“Coffee-coffee-coffee, is a saying. It’s a funny, desperate cry for caffeine.”

Here in Birmingham, coffee seems to run through the city’s veins like it runs through the fictional veins of Lorelai Gilmore. If you’re looking for a place to study, catch up with a friend, or fuel your day, we’ve got you covered. Here are five unique coffee shops in Birmingham, AL.

1. seeds coffee company, 174 Oxmoor Rd, Birmingham, AL 35209

Seeds is has an industrial-rustic chic and laid-back atmosphere that’s always buzzing with studious college students and twenty-somethings.

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Three Inexpensive Nights Out In Birmingham

You deserve a night out. If you are a college student like me, you are probably juggling six or more classes, an internship for academic credit and a paid full-time job just to pay your rent. Because of all these things, you have the right to treat yourself every once and a while. The issue often tends to be that, though you may want a night out, you cannot afford to spend a lot of money. That is where I come in. Having lived in the city of Birmingham my whole life, I knew quite a few spots that can help you save a few bucks while enjoying what the city has to offer. Here is a short list of three different locations in Birmingham on the cheap. You can find directions to each location by clicking on the venue name in the list.

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Q&A with Harrison Tarabella

One of the best parts of my Samford experience has been all the creative people I’ve met during my four years here. One such example is Harrison Tarabella: a talented visual artist who got his initial training from professional National Geographic photographer. I sat down with Harrison to talk about where his passion comes from, his favorite experiences thus far and what’s next for him.

Answers have been edited for content and clarity.

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Birmingham the Beautiful

Take a drive in downtown Birmingham and you will experience a vibrant city full of hard-working individuals. There is growth on every corner, like the newly renovated Pizitz building that consists of over 15 food compartments, Sidewalk Film Festival and several shopping options as well as condominium living upstairs.

While there is growth, there is also tradition like the “It’s nice to have you in Birmingham” sign outside John’s City Diner.

Take a walk down any street in the Historical District and you’ll find a new appreciation for this city with every step you take. With the old, there is also new. Take the new home of the Birmingham Barons, Region Field.

Summer mornings are spent doing yoga at Railroad Park, afternoons hiking at Red Mountain Park and nights are spent at Regions Field cheering on the Birmingham Barons.

Whether young or old, this city has something for everyone at every walk of life.

Look out because Birmingham is quickly growing into a must-see destination!

 

 

 

A Building for the People

The Pizitz Building experiences new life as it reopens its doors for the first time since 1988.

In the early 1900s, a young Polish man named Louis Pizitz opened his first store, known as the “People’s Store,” in the heart of downtown Birmingham. According to historian Tim Hollis, the name reflected the young man’s desire to cater to the common man. By the 1920s, the store had grown into the Louis Pizitz Dry Goods Company, a department store that was a staple of everyday life in Birmingham. This year the building is reopening its doors as it embodies the character and ambition of the Magic City.

The Pizitz Building will express in the best form the heart of downtown living: eat, play, live and work. The space will serve as home to Birmingham’s first food hall as well as many office spaces and apartments. The lower level will be headquarters to the Sidewalk Film Festival and will also include two art and film theaters, offices and educational facilities.

The Food Hall

A lasting attribute of Birmingham is the quality and array of dishes created in the local restaurant scene. The food hall will act as a place for people of all ages to come together and fellowship while indulging in local cuisine.

“I’m most excited for the day I walk in the food hall and there are hundreds of people there with the same vision, all going to and from the food hall doing different things,” said Tom Walker, development manager at Bayer Properties, the company spearheading the renovation of the Pizitz Building. “I want people to use the food hall for a basis of operation and a gathering place downtown.”

The space will be made up of roughly 15 food stalls that will include an array of dishes, such as burgers, tacos, dumplings and more. All the food stalls will be set up around a central bar that will serve as the heart of the hall. In addition to the food stalls, there will be three full-service restaurants, as well as two areas with more traditional retail including the local printing company YellowHammer Creative.

Reveal Kitchen, a product of REV Birmingham, is one of the food stalls that will be a part of the hall. The stall will feature up-and-coming local chefs every six months who have graduated from Create Birmingham’s CO.STARTERS program.

Deon Gordon, director of business growth at REV, said he is thankful Bayer Properties approached him on this opportunity, as it fills a significant need in the business model for culinary startups. The incubator will bridge the gap between culinary pop-ups, food trucks and take-overs to chefs moving to a more permanent brick and mortar location. Reveal Kitchen provides startups with six months of sales, real market validation, exposure, experience, expertise and targeted technical assistance to back their growth progress, Gordon explained. The stall will contribute a well balanced mix of new upcoming dishes to the food hall while being consistent in providing exceptional quality.

A Role in Revitalization

Birmingham is a city that is growing and evolving. Entrepreneurs, creatives, artisans and chefs from all over are calling Birmingham home. People like Louis Pizitz in the 1900s, have shown up in Birmingham  to   start  lives for themselves, and for many that is in central downtown. The Pizitz Building acted as a gathering place for those people together back then, and it will do the same thing again today.

Walker, who has been working on this project with Bayer Properties for the past five years, said the venture is important to the revitalization happening in the downtown area.

He said it is exciting to participate in the historic rehabilitation of the Pizitz building because of the significant role it has played in Birmingham’s past. He remembered one instance when he was giving a tour of the building and many of the guests remembered walking the halls of the Pizitz building as a child.

The building not only brings back a sense of nostalgia, but it also builds a sense of pride and ambition in the people. “The Pizitz Building forces people to raise their expectation for what our city can do and what should be done… it raises audacious belief in Birmingham,” Gordon said. The Magic City has seen major growth through projects such as Railroad Park, which were once thought to be illogical but have drawn more people downtown. The Pizitz Building has the opportunity to continue the vibrant story being written and told downtown.

Opening Soon

The Pizitz building is located on 19th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave N. The food hall is set to open this December 2016. The apartments will open later in December. Visit the www.thepizitz.com for more information.

Story by: Charis Nichols and Hannah Garrett

Media Contributions:

Pizitz Sketch by Katherine Mixson, Photograph of the newly renovated Pizitz Building by Charis Nichols, Food Hall Renderings contributed by The Wilbert Group showing what the inside will look like.

A City Divided – A History of the Iron Bowl

Photo by Kate Sullivan

Roll Tide! War Eagle! What may seem like simple words are actually phrases that hold an unexplainable meaning for two very loyal fan bases. Phrases that have become battle cries ringing in the air all year long, sparking both friendships and fights.

In an interview with Charles Barkley for AL.com, University of Alabama football head coach Nick Saban said people who grow up in the state are raised in the football rivalry and it is a part of them. “And they have a lot of passion and they don’t have a lot of other choices. There’s not an NFL team, there’s not an NBA basketball team. So, everybody relates to one of these two schools and there’s a lot of passion for it.”

Alabama and Auburn fans wait all year long for that one day when their teams take the field against each other. The whole state of Alabama turns its attention to the game, and the neutral neighbors of these rabid fans are forced to pick a side. That day is known as The Iron Bowl.

The Iron Bowl gets its name from its Birmingham ties, as the city was the location of the game for 53 seasons, including the first. The programs met in 1893 in Lakeview Park for the first time ever in front of a crowd of about 5,000 strong. Drama ensued from the start as there were arguments as to whether the game should count for the 1892 or 1893 season. Word of the two teams playing and the subsequent tension drew interest as people began to discover the sport of football.

As Auburn was enjoying early success, threats from the university almost put an end to Alabama’s growing program. The dangers of football as well as the cost associated with funding a whole football team, had the University of Alabama’s faculty questioning the need for such a sport at the collegiate level.

Luckily for the Crimson Tide, football would be preserved and the yearly game against the Tigers would resume, that is until 1907 when the series was put on hold for financial discrepancies between the two teams.

Forty years later, the battle was reinstated after the Alabama House of Representatives brought forth a resolution to resume the rivalry by implementing full athletic programs for both schools. The state legislature went one step forward by threatening to withhold funding for the two universities unless they agreed to bring the Iron Bowl back.

The game was to return to Birmingham where the largest stadium in the state, Legion Field was located. By the time the game was officially moved to be played at each team’s respective fields in 1998, the game had earned its title of “The Iron Bowl” due to the city’s rich iron history.

While Birmingham may no longer play host to the most heated rivalry in all of college football, the roots of the teams run deep throughout the city with a plethora of both Alabama and Auburn fans as residents. It is easy to assume that almost everyone in the city has a side with which they align themselves in the series. However, this doesn’t always hold true.

In 2011 the Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery surveyed throughout the state to see which team they pulled for. Of those surveyed, 37 percent identified themselves as Alabama fans and 18 percent said they cheer for Auburn, but 20 percent said they cheer for both teams and 22 percent said they cheer for neither.

Essentially, 42 percent of the polled population said they don’t care which team wins.

Birmingham is growing and with that growth comes new waves of people who don’t have a background with either team. Regardless of their football preferences though, new residents often find themselves in a bizarre situation of having to choose a team, either by coworkers, neighbors, friends or significant others.

Kasey Mack, a college student in Birmingham, found herself having to choose sides despite her background as a University of Georgia fan. “I moved to Birmingham for school and all of a sudden I was surrounded by all these Alabama and Auburn fans who wanted to know not what my team was, but whether I cheered for Alabama or Auburn. It was like they weren’t satisfied with my response of not really caring between the two.”

Mack said as a Georgia fan she was raised to hate Auburn because they were one of Georgia’s rivals, thus she found herself cheering for Alabama when the Iron Bowl rolled around. Ultimately, she was just watching the game as a fan of football as opposed to a fan of either team. Her Bama fandom was solidified when she began dating an Alabama graduate.

“Yeah, I pretty much have to root for Alabama now. When he found out I didn’t really care which team won, he looked at me like I had two heads. I’m still a Georgia fan at the end of the day, but I find myself saying ‘Roll Tide’ a lot more often now.”

Birmingham Without Walls

A large community of homeless people gathers at Birmingham’s Linn Park. They gather near the fountain as the sound of running water blocks out street noise, citizens say.

There is a common, grim image traditionally associated with homelessness: a dirty, desperate man with a long beard sitting on the corner of a street alone, occasionally begging passersby for nickels.

However, this extremely public image of the indecent homeless man does not reflect the true demographic of the homeless community. In truth, most homeless individuals consider the streets too dangerous to live on.

“They’re scared,” Mallory Pettet said. “One woman I met—she was homeless—but she was mugged and was scared out of her wits. Some men followed her and robbed her of everything she had. And she doesn’t have a place to go and lock a door.”

Pettet and her close friend Hannah Baker visit members of the homeless community in Five Points every week. The pair help lead a Bible study, which they say is mostly led by a seven-year member of the Five Points houseless community.

Even more contrary to the common face of homeless is the fact that the majority of the homeless population is hidden from view.

According to the needs assessment study, only 12 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham stay on the street. About 34 percent stay in transitional housing, 22 percent in emergency shelters and 12 percent in treatment facilities. Around 82 percent of Birmingham’s homeless have been homeless for less than 2 years.

Pettet said that many of the people who live on the streets of Birmingham suffer from severe loss of identity and dignity as a result of being homeless.

“I had a conversation with a guy a couple weeks ago at a grill-out at Five Points,” Pettet said. “This one man wouldn’t look me in the eyes. I asked him his name and who he was and why he wouldn’t talk to me, and he mumbled ‘I just got out of prison.’”

“He put that stamp on his identity and assumed that the nice girl that gave him food was going to walk away,” Pettet said.

This is the second installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

Leroy sat in Linn Park waiting for a ride to the bus station on a warm, November afternoon. He was not alone in the park; in Alabama, it is still warm enough for short sleeves in November, so people with no other place to go can sit outdoors comfortably.

He leaned forward on his cane, a crutch he found necessary after a surgery left him with metal rods in his leg. His rough hands—one with stitches running across the palm—crossed one over the other at the crook of the cane. Leroy’s leg surgery left him unable to work, he explained. He draws a disability check for $925 a month and collects $16 in food stamps each month. After a divorce, Leroy found himself with no place to live.

“I lived in my car for a while,” he said. “But I lost my license. I would be in my car all day, driving from Greenville to Mobile, Mobile to Birmingham, Birmingham to Montgomery. I fell asleep. I was in the right lane so I went off the road, but the officer pulled me over. He thought I was drunk.”

The bus he was waiting on this day would take him to Greenville, nearly 2 hours away from Birmingham, where his car was. He had $300 in his pockets—money he planned to give to a contact in Greenville to pay back a debt. It was all the money he had to his name.

“I can’t get an apartment by myself,” he said. “I only get $925 a month for everything. An apartment—that’s my whole check. I wouldn’t have anything left over for anything else”

Leroy is one of the thousands of homeless men and women living in Birmingham. He is one of a smaller subset considered “chronically homeless.”

According to the study “A Needs Assessment of the Homeless of Birmingham and Jefferson County,” 29 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham fit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people either have disabling conditions and have been homeless for a year or more or have been homeless four times within three years.

Many of these homeless people said that “personal relationship issues” caused their homelessness.

“Ninety-one percent report experiencing at least one undesirable life event over the last year. The most common events are job loss, death of a close friend, family member or partner, physical abuse, or problems with a spouse or partner,” the study says.

According to county records, on Nov. 9, 2011, Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy. The debt of $3.14 billion made it the most expensive municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time. Since then, the availability of jobs has been decreasing.

Birmingham has an estimated homeless population of about 3,000 people. That is 0.13 percent of the overall population of the city living without a home.

More people are without work and fewer of them are able to find employment. The loss of job infrastructure caused by being homeless creates a vicious poverty cycle that local activists and volunteers say is not easy to break.

This is the first installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5