Tag Archives: 2nd avenue

Where to get that Grapico

A local affair

Mamanoes, the new convenience grocery store opening in the former Gypsy Market space in the 2300 block of 2nd Avenue North downtown, will have its grand opening tomorrow (Thursday, July 1). Sources tell us it may take another couple weeks to be fully stocked, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that a combination of business savvy and neighborhood support will make this a winner.

And hey, how can you not be optimistic when the first window display is a celebration of two home-grown fizzy favorites, Grapico and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale?


Sometimes recessions bring out interesting entrepreneurial efforts (see architects selling ice-cream in my post below).  Sue and Jimmy Johnson have purchased the former Hunter Furniture building on 18th Street North and plan to open a “doggie day care” facility, the first of its kind downtown. The owners intend to create a loft upstairs for their residence. While primarily known recently for its electric turquoise coloring, this building has a special place in local urban history: when almost the entire block was razed for a promised but never-to-materialize development, Hunter Furniture refused to bend to pressure. Today it stands alone amidst a sea of surface parking, a (rare) testament to grassroots resilience to the destruction of urban fabric.

People who live downtown tend to have dogs; walking dogs in the mornings and evenings helps foster community, creates pedestrian (and canine) foot traffic, and makes streets feel safer. While most residents are happy to finally have a dog park at George Ward Park, as yet there is no dog park downtown to which people can walk their furry friends. I’m hoping that the local Bark for a Park group will find a great place soon to start downtown’s first dog park. It doesn’t have to be big. And there are plenty of physical places where, in theory, you could locate one. Take a look at the Deep Ellum Dog Park in downtown Dallas for an example of what we could do here.

I also hope the Johnsons will figure out a way to preserve the old Hunter neon sign on the building; in my opinion signs like this should be landmarked and a special fund set up to help owners preserve them (the cost of restoration and operation can be daunting). A future post will discuss the importance of projecting signs and graphic imagery in dense, urban areas. But I could not resist posting this wonderful shot of Hunter Furniture and 18th Street from the mid-1970’s, before the wholesale demolition all around it.

Here you see the old WBRC-TV studio next door, the old Pasquale’s pizza downtown location, and a series of other businesses marching up 18th Street. Almost all these businesses are now defunct or demolished; Hunter wasjust about the lone survivor from this era (it finally closed in November, 2009).

It’s a shame that after all these years, the parking lots surrounding Hunter are still…parking lots. If this site could be redeveloped with new businesses, living units, restaurants, a shared parking deck, and maybe a small (dog-friendly) park, I’m convinced that fantastic older buildings nearby would see renewed interest in redevelopment (i.e. the Thomas Jefferson Hotel).

And the Johnsons could get some more 4-legged customers.

(pics courtesy army.arch, top; JCMcdavid, bottom)

Second Avenue Snow

Since I live next door to the office–with no excuse to leave early for a “snow day”, I thought I’d at least record the scene outside. A normally active sidewalk is fairly deserted.

I would also encourage everyone to check out another new blog about Birmingham’s built environment, inter-woven with historical context:  http://www.heaviestcorner.org/

And finally for today’s short, snowy post, the view from my living room out to the small urban garden: