In the second article about the critical period Five Points South is going through right now, the above image should give everyone pause. It seems not too long ago, this little strip mall on the 1900 block of 11th Avenue South was home to a longtime hairdresser, hot dog stand, and convenience store, as well as an H and R Block. The convenience store remains, but the hot dog stand is closed and cardboard boxes and rear ends of display cases block the plate glass. A vacant storefront has a “This is not parking for restaurants” sign menacingly scrawled, amidst other cheaply done, temporary signage. In fact, the cacophony of old and new signage, “temporary” banners and posters, and the overall complete lack of street presence makes this surely one of the most shameful urban presentations in Five Points.
Worst of all is the new “Bail Bonds” sign, in horrific black and white, with an incredible graphic pasted across the storefront stating “Arrested? Bond, James Bond, Inc. ALWAYS OPEN”. Is this for real? Did it really get approved by Design Review? Here’s a detail of this storefront below:
If ever there was an example of the need for a redevelopment authority, which years ago could have acquired this property and solicited for redevelopment more appropriate for the neighborhood, this is it. As it is, the property and its tenants have really sunk to a new low, and it’s depressing. I mean, Bail Bonds? In the middle of Five Points? Not exactly the image we’d like to convey in the metro’s center for dining and nightlife.
On a more positive note, the local merchants (and there are many wonderful merchants who keep us optimistic about the place) have formed a committee to address “immediate tasks and long term goals” for the area. There’s a piece in the Birmingham Business Journal on this announcement here.
And on another positive note, unrelated to Five Points but a few blocks south–a friend alerted me to the fact that Tom Leader, the Berkeley, CA-based landscape architect responsible for the design of Railroad Park, now features that park on the front page of his website. Here’s one of the aerial pics you can find on his project page, showing the elegantly layered design of the park from above:
So far the main complaint I have about the park is the lack of sidewalks bordering it on 1st Avenue South (hopefully they are coming soon!?!). Oh, and one more complaint–that greenways/bike lanes aren’t already in place making it easy to reach this incredible space from across the city by bike. Regardless, I’ve been there almost every day or night enjoying it (walking or biking from home), and it looks like the rest of the City is too. That gives me hope after a grim meet-up with “James Bond” up the street.
[Thanks to Tom Leader Studio for the aerial pic]