control over their local environment and stop gentrification. I wish the minority residents of North Avondale could come together and develop projects for their benefit.
“There is a lot of lower-rent housing for people of color; right now the influx of new residents (often white, though not always) has been modest enough that no fundamental balance seems upset.”
I’m not sure what this is trying to say… The only housing that people of color need is “lower-rent”?
Simply that much of the area’s lower-rent housing, similar to other parts of the City of Birmingham, is currently occupied by people of color. The point is that gentrification always has an economic aspect; it often also has a racial aspect. Thanks for reading!
Avondale has always looked
like a quite easy living place to be. Walking or biking to an event or restaurant is slow southern living.
Sadly, even the less expensive rental options have already stopped accepting Section 8. We should be supporting diversity in Avondale, not pushing people out and preventing people trying to improve their living situation from benefiting from positive changes.
Talitha, I don’t think it’s that simple. Some section 8 property owners are essentially slum lords that do not adequately take care of their properties. They figure, it’s free, so they can live in squalor. Those owners need to go whether there was gentrification or not. I know at least 2 of these in Avondale that let their properties just rot around their tenants. If section 8 survives this process in Avondale, I hope it’s run by people with a conscience.
SBAvondale- Your post above just blanketed Section 8 landlords in a light that is wholly incorrect and does not reflect the huge majority of landlords. Since when should tenants NOT take responsibility for their own properties? Whether you are renting or owning a property, pride in where you live should be in the top five responsibilities you have. Remember- it is not always in the hands of the landlord. As a landlord, you are bound by certain legal rights that the tenant has that the landlord does not. So be careful inferring that the landlords have no conscience or calling them slum lords. It is most times the tenant that choose to live in those conditions and the landlord can’t infringe on their right to quiet enjoyment. If you knew anything about being a landlord you would know that landlords have less rights than tenants and they can only do what is legally acceptable. Section 8 does annual inspections on the properties and a landlord is bound to keep the property up to their specifications. So it is the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the yard (asthetics), and to let the landlord know if there is any structural or mechanical damage to the property that may make it uninhabitable or dangerous. If it is a hazard the tenant can report the landlord to the Housing Authority and they will kick the landlord/property off of the program if they don’t keep it up to their specifications. I am sure that any landlord owning in that area would be more than happy to sell their property to someone who wants to make them an offer. Maybe you should rally to help teach people how to take pride in the homes they live in, instead of blaming the landlord.
I think we all know who the real “slum lord” is in Avondale, and while his money has gone a long way toward improving the neighborhood, I am very worried that what he is NOT doing is making Avondale inclusive for everyone. Anyone been in Avondale Brewing recently? It does nothing to try to attract “locals,” or really anyone who isn’t into “jam band” music and bad craft beer. I don’t go anymore because I feel out of place.
And yes, there are a few eyesores in terms of housing, but I agree with Talitha & Jeremy; diversity is the key. We should be supporting the locals by continuing to provide affordable places to live, as well as encouraging community participation and inclusion of ALL residents.
All of this is a moot point, though, because as soon as that that shopping area is installed in the old Star Motel, Avondale will be doomed to a fate of full-on gentrification.