The Wealthy Neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama

The Wealthy Neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama

An Overview of the Metro Area

Birmingham has indeed come a long way in its relatively brief history. Born in the aftermath of the Civil War (1871), the city quickly burgeoned into the iron and steel industry’s “Pittsburgh of the South” by the early 20th Century. The city’s explosive growth in its first forty years earned it the nickname of the “Magic City”. Although it soon became the state’s largest city, Birmingham has always been considered a brash industrial upstart by the more genteel antebellum cities of Mobile and Montgomery.

Birmingham’s reliance on the iron and steel industry would be a curse and a blessing as dependence on one industry would lead to a boom and bust cycle throughout most of the 20th Century. During the last 20 years the steel industry has waned to secondary importance as Birmingham has pegged its future to banking and medicine.

The banking industry of Birmingham has recently succumbed to the on-going national trend in bank consolidation and three of it’s four largest banks have changed form. Southtrust was swallowed by Wachovia which was  in turn forced into Wells Fargo. Regions Bank bought their slightly smaller rival AmSouth. The smallest of the four largest banks, Compass, retains it’s name but is now owned by a Spanish bank. Voila! There is now only one large bank headquartered in Birmingham: Regions Bank. As of June 30, 2009, Regions was the 10th largest bank in the United States with deposits of $93.7 million.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham‘s large medical center is nationally recognized as a leader in many specialties and has been critical to the stabilization of the central city. The university itself was essentially grafted onto the medical center and has blossomed into a respectable urban university in spite of weak state support. The city also has two highly regarded large Baptist hospitals and St. Vincent’s, a very large formerly Catholic hospital.

The city is located in Jones Valley in the foothills of the Appalachians, and the bulk of the city limits lies in the flat lands of the valley. Upscale neighborhoods developed along the flanks of Red Mountain in the early part of the twentieth century as the city’s aristocracy escaped the industrial pollution and captured today’s panoramic views. Don’t bother looking for expensive housing north, east or west of the city; the upscale development of the metro region is found along U.S. Highway 280 to the Southeast of the city. The upscale neighborhoods in this area are very beautiful due to the rugged, heavily wooded topography. Homes are built along the sides, in the valleys and on the crests of Red, Shades, and Oak Mountains. Of course, Birmingham has no real “mountains,” but none-the-less, these three rather steep, heavily wooded Appalachian ridges make for very attractive suburbs and neighborhoods. Suburban sprawl has brought development to the flanks of a fourth Appalachian ridge, Double Oak Mountain.

Higley 1000 Neighborhoods in the Greater Birmingham Metro Area

View Larger Map

Birmingham will forever be tainted by its fierce and violent resistance to racial integration. Although the city’s race relations have progressed along the lines of the rest of the nation, a social and cultural gulf between whites and blacks persists. White flight from the central city (now 73.5% black) continued at a torrid pace during the 1990s with the white population dropping from 91,000 to 58,000. This trend continues into the new Century as the American Community Survey estimates the White population at 48,000 in 2006. The Birmingham city schools are over 99% black, heralding ever more residential segregation. Social and religious life in Birmingham is almost completely segregated. Mountain Brook, easily Birmingham’s most prestigious suburb, is 98.1% Non-Hispanic White. Even Forest Park, a city neighborhood that is much more liberal than the suburbs in outlook and voting, is 96.2% Non-Hispanic white. Unfortunately, there is a latent and sometimes outright hostility between Black Birmingham and the White suburbs.

The Arrival and Demise of Hurricane Larry (Langford)

In November of 2007 Birmingham began a new era with the election of Larry Langford as Mayor. Langford is a controversial character in local politics. Vainglorious and egotistical, he started his political career as the mayor of Fairfield, a struggling, small poor Black suburb adjacent to Birmingham that is famous as the location of the formerly huge US Steel works. Langford spent profusely in Fairfield leaving the small poor city struggling financially to pay off a new city hall and civic center. A man of unbounded ambition, he soon jumped to the Jefferson County Commission where he made waves and headlines by creating what may have been one of the most unusual fiascos in the annals of county governance by railroading through an amusement park with public money. He named his brainstorm Visionland and it was a disaster from the get-go. After $90 million of taxpayers money was poured into this albatross that was in a dreadful location, this money hemorrhaging loser was sold to a private developer for $5 million and rechristened Alabama Adventure. Commissioner Langford also raised the sales tax in Jefferson County to an astronomical 10% to finance a vast rebuilding of the Jefferson County school buildings. As head of the county commission he reigned over the rebuilding of the county’s sewer system that has saddled the county with $3.2 billion dollars in debt after he pursued a policy of debt swaps and was hoodwinked by the city slicker bankers in New York City. Look for the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States when Jefferson County goes under. It is not a matter of whether it will happen…. it is just when. As of June 2011, the Jefferson County Commission has managed to stave off bankruptcy for now, but it is only a matter of time.

Langford was indicted in 2009 for taking $238,000 in bribes for steering the Jefferson County bond business to a brokerage firm run by the highly connected Blount family in Montgomery. The trial, that began on August 31st, 2009 and the jury quickly found Mayor Langford guilty. He has begun serving a 15 year term in a federal penitentiary.

Langford brief tenure was a whirlwind of activity. He immediately raised taxes and “found” money to start an incredible array of initiatives that are too numerous to catalog here.  One bad idea that preceded Langford was the quest for a domed stadium downtown… a sort Visionland Stadium that will push the envelope with a half a billion dollars of additional debt. No professional teams would consider relocating to Birmingham as the market is too small. If the stadium is ever built, Birmingham will have a gold plated stadium that will be used for gun shows and tractor pulls. Considering the impending bankruptcy of the County, the on-going financial problems of Birmingham and the intransigence of the White suburban counties and cities to help the central city, means that it is very unlikely that this boondoggle will ever be built.

Fortunately for Birmingham, Langford has been succeeded by William Bell, an honest career politician who has been tasked with cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor. Mr. Bell is just what Birmingham needs: professional, realistic, and willing to make some tough funding proposals to deal with a difficult economy and the accounting shenanigans of the brief Langford mayoralty. Bell has been forthright in wrestling with a $77 million deficit. He has proposed some tough cutbacks and it will be up to the city council to come up with a better plan for fixing the problem.

One notable and timely Langford intervention has been in the local “mass transit system”. I use quotation marks in that what passes for mass transit in Birmingham is a joke. The local bus system is an embarrassment and Langford proposed non-existent money money for 100 new buses and 8 antique trolley cars that Prague, Czech Republic is trying to unload on the rubes of Alabama. Fortunately, the city council decided the street cars might have to wait and that harebrained scheme seems to have been put to rest. The 100 buses never materialized (surprise) as the money that was given to the mass transit district had to be used to cover a whopping budget deficit and makeup for lost federal transit subsidies.

Whether it is a bus system that actually works, or some other combination mass transit system, a source of dedicated revenue is necessary beyond sales tax increases. Sales taxes, in all of there regressive glory, are the only tax venue open to raising in Alabama without going through the completely corrupted Alabama state legislature. At 10% through much of the metro area, they have been raised to the breaking point.

Taxes: The Third Rail of Alabama Politics

Taxes are the third rail of Alabama politics. The state has the lowest per capita taxes in the United States and yet to hear the politicians talk, you’d think they we’re living in Massachusetts or Minnesota. No matter how horrible the schools are, no matter how inhumane the prisons, no matter how many federal court orders castigate the wretched public services of Alabama, Republicans and “Democrats” will not raise taxes in any meaningful way. One must remember that the difference between Republicans and Democrats in Alabama is negligible and laughable: they are both hard core right-wing conservatives. There is nary a Liberal or Progressive thought to be heard in any meaningful forum from the state legislature in Montgomery to the salons of Mountain Brook…

The voters have made themselves loud and clear on the issue of taxes and any politician that has the courage and audacity to speak the truth on taxes is in peril. Alabama’s current Governor, Bob Riley (R) lived to prove that it is possible to have a political life after proposing a tax increase, but he has a rare amount of courage in my humble estimation.)

Hence, it is difficult to make progress in any meaningful way. Progress on one front means another is neglected. And yet there is progress in an unplanned plodding kind of way.

Whether the domed stadium ever gets built, or the Olympics will choose Birmingham over Chicago,  this is a metro area that can’t even get the lights burning on the freeway system! Mayors have made promises about fixing our darkened byways ever since I have lived here and nothing ever happens. Whole sections of the freeway have no lights as all levels of government show that they are totally incompetent in solving this most complex of urban problems facing the 21st Century American city: changing light bulbs.

The state is mismanaged and under taxed and its antiquated 1910 Constitution gives local authorities little discretion in solving their financial problems. This inability to solve local problems is no more evident than in the U.S. Highway 280 corridor. The highway is the proverbial “golden goose” of Birmingham’s economic development, and it is literally being strangled to death by traffic. The 280 corridor has witnessed a boom in commercial, retail, and residential construction that has overwhelmed the six-lane commercial strip with grinding traffic. This strip of highway has become an unplanned overbuilt jumble and is as ugly as it is dysfunctional…. and still the developers build more…. while the politicians wring their hands and commission another study. Urban planners commit suicide after looking at 280. .

The highway runs through seven competing jurisdictions, and their cutthroat competition for sales tax revenue and unwillingness to control growth have made this an area to avoid for sane motorists. There’s nothing like crawling along behind giant SUVs (drill, baby drill) contemplating the exhilaration and freedom of the open road. The willing residents who live along 280 have no alternative routes to get to the CBD, and if the tolled, double-decked section is ever built, this future “improvement” will promise staggering traffic disruption as it is built. Oh well, as one local Realtor told me in downplaying the dreadful traffic on 280, “It’s no worse than Atlanta”.

I’ll let that speak for itself!

Not that any real improvement for 280 is actually in the planning stage…. The latest proposal is to double deck the highway from the end of the current commercial development to I-459. Opposition from the wealthy suburb of Mountain Brook extending the double decker toll road through their corporate limits would be ugly and especially problematic for 30 or 40 large/mansion homeowners as well as other more modest homeowners who were allowed to build too closely to such a major arterial (see lack of planning).

The city of Birmingham survived the loss of most of its white middle class by the shrewd stewardship and long-running tenure of the city’s first black mayor, Richard Arrington. Arrington made peace with the white business establishment and embarked on an aggressive annexation campaign that long-lassoed some of the most desirable commercial properties along the booming Highway 280 corridor. These include the wildly successful Summit, a lifestyle shopping center (essentially an upscale, heavily landscaped strip mall), a Target SuperCenter, and two struggling yet potentially successful older shopping centers, The recently remodeled Colonnade and Brook Highland, a somewhat forlorn shopping center in a perfect location.

These smart annexations were coupled with an aggressive defense of the central business district. There are currently more than 80,000 people working in the extended downtown… more than ever before in the 130-year history of the city. Unfortunately, this healthy employment base has not translated into a vibrant downtown: there is no significant retailing downtown, the department stores are long gone, and the streetscape is dominated by commercial property. The downtown is devoid of pedestrian traffic after dark.

Operation New Birmingham, a joint local operation has been very successful in rescuing literally hundreds of vacant downtown buildings and finding new uses for them. Birmingham has managed to avoid the curse of Charlotte (whole scale demolition the old CBD). As law firms and architectural design firms have moved into the small and medium sized buildings, work is now in progress on some of the largest abandoned buildings. A wonderful old 1920s skyscraper, the City Federal Savings & Loan is going condo. Similarly, there if hope that the long abandoned Thomas Jefferson Hotel will burst forth in all of its terra cotta beauty reincarnated as the Leer Tower, another condominium development. Leer Tower update: canceled due to recession.

There are few middle class residents in the city center, however, several hundred residential lofts have been constructed in the last few years and city officials are hopeful that these urban pioneers will be the vanguard of revitalization. The recent demolition of the huge, crime-infested Metropolitan Gardens public housing project and its replacement with a mixed-income, federally subsidized Hope VI housing development (Park Place) may augur well for Birmingham’s central business district. Nothing helps a downtown more than removing 900 crime and drug infested public housing units and replacing it with 580 units that are composed of 1/3 carefully vetted poor people and 2/3 market rate (that means lower middle class) apartments!

The Wealthy Neighborhoods of Birmingham in the Higley 1000

There are nine Higley 1000 neighborhoods in Birmingham: Two in the city, three in Birmingham’s premier upscale suburb of Mountain Brook, and four standard issue gated suburban fortresses.

Forest Park and Redmont Park: Birmingham’s Two Elegant City Neighborhoods

View Larger Map of Forest Park
View Larger Map of Redmont Park

Forest Park and Redmont Park are urban neighborhoods on the city’s commonly called the “Southside”. They were both developed in the early 20th Century (1914 and 1925 respectively) and have flourished in the last twenty years. Forest Park suffered through the 1960s and 1970s only to return to its former glory through gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s. Redmont Park has some of Birmingham’s grandest mansions peering down on the city from Red Mountain, a steep 350 foot tall ridge that overlooks the city below. Both Redmont Park and Forest Park are very small with a few hundred homes each. They are also noteworthy in that in spite of the fact that the central city is 75% Black, they are even Whiter than the suburbs! Along with the contiguous gentrified neighborhood of Highland Park, these three neighborhoods are the only upscale places left in the central city.

Mountain Brook: The Tiny Kingdom

Mountain Brook is a large suburb with about 21,000 overwhelmingly Non-Hispanic White residents. Local wags refer to it as “The Tiny Kingdom” due to its insular culture and social dominance.

I have carved out three “neighborhoods” out of the wealthiest sections of the city. Two of these neighborhoods are centered and named after the two towering institutions of social prominence in Birmingham, the Mountain Brook Club and The Country Club of Birmingham. The third neighborhood in Mountain Brook I have dubbed Mountain Brook Estates-Canterbury. Mountain Brook Estates was really the start of this gilded suburb in the in-fortuitous year of 1929. For statistical purposes I have joined it with the adjacent neighborhood of Canterbury.

Mountain Brook’s Higley 1000 Neighborhoods

Mountain Brook Estates-Canterbury

View Larger Map of Mountain Brook Estates - Canterbury

The Country Club of Birmingham

View Larger Map of The Country Club of Birmingham
The Mountain Brook Club-Shook Hill
View Larger Map

Mountain Brook, without question, is the place where Birmingham’s upper class lives along with a good portion of the metro area’s upper-middle class. Few wealthy suburbs in the United States command such a disproportionate majority of a metro areas wealthy and influential families. Mountain Brook has more than 80% of Birmingham’s Social Register families and anyone with a shred of social aspiration must live within its golden boundaries. It is a world apart from the crime infested streets of Birmingham and its genteel forested streets and clubs are truly a kingdom unto themselves.The Mountain Brook public school system is rated the highest in the state, and the suburb unquestionably has the largest number of Birmingham’s movers and shakers. It is home to the aforementioned blue-blooded Mountain Brook Club and the The Country Club of Birmingham as well as the social matrix of clubs and social alliances associated with the wealthy. The social system is difficult to break into in Mountain Brook unless one has a sterling pedigree. If you’re an internet entrepreneur from Boston… forget it… move to Greystone or Liberty Park. Nouveau riche households abound, but don’t hold your breath for an invitation to join the Mountain Brook Club!

As mentioned previously, Mountain Brook is incredibly white. Not one of the 62 African-Americans that lived in Mountain Brook in the 2000 Census was a householder. My guess is that they would mostly be live-in servants. There are plenty of well-to-do African-American families that could afford to live in Mountain Brook, however, they choose not to. This is a mystery I have not been able to figure out at this time. Anyone with some ideas, please leave a note below.

Greystone and Liberty Park

Greystone and Liberty Park are similar in that they are relatively new, gated master-planned communities centered on golf courses. They are both unusually large in scope and have developed neighborhoods with distinctly different price points. Of the two, Greystone has a wider range of single family houses ($200,000 to $3,000,000). Liberty Park is uniformly more expensive although it has a high end rental complex that is carefully segregated from the expensive single family homes. Each of these developments will have close to 3,000 housing units when complete, and a majority of those homes will be worth more than $500,000.


View Larger Map of Greystone
Greystone is part of the suburb of Hoover, a large (70,000) and aggressively pro-growth suburb with the state’s third best school system. Located at the southern end of the 280 corridor, Greystone has been extremely successful in spite of worsening transportation problems associated with 280. I drew the boundaries for Greystone to include only the three high income gated sub-neighborhoods for the Higley 1000: two country club themed neighborhoods and a third (Greystone Ridge) with multi-million dollar view estates. There are hundreds of many more downscale houses available in Greystone…. houses as low as $200,000! Would that buy a pool house in Greenwich?

Liberty Park

View Larger Map of Liberty Park

The second gated community in the Higley 1000 is called Liberty Park. If you can get past the hokey replica of the Statue of Liberty, this master planned community is located on a lovely patch of rolling wooded land that is ideal for beautiful homes. Liberty Park is part of Vestavia Hills, Birmingham’s second wealthiest suburb (after Mountain Brook) and its second highest rated school system. Vestavia Hills is a large (30,000) overwhelmingly white upper-middle class suburb with one exception, the recently annexed lower-middle class community of Cahaba Heights. The architecture of Cahaba Heights is unremitting expanses of dreadful post-war ranches. Cahaba Heights has a perfectly central location in the metro area and the physical environment is beautiful…. can you say TEARDOWN!?

The addition of Cahaba Heights to the corporate limits of Vestavia gave the city a geographic link to Liberty Park formerly a non-contiguous isolated piece of development. But that’s another story…..

Highland Lakes

View Larger Map of Highland Lakes

Highland Lakes, is a very large gated community located out the 280 corridor in the rolling Appalachian foothills south of the city. Highland Lakes is a planned development where every house essentially looks the same. The “lakes” are dammed (damned?)narrow valleys in the Appalachian foothills. As a native of Wisconsin, I can say with full-throated condescension, these puddles are only “lakes” in a developer’s dream! Highland Lakes is solely residential and will ultimately be home to thousands of people that live in a monument to Stepfordian socio-economic and Republican homogeneity.

Shoal Creek-Stonegate Farms

View Larger Map of Shoal Creek and Stonegate

The final Higley 1000 neighborhood is Shoal Creek, another gated golf community and the adjacent newly constructed gated community of Stonegate Farms. After more than twenty years of development, only about 90 of the 230 large wooded lots in Shoal Creek have had houses constructed on them. The development includes suburban Shelby County’s answer to Versailles, an over-the-top 45,000 square foot (empty) chateau built by a local entrepreneur. I think it’s visible from space. Years ago, Shoal Creek’s golf course gained some unwanted national attention when the PGA threatened to cancel a golf tournament at the club unless it was integrated. A token Black guy was recruited, given a membership, and the PGA was happy. The Club was technically integrated and the tournament proceeded. The token Black guy reported in a recent newspaper article that he was treated well at the club, but, unfortunately he died recently. Never fear though for Shoal Creek’s integration as they have found another Black guy to replace him that doesn’t caddy or mow the fairways.

The Village of Mount Laurel

Although not a Higley 1000 neighborhood, there is one newly developing community that merits mentioning. If you’re a fan of New Urbanist design principles, Mt. Laurel is a planned community in the middle stages of development on the far urban fringe of the metro area. Yes, suburban fringe, auto dependent New Urbanist design is a oxymoron, but it’s pretty. The question I would havd for the developers of Mt. Laurel is: when you jettison any pretension at having a mixed income community and build on the auto dependent fringe, can you still call yourself “New Urbanist”? Sales have been slow in spite of a charming and unusual design aesthetic. The general consensus is that it’s a bit pricey.. and no more than a cute architectural conceit for the upper-middle class.

Homewood: Birmingham’s Coolest Suburb

And finally, a word about one of my favorite of Birmingham’s suburbs, Homewood. Ideally located in the metro area, Homewood is a predominately lower-middle class suburb adjacent to Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. Most of Homewood is made up of well-maintained bungalows and small homes and it has a significant number of rental apartments. Thanks to a strong sales tax base, Homewood has managed to maintain a good school system and has continued to attract young families that have turned vast tracts of forgettable bungalows into beautifully remodeled houses in tidy wooded neighborhoods.

Homewood has two very interesting upscale neighborhoods: Mayfair & Hollywood. Hollywood has a wonderful collection of stuccoed, flat roofed houses built in the 1920s that have been remodeled for the the 21st Century. I love Hollywood: great architecture and a great location. Mayfair is more traditional, with its rolling, heavily wooded landscape, it share’s Hollywood’s ideal location for getting anywhere in Birmingham.

In Summary….

Birmingham is a very interesting town with a wide array of housing choices. This is but the first of my essays on Birmingham. After all, it has been my home town for 15 years and as an Urban Geographer, I have much to say about my adopted home. It is my fervent hope that I will be able to use my web site to express my critical thinking about the metro area.. something that is woefully absent from the boosterism so characteristic of what one finds published locally. The Birmingham News, an achingly Conservative newspaper does a fairly good job of covering the city and bankrupt county, but sounds like a the local arm of the Chamber of Commerce when covering the suburbs. I hope that my website counters the flackery and drivel that passes for journalism about the suburbs of our fair metro area.

Posted in Metro Briefs, Racial Diversity on Jun 7th, 2011, 11:48 am by Stephen Higley   

90 Responses to “The Wealthy Neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama”

  1. RDR
    September 17th, 2007 | 9:18 am

    This is very good information. I am contemplating relocating to the Birmingham area in about a year; I can appreciate your experience as I am originally from Dallas, Texas, the politics and urban sprawl are similar, but on a larger scale in Dallas.

  2. Anna Marie
    September 26th, 2007 | 10:16 am

    I just wanted to say that I’ve lived in birmingham my entire life and what you’ve said can’t be any more true. I feel like the racial segregation in our state has gone from bad to rediculous, and I personally have had a tough time with african americans who have been racist towards me, a caucasian female, even though I myself am not racist and actually grew up in a predominately african american end of town (I grew up in Centerpoint/Roebuck/Eastlake area. It butts up against the back side of birmingham off of I-20/59). I was the only white girl in my neighborhood. I’m not making this about racism, I’m just glad to see that others notice how rediculous and backwards the segregation is in my neck of the woods! Another thing that you pointed out that I agree with is the 280 corridor’s lack of planning. I really think that because it was planned so poorly (or not at all), it’s going to end up like other areas of town such as Irondale and Riverchase that used to be much like 280 is now that got choked by traffic and came victim to the metro system (for some reason, the busses only go from 280 to places like fairfeild, ensley, and downtown birmingham, where crime rates are significantly higher). I worked at the Summit Lifestyle Center for several years and since they began running the busses from downtown to 280, break-ins, robberies and stabbings/shootings have become a LOT more common.

    Another suburb you may be interested in looking at is Trussville. I live about 15 minutes from there and they have gone from 0 to 60 in no time flat.

  3. Joshua Brasher
    February 6th, 2008 | 1:54 pm

    When I first looked at your site I thought it was going to be another boring site with nothing but numbers, but I was surprised. It was not hard to follow and enjoy.

  4. chandra subramaniam
    February 14th, 2008 | 11:37 am

    A five star deserving article with the insider view. A must read for anyone transplanting to Birmingham. Keep it up.

  5. Rich
    March 15th, 2008 | 10:29 pm

    I find this website post interesting, but i really can’t
    agree with the contents. I myself believe Jefferson County
    and Langford is corrupt as hell and a disaster… that rivals
    local Chicagoland television station investigative stories, at
    least that’s what i observed when i was a teenager.

    I myself cannot agree the urban city of Birmingham is a crime
    infested bunch of criminals. Do you know 99% of the people
    living within the city limits are good people? Most of the kids and teenagers are doing exactly what the kids in the suburbs do… play basketball !

    In Fact, i grew up in an area that makes mountain brook look like nothing, just outside the Chicagoland Northshore… wikipedia that !!!! I grew up where there was NO CRIME it puts Birmingham to shame.. just wikipedia the Chicagoland Northshore and while Deerfield is technically not part of the Northshore, things have changed over the past 25 – 30 years.

    I myself experience very little difference, again 99% of the people within the City are good people, there are at 1%…
    I think that 1% is crazy to get involved with judges and attorney’s and throw there life away… all it takes is a few weeks, their caught and their history.. probably yanked out of society… But that 1% will not affect you if you have nothing to do with them, no matter what they’ll find away to get themselves in trouble.

    The point is, 99% of these people living within the City are good respectable people, certainly not the sterotype we are led to believe in. Probably the very biggest factor for that 1%… the drugs/drinking.. now that is a environment that must be avoided… if you don’t get involved with that, there is viritually no chance of getting involved.

    But so called codependence is no different regardless of the socio demographics and yes there is a cultural difference
    but nothing to the extent of the stereotype.

    Most of the neighborhoods in Birmingham after dark are quiet and safe, come summer though and it’s hot, some people start
    doing their drinking and it’s that 1%.. for some reason they
    are just naturals of getting themselves into serious trouble,
    but 99% of the people are not that way. And regardless or
    not there is very little difference at all within the middle class upper/lower neighborhoods.. but i must admit, there are definitely cultural differences

  6. fancypants
    August 28th, 2008 | 8:53 pm

    Its all true-what you have said. I lived there for two years and I can say it was the most mundane experience ever. In Birmingham you are either rich or poor, white or black and other classifications aren’t worth considering-see they even did it to me. There is very little diversity and I believe their must be some city entity whose job it is to insure no immigrants stop and take root there-unless you are a doctor. There are Hispanic folk there but they are invisible unless you look for them and you mignt find some serving up a chalupa plate some downtrodden bluecollar and his family on a friday night. The wealthy of Birmingham would never…ever…eat ethnic food. In Birmingham its all about the attitude. You are always aware whose is riding a thoroughbred and whose riding an ass. Birmingham was raised out of the ground by wealthy northern industrialist and financiers. The divide in Birmingham was not created by the old south. It resembles more the social structure of Boston or New York City when there was no personal income tax.

  7. December 17th, 2008 | 6:53 pm

    I myself am a young african-american male who grew up in the inner-city of Birmingham.The comments made on this website show a vague reflection of the city where I was raised.Birmingham as a Metro-Area is a wonderful place to live.Like other cities across America, the city it self does have some problems. One of them is not a lack of desire for progression.A brighter future comes with unification on many levels.Division occurs when the same desire is not shared amongst citizens of a community. There is an economic difference between over the mountain and the inner-city Birmingham,but both take pride in there residential areas. Remarks like the only African-Americans in Mountain Brook are servants are the same as if I were to say the only Caucasians I see in my old neighorhood are drug addicts look for a fix.Totally unfair statement.I would like to ask many Americans reading this which is worst and honestly answer yourself. Is it better to be an affluent racist or a poor victim of your environment.I would agree my city leader is a crook hated by poor and rich alike, reminds of G.w.Bush but he is still my president.At least Langford is not spending it on a war in Iraq or Pakistan or trying to buy a Senate seat, I’m sorry person from Northshore.My point is that just as where you live, where ever it is Birmingham is similar just smaller, with a Southern twang.If Higley would rewrite this are article and leave out all of the personal and political crap, that you were not interested in anyway, it would be precise and informative.I left out don’t go to Alabama Adventure full of Rednecks and Gangsters, damn this article is affecting me now.

  8. Southerner
    December 30th, 2008 | 5:28 pm

    Interesting article/website.

    fyi, the “Versailles” house in Shoal Creek is not empty.

    The simple gated community of Stonegate Farms is not part of the gated fortress of Shoal Creek. Why are they combined in your study?

  9. motown
    December 30th, 2008 | 10:17 pm

    Grew up in one of the established Birmingham neighborhoods mentioned. What a wonderful explanation of what has become of the region. The question now, how do we fix some of the problems? Auto dependence is a fact of life for anyone not living in the city center condo district, and there are very few alternatives to living close to that city center if you have a family, and are concerned with the quality of education. So, we need real answers from brilliant Phd’s. All we have here are eloquently stated problems. Don’t give me too much self righteousness either Dr. Higley, a true believer in new urban design would live within walking distance of the University in that precious little town of yours where you teach. Why did you pick one of the biggest proponents of sub-urban sprawl, Alabaster. What, concerned about schools? Montevallo city schools that dismal? The Birmingham region is begging for real answers, I say buses, we’ll never get light rail, and expanding the roads for more cars will just keep us auto dependent for future generations. Making those new lanes on 65 HOV lanes is probably the only way to go. You eloquently listed the problems, help us find the answers. Get the folks from 280 and I-65 south to the city center. Any ideas? Or just more complaints? Isn’t the point of education and research to find answers and solutions?

  10. Teri Jacobs
    March 27th, 2009 | 4:40 pm

    As a Birmingham native, who left my beloved home state more than 20 years ago, I think you’ve done a wonderful job of summing up the city. So many things become entrenched in a town’s DNA (live in Chicago suburbs now; Chicago is the most segregated large city in America) that you can despair about the things that need changing yet. But I would think ditching that antiquated constitution would be a good start. If there’s no local accountability, people will not trust their tax dollars to elected officials. Enjoy a real spring!

  11. Nick Williams
    April 8th, 2009 | 11:11 am

    Very Interesting Article. I was born in Birmingham and my family left the south due to the heavy racism we recieved for being African-American, and I must say being up north (Wisconsin) is like night and day compare to segregation, I recieved in the South. Its funny you mention Mountain Brook, because my family was one of those African-Americans to live in Mountain Brook. I was born in 1981 and I remember growing up being the only Black Kid in the class. My mom was a Nurse at UAB and my Father was a MD at Montclair Hospital, and yet we are well-to-do blacks, I still experience racism every day and I thought it was the normal. Until my Father relocated us to Milwaukee. Althought I still experience racism (more indirectly than directly) its total different, and not so profound as it was in Birmingham. Would I ever go back (I don’t think so), to live anyway maybe visit. But I love reading about your article and it cause me to remember things I forgot about, so thanks Great Article.

  12. June 11th, 2009 | 5:25 pm

    As a Birmingham native, I can see that there is merit to some of what you say, however, I have personally NEVER met anyone who moved to the area that did not love it. When you compare how you can live in our area versus most of the rest of the country, you must agree that we have a great deal to offer. We have nearly every amenity that a larger city has without the congestion and high crime. This is NOT the 1960’s, and I believe our universities and medical facilities make this area better educated, and diverse in culture. The many natives who live here have stayed because they truly love it, as in my Hoover neighborhood where adult children often live near their parents or siblings. I also believe that the Birmingham area is one of the friendliest, most welcoming communities around. You should remember that many of us LIKE suburbia. It isn’t hard to fit in at all. Just put a smile on your face, and participate in something!

  13. PL
    July 1st, 2009 | 5:25 pm

    To the comment from “great homes alabama”: “We have nearly every amenity that a larger city has without the congestion and high crime.” How can you say that when Birmingham’s crime rates rank up there with Memphis and Detriot? I also hate to say it, but you can’t assume that all the people that have stayed there have done so because they “truly love it”. A lot of people just never get the gumption to leave and see what it’s like somewhere else. I can’t tell you the amount of people I know from the area, that in their whole life, have only been to Atlanta and the beaches in Florida.

    I am a white female who grew up in the city of Birmingham – in Central Park which borders Ensley. I lived there as a child during the early 1980’s and by this time the neighborhood was majority African American and poor. I was one of two white children in my class at Central Park Elementary. After witnessing a man get shot outside my bedroom window around 1989, we moved to the suburbs, like many white families that moved out of the city during the 70’s and 80’s. These areas of Birmingham – Midfield, Fairfield, Ensley, Central Park – are crime-ridden and unsafe and I believe it has only gotten worse with time unlike the urban areas in some cities that have gone through gentrification over the last several years.

    Over the years I have also lived in Trussville, Mountain Brook, Hoover and Inverness. I now live in California. To “great homes alabama” above, I am some one who DID NOT LOVE IT and left. The “attitudes” of the so-called wealthy are just silly, and therefore really annoying. Most of these people have nothing to be snobby about, yet they are and to a high degree. I always think to myself, “Yeah, but you live in Birmingham! Who cares!”

  14. Yeoman Farmer
    July 26th, 2009 | 10:34 pm

    I found your article about the sociopolitical strata among Birmingham neighborhoods very interesting and thought-provoking. Having grown up way outside of the “Magic Circle” of the folks on the Social Register in Mountain Brook, my years at the University of Alabama brought the issue of social class in Alabama (particularly how it played in University society and politics) to my consciousness. Unlike so many of my rural Alabama friends who chose to take flight to metro areas to seek their fortunes, I returned to the Lower Alabama hamlet I called home to practice law. Were it not for the fact that my wife is a Shelby County girl, I would have long forgotten the Birmingham folks and their socially stratified neighborhoods. If the overtures Birmingham citizens make toward elitism concern you, feel free to come to a place where you can make of yourself what you wish — the poor, rural South. You can certainly be a big fish in a small pond here with a little inventiveness and a title such as “Ph.D.” or “M.D.” We’re literally scratching for people to associate with, none of whom, of course, will be found on the Social Registry. By the way, I have a law partner whose family are members of the Mountain Brook Club. Yes, they are different, and are not familiar with our folk ways. They’re nice people, though, from Vestavia and Baptist, to boot.
    Keep writing. Next time come to L.A. to do an expose on the socio-economic strata of poor whites, an ethnicity of distinction now that they are officially the only racial classification in America that can still be denigrated among the intellectual elite and in the mainstream media. There’s just not enough material out there on them. As an aside, rednecks generally don’t build country clubs and long-standing neighborhoods. And as a rule, we don’t have a proud architectural or literary heritage.

  15. candice
    December 2nd, 2009 | 1:18 pm

    When will we ever learn? Race is just biology no one is better than the other god not going to be happy. The way we have all destroyed the earth and complain about black and white issues. just live,love and give and rejoice in what has been given to us all!

  16. Todd Pierce
    December 7th, 2009 | 8:33 pm

    Well, I moved to Vestavia Hills from Huntsville when I was 11, and boy was I in for culture shock!

    My lower-middle class family lived and still do) in fully integrated neighborhoods inside the Huntsville city limits. Race was never an issue, nor was it a big deal. I can’t speak for now, but in the late 1970’s racial equality and peace were the norm in huntsville.

    In Vestavia Hills there were 18 Black kids the whole time I was there (8 years), and then they were all in “special ed” programs. Upon graduating from High School I moved to Southside to attend UAB, and to be near the few international people, New Agers, Punks and skaters in the whole metro area. I’ve lived in awesome neighborhood after neighborhood, only to be run out due to extreme violent crime, gangs, drugs and reverse discrimination. Currently, I live in downtown, which is about as dead socially as a country field. The only developments are high-end, expensive condos, and they’re not selling or renting, because Mountain Brook and Homewood are only 3 minutes away and SAFE, so why go through the hassle ? Blacks resent and belittle the downtown loft dwellers, and suburbanites call us “liberal activists”, so it’s almost hopeless. I’ve grown to loathe Birmingham and the entire region. I truly wish it would just implode back into the rugged Appalachian foothills, and become as forgotten as the old capitol at Cahawba. Mobile is coming together in regional cooperation, while Montgomery and Huntsville both seem poised to surpass Birmingham in municipal population. In the aftermath of La La Langford and the constipated Bernard Kincaid, the continued bloodletting of the population, the fawning over the homeless at the expense of neighborhoods, and a city council more excited about aunt Nadine’s church bake sale than economic development, I expect to see Birmingham steal Detroit’s title as “America’s Beruit”.

    The elite could care less. And, you’ll never find a higher percentage of millionaires with a fondness for Miller High Life and Thomas Kincaid than in Mountain Brook. Their idea of international travel is Vail, Disneyworld and Augusta.

    The region’s blue blood don’t want new blood, and the 26% of Birmingham living in abject poverty (yet highly mobilized politically) don’t want their control of City Hall messed with, so there you have it. Y’all just move on to Nashville, Raleigh and Columbia, SC.

  17. jtyler
    January 30th, 2010 | 12:51 pm

    Wow! That’s all I can say. As a African American man who just received a job offer in Birmingham this article was very helpful. I drove down to Birmingham last week. Once I saw the city, it felt as if I had stepped back in time (not 10 years, not 20 years, but at least 30 years)! The physical appearance of the downtown area was horrible! Without reading this article, I could see this was a city that hade abandoned it’s core. Although the offer was great, I refuse to expose my children to what I experience as a child (imposed limits). Yes the suburbs of Birmingham are beautiful, but I noticed the lack of diversity. Unfortunately, companies are relocating from the North and Midwest to the South for tax breaks and low wages. As a mangager, I’ve seen first hand the slave wages paid in the South. A few years back, I visited a plant in Alabama where there were two old ladies (both white) who had been with the company for over 30 years. Each were making $6/hr! Before I left, I made the Plant Mgr give them a raise. This backwards / old-boy system hurst everyone! Needless to say, I won’t be accepting the job offer in Birmingham … money is truly not everything.

  18. Rich
    March 15th, 2010 | 12:09 am

    I grew up in Deerfield, Il. which at the time was middleclass,
    but east of I-41 is mostly old money, that’s a very solid
    100,000 in population base. There is no comparison in
    these wealthier communities in Birmingham compared to the

    The biggest factor, politics and corruption. It’s nonexsistent for the most part on the Northshore

    Birmingham, including the wealthier areas, in a City where
    corruption is the norm, probably the biggest factor. Certainly the City is corrupt, Jefferson County is a disgrace,
    and the State, one of the most corrupt.

    That is honestly the difference between areas close to the Northshore and Birmingham. I did not know anything of how politics and corruption works because there was none. Relocate to Birmingham, corruption is the norm and it’s thoroughly politicized

    There is absolutely no comparison

  19. George
    April 9th, 2010 | 2:38 pm

    “As mentioned previously, Mountain Brook is incredibly white. Not one of the 62 African-Americans that lived in Mountain Brook in the 2000 Census was a householder. My guess is that they would mostly be live-in servants. There are plenty of well-to-do African-American families that could afford to live in Mountain Brook, however, they choose not to. This is a mystery I have not been able to figure out at this time. Anyone with some ideas, please leave a note below.”

    I believe that there are no Asian or Asian American households in Mountain Brook. So, it is not just the African Americans. Many Asian Americans do not find the place very welcoming either and this includes wealthy Asian Americans!

  20. americana
    May 12th, 2010 | 6:17 pm

    “There are plenty of well-to-do African-American families that could afford to live in Mountain Brook, however, they choose not to. This is a mystery I have not been able to figure out at this time. Anyone with some ideas, please leave a note below.”

    I am an African American that chose NOT to move to Mountain Brook, because even though they have the “best” education system….they have no diversity in the schools. What is that teaching those children? They have no contact with non-white cultures other than their nannies / household workers. What they know about other cultures comes from the media–which can, many times, incorrect. I want my child to feel like it is okay to be African American, Hispanic, Asian, mixed…..and to also interact with people of ALL origins and socio-economical backgrounds.

    Natalie Holloway came from the Mountain Brooke area….and of course not all kids are like that, but I said that to say, you have to be around different people so that when you get out into the real world you know how to interact with many types….you have street sense, yes there are dangerous places and you can’t ALWAYS avoid them by living in a fortress on the other side of town.

  21. May 13th, 2010 | 12:45 pm

    I grew up in Mountain Brook and now live in Vestavia. I am not sure why people associate diversity more heavily with African Americans than other races. Mountain Brook has many Jewish people, Asian people, & Indians. It is true the Hispanic and African American numbers are low and Caucasian are high. Mountain Brook as a city isn’t exclusionary it is an economic issue and an issue of choice. I found that most people weren’t racist or prejudice in my generation (I’m 28). The comment about hate between African American from the inner city and whites from the suburbs is just not true in my experience. The real issue is the difference between the poor and the wealthy. The actual city of Birmingham has been run so poorly for so long resulting in less opportunity for the people who live there while driving the affluent taxpaying citizens away. This situation polarizes people economically while disenfranchising the poor further due to lack of funds for education. The result of all this is that Birmingham lost its tax base. They haven’t learned and continues to make bad policy decisions toward businesses. The other reason for the exodus of the affluent is crime. More serious crimes happen in Birmingham and the police for seem to be all but powerless to stop it. This is due impart to the city leadership, and pay for Birmingham police. The point I am trying to make is that the real issue in the metro area is one of poor and rich, for the most part the poor live in Birmingham proper and the rich live in the suburbs. The poor just happen to be mostly African American. Until the City of Birmingham gets its act together there will still be a divide between its citizens, one not of race but of wealth.

  22. kimberly
    June 3rd, 2010 | 4:45 pm

    Hello. I just finished reading your article and found it to be interesting and informative. I am an African American woman who grew up in the Ensley projects, and who left the city of Birmingham nearly 25 years ago. I must say, that much of what your wrote is very true. The city has always been very segregated, both racially and economically. I, however, had the good fortune to attend one of the more progressive schools in the city, the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA). As a result, I feel that I was in a priviledged position where I was able to move through various sectors of the city.

    While I was raised in the entirely Black community of the Ensley projects (the brickyard), the vast majority of my classmates were White. Their economic backgrounds ranged from poor, to middle class, to very wealthy. But the common thread that we all had was our love for the arts, and to a degree, the fact that we were all misfits within our own communities. My attendance at the school allowed me access to places that I may not have otherwise been allowed: I attended parties with the pedigreed children of old money Mountain Brook; I played tennis with kids in Vestavia; I skinned catfish with kids from Cahaba; and I had dinner with middle class Black kids in Homewood. And every day, I came home to the brickyard, where I saw drug dealers plying their goods; saw mothers, tired and frustrated after working “over the mountain”, come home and cook dinner for their children; and saw young boys and girls try to find their way to becoming adults. The point that I’m making is that the experience instilled in me a sense that I was not by other people’s low expectations of me. And the fact that my mother instilled that the brickyard was where I was from, not where I was headed.

    In my humble opinion, the biggest obstacle to Birmingham’s success is the lack of common effort. The us against them attitude has led to a city that is fractured, with citizens who are distrustful of one another. It is Black against White, rich against poor, and a middle class that is trying desperately to move on up the side of the mountain, all the while hoping that they don’t lose thier footing which would plunge them into poverty.

    Over the years, I’ve considered many times moving back to Birmingham. There are many good things about the area, but the things that are wrong are really, really wrong, and are just too much. The lack of cooperation among the different sectors; the lack of diversity; the finger pointing and blaming (the Blacks saying all whites are racists who are keeping them down, and the Whites saying all Blacks are thugs and welfare mothers); the corruption; the disparity between rich and poor – is just too much. And it is just too very sad.

  23. Stephen Higley
    June 4th, 2010 | 10:47 am

    I absolutely agree that the fault lies on both sides of the racial divide. The best example of this on transportation issues. The mass transit system is a joke and would need a major infusion of public money to be any where near adequate. While Charlotte forges ahead with a state of the art mass transit system, Birmingham can’t keep 50 buses running. I am very discouraged by racist comments I hear from my neighbors. I am encouraged by the fact that the students at the University of Montevallo are NOT racist (nor homophobic). Unfortunately, I fear that Montevallo is a pleasant little world that doesn’t really represent what the people of Shelby County are really thinking

  24. kimberly
    June 4th, 2010 | 2:06 pm

    Stephen, yes, I too have been privy to racist comments. Isn’t it unnerving when such comments are said in your presence, and the assumption is that you agree with them? It places you in the position of either speaking out against them (which in turn thrusts you into the position of an outsider or sell-out), or remaining silent (which gives the illusion that you are in agreement with the sentiments expressed).

    I understand your finding encouragement in the lack of racism expressed by your students. I too was encouraged by the experience I had at ASFA, where racism was absolutely not allowed. In some ways, I thought that my generation would herald in a change of attitudes within the city. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.

    I also understand what you mean about Montevallo being a world apart. For many years, I lived in Columbia, MD — a bedroom community between Baltimore and Washington, DC. I found it to be the closest I’ve come to in terms of a place that was all inclusive.

    Perhaps I will explore Montevallo the next time I get an inkling to move back home :)

  25. George
    August 5th, 2010 | 11:25 am

    “Mountain Brook has many Jewish people, Asian people, & Indians.” Kevin..Oh really!! No wonder they say Americans including white Americans cannot count and they need foreigners to work in engineering occupations…

    “The racial makeup of the city was 98.64% White, 0.31% Black or African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.22% from two or more races. 0.58% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.”,_Alabama

  26. Mae238
    August 5th, 2010 | 8:41 pm

    Kevin, oh, Kevin…
    In this case, the “98.64% White” statistic includes the “Jewish” people. Racial diversity usually does not mean people of different religions or denominations. The remaining numbers, such as 0.04% Native American, 0.65% Asian, are hardly diverse.

  27. George
    September 1st, 2010 | 3:11 pm

    Last I heard, Mountain Brook High School had two Asian students, adopted from abroad, five Hispanics and no African this the whitest town in America? One white school boy from Mountain Brook took home an Asian girl and her parents told her not to step into their house. The only problem was this happened half way round the world in Singapore where his parents are on assignment and the girl was a local, a daughter of a Chinese multimillionaire! You can take a Mountain Brooker out of bigotry but you cannot take bigotry out of a Mountain Brooker!

  28. Smith
    September 13th, 2010 | 11:06 pm

    I grew up in Mountain Brook and you’re right-on about it (and its racial make-up). If I were black I wouldn’t want to live there simply because there aren’t any other black people. When I was in high school there were three Asian kids and two black kids (who were basically imported to help the basketball team).

    I live in Birmingham proper now, which fits my personality better (and apathy about where so-and-so’s daddy works), but I agree with your assessment of Homewood and I would probably buy property on the East side (Forest Park, Avondale, Irondale) or Homewood.

  29. Tom
    December 6th, 2010 | 3:53 pm

    I am a professional who is currently working from Atlanta but because we have a number of grandchildren living in the suburbs of Birmingham find myself purchasing a home in the city of Birmingham near St Vincent’s. I have been an investor in numerous buildings in Birmingham because my son has a passion for restoring old buildings. One of them is in the Historic Loft District and what was once an abandoned area is now housing lots of professionals who see the promise of restoring Birmingham. We recently restored Woodrow Hall which used to house the Woodlawn Masonic group and probably at one time had klan robes hung in the coat closet. But it now hosts weddings and celebrations. My son, son-in-law and I have invested a life’s savings in this wonderful old building and countless hours.

    Why did we do this? Because Birmingham is and will be restored. I travel most major cities in the US on a regular basis for my “real” job. Birmingham is following the same path that other old, dilapidated cities have including Pittsburgh, Boston, Phila, Indianapolis and others. It is slowly but surely coming back from decades of neglect. Our cities are the heart and soul of the US. If local governments cooperate, others like us will invest our vision and wealth to bring them back from the brink.

    I laugh when people from Birmingham say that Birmingham is unsafe or crime infested. You folks live in la’la’ land. There is crime everywhere. All you have to do is look at Wall Street and DC and see that crime is not isolated to “segregated” or “poor” areas.

    A supreme court justice once said that the best sterilizing agent is sunlight.

    Well, sunlight is shining on Birmingham just like other cities. It will prosper as it has all of the basic foundational bases covered. Low tax base, nice weather, retiring northerners wishing for a nice place to move and GOOD people.

    I will soon be living in the city and am proud of it. I have spent a fortune and plenty of my time working with my son on restoring buildings in Birmingham and others like me are going to bring this wonderful city back to its former glory!

  30. Thomas Porter
    January 12th, 2011 | 5:19 pm

    You left out one of the most beautiful communities in Alabama, Meadow Brook. It is a lot closer to Birmingham than Greystone or Shoal Creek; but every bit as beautiful, and it is affordable.
    Please continue your research, I look forward to your review of this suburban oasis.

    Check this out!

    Meadow Brook Home Owner History
    The Meadow Brook Homeowners Association was not in existence in 1985. However, when Daniel Realty began talking about cutting Cumberland Trace up the hill to the Apartments the residents formed the association as a means to represent ourselves as a unified body against Daniel Realty and their original design for the “planned community” of Meadow Brook. We were able to stop them from turning that cul-de-sac into a through street. After that we also worked with Daniel to get a buffer zone for the residents on Cumberland Trace and the Office Park.

    Again, Daniel heard the concerns of the homeowners and a suitable compromise was agreed upon. Then came Birmingham’s annexation moves down the 280 corridor. Your homeowners association worked with the Shelby County Commission and the County Commission voted to file a lawsuit against the City of Birmingham for its move on Meadow Brook.

    Then came the Aronov rezoning of the property on the corner of Meadow Drive and Valleydale Road (location of the church and horse stables) for 1,800 apartments to be built. The Homeowner’s Association attended Shelby County Planning Commission meetings and wrote letters asking the Shelby County Planning Commission to modify or repeal their previous decision.

    The stop signs on Meadow Brook Road to slow down traffic were put in. Talk of a Swim and Tennis Club on Meadow Brook Road on the lots that would not perk — tempers flared on this topic. Adjoining residents to this property opposed the idea of a Swim and Tennis Club as it was not in the original design plan for our community.

    In 1987 90% of the homeowners in Meadow Brook petitioned for annexation into Hoover. There were many issues and in the end Meadow Brook residents were denied their petition for annexation.

    Membership dues for the association initially came about because as the developers in Meadow Brook finished their work they ceased maintaining the attractive street signs and posts. The county refused to maintain our signs as they were, but would replace them with metal posts and metal signs common elsewhere in the county. When the developers stopped mowing the back entrance to Meadow Brook the Homeowners voted to use dues money to pay to have someone mow and maintain an attractive appearance to the back entrance.

    It should not be misunderstood that the desire to be annexed by Hoover was not primarily driven by Birmingham’s land grabbing, but by the homeowner’s desire to secure the areas tax base, places that we shop and work, into an area that would be willing to annex our homes.

  31. Stephen Higley
    January 14th, 2011 | 10:49 am

    Meadow Brook is indeed a very pleasant series lower-middle class of subdivisions. I caught holy hell when I referred to Fishers, Indiana (outside of Indianapolis) as “lower-middle class” because of most Americans unfamiliarity with how sociologists view our class system. There is no plain middle class…. just upper-middle (Mountain Brook) and lower-middle (Meadow Brook). The mean household income of Meadow Brook in the 2000 Census was $82,546. As the lowest Higley 1000 community had a mean income of $190,000, you can see that it hardly comes close to being seen as “elite”. Pleasant: yes. The American Dream: yes. It’s just not anybody’s idea of elite.

    The alarm expressed by the homeowners of Meadow Brook at the thought of being annexed by Birmingham had everything to do with race. Birmingham’s school system is not only a typically bad performing central city school system, but it is also over 99% African-American. The year I moved here, The Shelby County Reporter had a front page story about a meeting to discuss the City of Birmingham’s annexation into Shelby County. Speaker after speaker likened it to Hitler’s march into Poland or Attila the Hun ravaging the Roman Empire! Since Meadow Brook is 90% White and 5% Asian, no fair observer could possibly say that your homeowners weren’t alarmed by thought of being annexed by a poor, Black central city with all of its attendant problems.

    The homeowners desire to be annexed into Hoover is also understandable: Hoover has award winning schools and a solid tax based on sales taxes. Because of Alabama’s ludicrously low property taxes, there is nothing “in it” for Hoover to annex Meadow Brook’s 1,200 homes. Hoover strategy is to annex as much of the sales tax rich Highway 280 corridor as possible and avoid the $200-$350,000 dollars homes of Meadow Brook. Your pleasant but pathetically low property taxes don’t support Hoover’s gold plated services. The city leaders of Hoover have taken the attitude of letting suburban Shelby County provide the services for your community. Hoover turning it’s back on Meadow Brook is similar to Mountain Brook’s policy of not annexing any home worth less than $500,000…. the low property taxes means an inability to supply the educational and civic services middle class people demand.

    The fact that Hoover has even turned it’s back on the much more expensive Highland Lakes development only show the stupidity of Alabama’s regressive tax laws. It appears that Meadow Brook’s only hope for municipal annexation is to join forces with Eagle Point and Highland Lakes and throw yourselves on the mercy of Chelsea!

  32. Genny
    January 16th, 2011 | 6:50 pm

    Very cynical perspective on such a beautiful city with such amenities that everyone can enjoy.

  33. Stephen Higley
    January 22nd, 2011 | 2:02 pm

    Dear Genny, If you want mindless, positive Chamber of Commerce boosterism, I suggest you read the Birmingham News. My site looks critically at our fair city. It is my job. I am a professor…….

  34. Art
    February 25th, 2011 | 7:17 pm

    what do you think of the new DR Horton community behind liberty park?

  35. Stephen Higley
    February 25th, 2011 | 7:57 pm

    The DR Horton community, “The Cotswold” is an opportunistic development that basically follows the principal of “rape and scrape” on the lovely forest land to the Southeast of Liberty Park. It reminds me of the upper-middle class rich bitch who threw a hissy-fit when the”Belvedere” developments where shoe-horned between Mount Laurel and Shoal Creek. Both developments are the logical outcome of having no zoning in unincorporated Shelby County. With no zoning, the able Shelby County planners are powerless to stop cheaper and denser sub-divisions from being built.

    The local opposition is really about property values and not wanting $250,000 houses cheek to jowl with the much more expensive houses in adjacent developments. If you live in the Birmingham metro area, you must realize that the developers can basically do as they please. Birmingham is so far away from cutting edge smart growth that if you think this kind of sprawl is horrific, move to Portland, Oregon, LOL

  36. Anonymous
    April 10th, 2011 | 5:06 pm

    My husband and I are considering moving to Birmingham. He is white (brown hair, freckles, green eyes). I am not white but not black and not Hispanic. I have long dark curly hair and a decent tan in the summer. We’re Christians and very conservative. What is the probability that we will experience racial problems in Birmingham? What are some of the more diverse communities? Which communities would reject us?

    Any advice is much appreciated. Please do not sugar-coat any answers. I took my rose-colored glasses off years ago and would like to hear some honest answers – even if that means brutally honest.

  37. Kathy Johnson
    April 16th, 2011 | 6:55 am

    Thank you for this information – I am searching for a neighborhood for my son to live in. He is graduating from Norte Dame and he has a job offer with Nestle in Birmingham. He does not know anyone in Birmingham. He is single white athletic and social. He will need access to parking and places where singles gather. Is there a neighborhood that is popular with young single executives you could recommend? Thank you!

  38. Bart Simpson
    April 21st, 2011 | 2:48 pm

    I lived in Birmingham near Highland Park for a year back in the early 80s. Generally loved the experience, but was not really enamored of the heat, humidity and cockroaches. I have to agree that Birmingham was not particularly worldly, even though the medical center attracted people from all over the world. Stopped into the library soon after arriving, and asked where I could find an Armenian church. The reference librarian responded
    “Is that like Lutheran?” No clue whatsoever.

  39. A.T.
    April 28th, 2011 | 4:05 pm

    I moved to Birmingham in September of last year and just from what I have noticed since I moved here, you might have hit the nail right on the head. I live in Homewood. I work in an area called Brookwood. Its between Homewood, Vestavia, and Mountain Brook; and I can tell you that I have seen how some of these people live and they are very much what one might call “affluent” and “snobby”.

    These people hold fundraisers and events and call themselves philanthropists but won’t dare go downtown for dinner on Saturday night. They send their children on church “mission trips” all over the world to save and rebuild poverty stricken places there but won’t bother to help do something about the areas of downtown that look like war-torn Europe, post-WWII. This is their own backyard!

    I noticed one particular neighborhood around Legion Field where the houses look like partially collapsed cardboard boxes. Just sitting there abandon. Everyone talks a big game here like, “well if they would clean up downtown I would go back but I would NEVER live there”, but they won’t do anything to help. They are just as happy “over the mountain” then anywhere else on the planet.

    I was born in Los Angeles, CA moved to Memphis, TN when I was 11 and at 13 moved to a VERY small town in North Mississippi where I went to high school before I moved to Oxford, MS for college and then onto Birmingham. I’ve lived in a few places in my short 27 years on this planet.

    I graduated high school with 98 people. The racial make up of my high school was about 60% White and 40% Black. I am actually half White and one quarter Mexican and one quarter Italian. My Dad is half Mexican and half Italian. Pretty diverse for Mississippi right? Truthfully there was ZERO racisim or racist fueled events or racial tension there during my adolescence. I have Black and White neighbors where I grew up and everyone gets along great!

    People always say the small Southern towns are the ones that are the most backwards. Granted my hometown has some old laws that need to be overturned (alcohol on sundays for example) but seems to me that we are much more progressive then the “big city” of Birmingham. My fiancee went to school at Oak Mtn near Meadowbrook and she said there were all of 6 people of other races in her graduating class of about 450. I was shocked to hear that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Birmingham is a wonderful city with lots of potential. I love to go downtown and go to bars and restaurants down there. There is a KILLER indie music scene here too that people know very little to NOTHING about because they just stay over the mountain in the safe zone and all of this stuff takes place downtown.

    I do understand some of the reasons people won’t go down there and they all mostly say because of the danger factor. No one wants to get mugged or have their car broken into or worse. That is a fact. But, the only way to get the city back into shape is to get people to come back. It’s going to take a lot of effort outside of a few “loft districts” and a few sparse restaurants. Here is an excellent perspective and theory on what should really be done here:

  40. R. Miller
    May 11th, 2011 | 10:08 pm

    Thanks for a fine description of your fair city. I currently live in San Francisco and am considering taking a job in Birmingham. I’m trying to get a feel for what each neighborhood is like. I’m very conservative, but that doesn’t mean I want to live in a homogeneous community with little culture and snobbish behavior. San Francisco might have a lot more of the culture and diversity that B’ham lacks, but let me tell you that there is no shortage of hatred and segregation. Blacks stay primarily in Bayview, Hunters Point, and the Western Addition. Chinese dominate Chinatown (of course) but also the Outer Sunset and large swaths of the Richmond. Presidio Heights is exclusively white. Daly City, to the south, is predominantly Filipino. Of course The Mission is richly Hispanic. The Castro and Noe Valley are predominantly white (and gay). There are also Irish, Russian, Vietnamese neighborhoods. All of these different groups fight over the division of the government pie and for control over city politics. So even if you can walk just two blocks and feel as if you’ve crossed an international border, you don’t escape racial hatred and bigotry. There’s a reason bad neighborhoods are bad, and it has nothing to do with the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on schools and social programs. San Francisco, which has been run by liberal democrats for 50 years, hasn’t banished poverty, homelessness, racism, unemployment, income inequality, intolerance, and crime. The taxes here are INSANELY HIGH, and we’re not any better for it. When a politician finds a dollar, they waste $1.10. Perhaps your state and suburbs know something our politician don’t know. I’ve lived in majority-minority neighborhoods my entire life, and I think one of these communities might be a refreshing change. I can always drive for whatever “culture” I want to enjoy.

  41. Stephen Higley
    May 13th, 2011 | 7:03 pm

    San Francisco may not be nirvana when it comes to racial relationships, but it is highly desirable and hence very expensive. There’s a reason real estate is so cheap in Mississippi and Oklahoma and so expensive in New York City and San Francisco. It’s glorious Capitalism at it’s very best. People are willing to put up with a lot if there is an exciting, dynamic city.

    For me, New York City and Chicago were fabulous when I was in my 20s and 30s. Quiet suburbia is fine in my 50s and now I’m on to Tucson to retire in my 60s. Birmingham has been good to me and there are many charms to living here. Welcome to Birmingham!

  42. R.N.
    May 25th, 2011 | 9:24 am

    Very informative site. We live in Chicago, and my husband is considering taking a job in Birmingham. We are liberal, Yankee to the core, and live in a very diverse, funky urban neighborhood. Frankly, the idea of moving down there gives me heartburn, but if things work out, this could be the perfect career move for our family — horns of a dilemma!

    I’m trying to stay positive about the prospect — I have been pleasantly surprised in the past when moving to cities I didn’t think I’d like. But here’s where I’m having trouble: if it were just the two of us, we’d carve out a little niche for ourselves in the city. But we have a child who is a year away from starting kindergarten, so we have to take schools into consideration. We have advanced degrees, and education is important to us. So is diversity. Is there anything you can tell us that would help us target areas that are less monolithically white/conservative, but still have good schools? You mentioned that Forest Park and Redomont Park are somewhat more liberal, and still in the city, but what are the schools like there? And, while I have always sworn that we would never send our child to a private school, is there a possible tradeoff in sending him to a private school but then being able to live in a more diverse neighborhood? (And by private school, I DON’T mean Evangelical Thumper Christian Academy). You also mention Greystone and Liberty Park as places where transplants such as ourselves might feel more comfortable, but again, how are the schools there, and would we be able to go into the city easily?

    I don’t mind suburban living, but I would like my child to grow up knowing that not everyone looks just like him, so Mountain Brook does not appeal in that regard (as well as knowing that we’d be the transplant outsiders). Any advice would be appreciated. (And happy retirement!)

  43. S.M.E
    June 21st, 2011 | 9:27 am

    I found this post incredibly insightful…my family is considering relocating to B’ham for a job that is hard to refuse, but will be leaving a vibrant city brimming with culture, a great house two blocks from the beach, and an area that has enough liberals and transplants that we don’t feel like total freaks. The quality of life here is such that is draws a fairly diverse crowd for a southern town.

    I’m curious why Forest Park skews more liberal when its homes (after a quick look) can be just as expensive? Any thoughts on that? I know the city has beautiful neighborhoods, some great restaurants, and those fine schools in Mtn Brook, but I worry about the lack of a thriving downtown area and fear a Stepford Wife-esque existence….

    Any thoughts most appreciated.

  44. Fmw
    July 1st, 2011 | 11:03 pm

    I grew up in homewood and forest park in the early nineties and had African American friends and we never questioned each other that this was not the norm according to the “southern way” I understand that many people are fearful of moving to the south because they fear racism but I often get frustrated at the attitude of so many that believe all southerners are racist and are put into a certain category. I was not raised that way and refuse to raise my child that way. Just remember that not everyone from bham is like that and true like r. Miller described San Francisco as an area that has it’s division too, which Is not necessarily right it happens to be how the communities in the area were settled and formed.

  45. Fmw
    July 1st, 2011 | 11:18 pm

    To RN from Chicago check into the homewood area many of my classmates now live in Chicago and grew up in the homewood area.

  46. R.N.
    July 6th, 2011 | 9:26 pm

    FMW: thanks so much for your thoughts. And I do want to apologize if I sounded as if I were issuing blanket assumptions; I have lived in the south and know that not everyone is racist. It’s more that I want to find the best balance I can between diverse neighborhoods and good schools.

    We’ll see what happens!

  47. h.w
    August 12th, 2011 | 1:00 am

    MANY OF Birmingham ‘s life- long MULTI-generations DO HAPPILY reside and pay taxes in THE LUXURY OF vestavia, mountain brook, homewood, bluff park, the famous southside, however… ultimatly, THEY may be traced from their Real*family roots: PRATT CITY, ENSLEY & BESSEMER… Just ask the famous grocery store’s (family CREST)… their real sucess WAS MADE IN PRATT CITY!

  48. Stephen Higley
    August 12th, 2011 | 6:25 pm

    This comment is just plain embarrassing. Should I delete? Is there any excuse for a comment sent from a university that barely makes sense? Hmmmmmmm……….

  49. KR
    August 19th, 2011 | 3:33 pm

    RN from 5/25/11:

    Private schools do offer that opportunity. Take a good look at the diverse Indian Springs School, a secular day/boarding school with an emphasis on green living, intellectual curiosity and a record for excellent college placement across the US. It’s about 20-30 min drive from most of these neighborhoods. (I’m a grad from the mid-90s living in the NE).

    For elementary schools, there are several excellent Montessori grade schools in the area. The one I attended no longer exists or I’d happily recommend it too.

  50. Stephen Higley
    August 19th, 2011 | 8:28 pm

    There is no question that the Indian Springs School and the Altamont School are both fine private schools that offer an education that is competitive with the best in the United States. The problem is that they have very small enrollments and they have extremely competitive entrance standards that limits their ability to satisfy a larger need. The upwardly mobile upper-middle class has 5 good public school choices: Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Spain Park (Hoover), and Shelby County’s Oak Mountain.

  51. August 23rd, 2011 | 11:20 am

    […] A Home in Birmingham’s Forest Park is All About Lifestyle Birmingham’s Forest Park is all about lifestyle, love of archectural […]

  52. CM
    August 24th, 2011 | 11:46 pm

    Wow. This was an interesting article. I assume it was originally written in 2007. I have lived in Forest Park for the past nine years, a transplant from MI via Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas for a combined 15 years. It is my most favorite place to have lived. FP and South Avondale are becoming very cool little neighborhoods. The McWane family which used to own a beautiful house on Clairmont Ave in FP and then moved to prestigious MB, just bought and renovated a beautiful old building next to V. Richard’s and opened a little shop called “FUll Circle” (it looked like it belonged in MB). I think South Avondale with the newly renovated Avondale Park and the new Avondale brewery is Homewood 20 years ago… My kids go to Advent, have African American kids over for playdates and sleepovers and I am married to a Jewish man and our best friends are members of the Birmingham Country Club where to this day I don’t think you can join if you are Jewish… AND the FOOD! we have not even talked about the food…

  53. bob
    September 8th, 2011 | 4:08 pm

    Why do you leave Homewood out of your top 5 good public school choices? It is consistently ranked higher than some of the schools you mentioned.

    See the following links.

  54. Stephen Higley
    September 13th, 2011 | 8:21 pm

    Homewood has an excellent school system. Sorry I didn’t mention it!

  55. Edward
    October 10th, 2011 | 12:31 am

    while lots of this is true, I must disagree with your summary of Homewood. i used to live there and while the range of wealth is greater than Mountain Brook, there are several very wealthy snobby residents, predominately in Hollywood.

  56. Stephen Higley
    October 12th, 2011 | 3:51 pm

    “Snobby” is in the eye of the beholder. Anyone with enough money can buy into the Hollywood neighborhood of Homewood. You can’t buy your way into the Mountain Brook Club.

  57. George
    November 8th, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    “You can’t buy your way into the Mountain Brook Club.”

    Agreed. You have to be white to enter Mountain Brook Club and preferably southern white!

  58. Candace
    November 14th, 2011 | 11:30 am

    Any thoughts on Trussville?

  59. Stephen Higley
    November 15th, 2011 | 8:57 pm

    At the risk of insulting the good folk of Trussville, it is a community made up of what we call in academia “lower-middle class”. This is very offensive to many people that are not familiar with the way in which sociologists denote the class system in America. When I described the socio-economically similar Indianapolis suburb of Fishers as “lower-middle class”, it fomented a large out-pouring of indignation. The fact of the matter is that although Trussville has many very pleasant sub-divisions, no one in Birmingham that had any social class aspirations would choose Trussville.

    Traditionally the “upper-class” of any American city is made up of the upper .5%. Most of those people are found in Mountain Brook. Numerically they’d make up a relatively small percentage of the households in Mountain Brook. It is predominately upper-middle class. Even Vestavia Hills is a combination of upper-middle and lower-middle. Hoover has everything from upper-middle (Greystone & parts of Southlake) to working class. (e.g. apartment complexes along Lorna Road.) Hoover is too large too easily characterize.

    This is a long way around saying that Trussville is made up of the upwardly mobile folks that left Huffman and Roebuck. Trussville represents the American dream in the sense that the families of this community have worked very hard to create a better life for themselves and their children. But make no mistake, they aren’t really hoping that their children will go to Harvard or Yale (or Duke or the University of the South). They’ll be happy with Alabama or Auburn. Another example of Trussville’s aspirations is the creation of their own school system. The people of Trussville understand that what is left of upward mobility in the United States (currently among the lowest in developed world) is dependent on a good education in preparation for college.

    Of course this is a generalization, but, I think a fair one

  60. MS
    December 1st, 2011 | 4:35 pm

    I currently reside in Homewood but have a contract on a home in Forest Park. Both are wonderful areas, very cozy, safe and diverse. My son attends the Altamont School and before that, Hilltop Montessori School in Mt Laurel. Both are excellent! I’m a Miami native and I’ve lived in Birmingham since 1992. It’s a great place to raise a child and I can’t say enough about the independent schools, family atmosphere & hospitality.

  61. December 7th, 2011 | 5:23 pm

    Thanks for some other magnificent post. Where else may anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

  62. George
    December 9th, 2011 | 8:14 am

    “Traditionally the “upper-class” of any American city is made up of the upper .5%. Most of those people are found in Mountain Brook. Numerically they’d make up a relatively small percentage of the households in Mountain Brook. It is predominately upper-middle class.”…..

    100% white and pretty racist for a well-educated white community. Probably many of them old money descendants of planters from the ante-bellum days..amd their ill-gotten wealth!

    “This is a long way around saying that Trussville is made up of the upwardly mobile folks that left Huffman and Roebuck. Trussville represents the American dream in the sense that the families of this community have worked very hard to create a better life for themselves and their children. But make no mistake, they aren’t really hoping that their children will go to Harvard or Yale (or Duke or the University of the South). They’ll be happy with Alabama or Auburn. Another example of Trussville’s aspirations is the creation of their own school system. The people of Trussville understand that what is left of upward mobility in the United States (currently among the lowest in developed world) is dependent on a good education in preparation for college.”

    …Dont see too many from Mountain Brook in Harvard or Yale either..plenty in Duke and Tulane. Too much competition from Asians and mixed Asian-white kids passing as white. 20% of the “white” kids in Harvard entering freshman class is mixed Asian-white kids…the kind that will be looked down on in contempt by the folks in Mountain Brook.

    This is also a generatlization, but I think it is a very fair comment about Mountain Brook. Of course, Jefferson County is bankrupt these days and dont know how it will affect Mountain Brook.

  63. Elizabeth
    January 3rd, 2012 | 1:04 pm

    Thank you for your data supported review of Birmingham communities. My husband and I purchased a Spanish Colonial Revival home in the Hollywood section of Homewood. Had it not been for the information you provided in this article, we would not have known about this incredible area. We feel very lucky to have found such a charming home in such a hip and diverse neighborhood.

  64. keke
    January 23rd, 2012 | 3:04 pm

    I am a resident of Mountain Brook and I must say that it is a calm a tranquil place to reside…My children however do not attend the Mountain Brook school system as I am more please with the support and attentiveness provided to my children at the County school in which they attend. I am often asked why I choose to reside in Mountain Brook…when I was coming up as a child my mother provided what to me was a nice living accomodation, we lived in a nice subdivision, had our home built from the ground up, my mother has worked the same job for well over 30years making a good living, we never went hungry, or without. We were always clean and stayed dressed in the nicer clothes, and yet we were considered as poor…I was insulted to find out the I was considered to be poor. My mother raised 3 children, put us all thru college and managed to finish college herself and work full time and even picked up a second job as needed to provide for us and place us in the better magnet and more diversed schools. I decided I would relocate and move to the areas that I wanted my kids to attend school in, I dont want my kids to GO to school with the kids that have a better upbringing and COME back home to the “GHETTO” therefore I moved into a better neighborhood, affording my kids the ability to live amongst their peers and learn to reach the skies. I am giving my children every opportunity available for a successful future. I currently reside in a town home and after researching the properties I can say that this article is true and the properties are very affordable

  65. Tee
    March 29th, 2012 | 10:21 am

    For the most part, the overview was okay.

    Jones Valley (Birmingham) was born in the aftermath of the Civil War (1871).

    It is so comical that Jefferson County’s economical demise, in your opinion, leans heavily towards one individual. You need a check, a REALITY CHECK. There are far more individuals (BIG WIGS) in the city of Birmingham and surrounding areas that helped make the financial situation what it is and LONG BEFORE Mayor Larry Langford ever hit terra-firma.

    I guess the ‘Hurricane’ felt that if people, politicians for the most part, were going to grease their hands and pockets with taxpayers money, the least they can do is something for the indigent.

  66. Allison
    May 17th, 2012 | 4:30 pm

    What about Ross Bridge?

  67. Stephen Higley
    May 17th, 2012 | 5:04 pm

    Ross Bridge is a bit of a Potemkin Village. There are 13 Grand homes leading to the focal point country club and spa along appropriately named Grand Avenue. But a closer look at the housing stock is overwhelmingly modest by any standard. In other words, Ross Bridge is not elite. It is mostly lower-middle class and some upper middle class households

  68. Allison
    May 21st, 2012 | 12:25 pm

    Have you seen the homes in the back of Ross Brige? Butler Springs, Bellevue, Glascott and Haddon (on the other side of the development) can hardly be described as lower middle-class. Some of these homes start in the $700s, and these are all separate homes from the 13 grand homes at the front of the development. And if not living near the nightmare that is 280 leads someone to believe that my living situation is modest, so be it!

  69. sally moon
    May 26th, 2012 | 8:50 am

    I have lived in Mountain Brook, AL my whole life. Thats 47 years! And everything the commnts said isnt true. First of all i would like to say that Mountain Brook is not racial just becuse there are no afrcan americans or hispanics or forigners, they just choose not to come because there are other sutible towns that have other races, but thats not the point.Mountain Brook Schools have NONDISCRIMINATION written all over it! if you type in Mountain Brook Elementary or Mountain Brook Junior High or Mountain Brook High School it will say it right away under its name.Plus Alabama adventure is probubly the funnest place on earth, it doesnt have rednecks and gangsters it just has nice people with young children that want to have a good time! They are now turning it in to a water park! Plus we are the oppisite of redneck! We are like the New York of Alabama, not the bad part of new york but whatever. Plus there is probably NO CRIME in Mountain Brook, Occasionaly in Crestline there are some breaking and entering but thats highly rare. There are many affordable homes and lots of high ranked apartments! I think Mountain Brook is the best place i have ever lived in! So to all of the negitive comments, you all havent even lived here and Mountain Brook is beautiful with lots of country clubs for golfing, swimming, and eating lunch! Dont believe any of the negative thing this page(including the comments)has said because they have never gotten to know the Mountain Brook lifestyle.

  70. Mr. Bradshaw
    May 27th, 2012 | 12:37 pm

    I stumbled across this website during some research for neighborhoods in Birmingham. I was born and raised in Montgomery, lived in Birmingham for 5 years, and now reside in Portland, OR. Folks, it’s like night and day. I’ve savored every moment out here, and don’t miss a whole lot about the deep south.

    A lot of the sub-developments in suburban B’ham are quite stately and meticulously landscaped, but tend to be five miles from the nearest grocery store, restaurant or bar. What kind of neighborhood is that? Assuming 20 minutes to walk a mile, that’s an hour and forty minutes to walk to grocery store – almost a 3 1/2 hour round trip! And that’s if you have the LUXURY of a sidewalk. If you live somewhere along Valleydale, 119 or 280, you’re outta luck, Sparky.

    The end result? Nobody walks anywhere.

    Is it any wonder then that most Alabamians are grotesquely obese, clogging the hospitals with cases of strokes and heart attacks?

  71. Stephen Higley
    May 27th, 2012 | 2:22 pm

    Is this a spoof? I sure hope so because if it isn’t your comments are embarrassing.

  72. Mr. Bradshaw
    June 3rd, 2012 | 12:57 pm

    I’m just serving up good ‘ol empirical observations. A phD should value that! Suburban neighborhoods in Birmingham lack both walkability and bike-ablility. Alabama also has atrocious health statistics. Mere coincidence?

    I will say, however, that the inner neighborhoods like the tiny kingdom, Homewood, and Forest Park edging over into 5 points do a much better job.

    For the record, this is not an indictment of your work (which is great!) – just my criticisms of the complete lack of an urban growth policy in Birmingham.

  73. Rich
    June 10th, 2012 | 3:53 pm

    Let me correct somethings about Birmingham, Alabama.. most of the average people are equivalent to where you would find anywhere else in a equivalent setting. Now the special interests, politicizing, and corruption is absolutely out of control.. very much in common with a major medical hub.. Falsifying medical records, coverups, and pulling strings are all the incorporated norm, I can’t even believing I have just stated regarding this thoroughly corrupt incorporated norm and any truth that remains, often a ulterior motive.

    Yup, that’s the norm. I come from one of the most successful areas of the country where i”s top success and in the healthiest context wheres theres way too much accountability for any of this foolishness and where only the highest level of honesty, integrity and the healthiest context is incorporated as a norm..

    Quite a bit different incorporated norm out here, a major medical hub where the corrupt special interests with their lobbyists push a disease healthcare economy.. the norm is 10 – 15 prescriptions a day.. I’d sure say that’s a dump.

    I’m on the verge of exposing a high profile falsification of psychological medical records where there’s a very good chance the truth will become apparent.. that’ ver serious, yet that’s the incorpoated norm out here.. out of control and experts is all a incorporated norm out here. For the highest level of health and success, all that remains, at best a dump.. you talk about about the diriest sleaziests politics, the most powerful special interests, and thoroughly politicized, all that success is very established out here, the most accurate description.. at best a dump INCLUDING Mountainbrook and Shelby County.. Basically there’s ZERO accounability.. The well established legacy lives on only with a couple of new twists

    Compare that to the Chicagoland Northshore old money makeup, absolutely of no comparison where none of that foolishness would ever occur because there’s way too much accountability for any of that foolishness to occur

  74. MGDouglas
    August 5th, 2012 | 7:56 am

    This is fantastic information. I am relatively new to this area and my husband and I are both physicians and we want our son to grow up in a good area with acess to a good school–but, because we aren’t “old money” we want him to go without the snobbery associated with certain areas. Thank you for this article.

  75. Carribean Queen
    September 1st, 2012 | 5:57 pm

    Great essay! it provides great insight into the Birmingham area. For someone like myself who lived in Massachussets, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, the real question is what city in America does not have some degree of hatred and segragation??

  76. Khk
    September 30th, 2012 | 8:50 am

    If the largest industries are banking and Medical, that should tell you plenty about the city. Two of the most crooked industries, especially in this country.

  77. George
    November 15th, 2012 | 4:09 pm

    “here are no afrcan americans or hispanics or forigners”

    foreigners? You mean Asian Americans who most whites in Mountain Brook view as perpetual foreigners?

  78. Mark
    November 27th, 2012 | 3:09 pm

    They wont sell or rent to non-whites in Mountain Brook, AL, even to very rich Asian Americans. There was this young white woman living in the vicinity who was seeing a Japanese executive. They ran both of them out of town!

  79. Blake Magnuson
    November 29th, 2012 | 1:54 am

    You have one of the gated Greystone communities listed as “Greystone Ridge”. It should be “Greystone Crest”. Greystone ridge is a non-gated group of zero lot line garden homes typically selling for well under $200,000. Just thought you might want to know. Thanks.

  80. Stephen Higley
    December 13th, 2012 | 12:05 pm


  81. mark
    April 15th, 2013 | 1:03 pm

    It sounds like someone has a little Mountain Brook envy.

  82. Stephen Higley
    April 15th, 2013 | 1:15 pm

    Mountain Brook is indeed enviable in its beauty. Alas, it is in Alabama and home to the evil elite that keeps the rest of the state looking more like Guatemala than America…..

  83. Ken
    June 13th, 2014 | 4:48 am

    I grew up in Mountain Brook, from first grade on. The police are actually afraid of the children, and I known many times rich parents paid for all damages to keep the brats out of jail. I had one friend smoking marijuana in the elementary school bathroom. Another who would break into dentist offices about once a week and steal Nitrous Oxide bottles. He threw them away in his back ground when done. His parents never asked about them. I remember a gun crazy friend who had at least 20 guns at 16! He regularly built pipe bombs, and used them frequently. (lucky he didn’t destoy his own home) I remember another friend who treated his father’s medicine cabinet, a doctor of course, as his personal candy store. I also remember an African American family who DID move into Mtn Brook, until a cross was burned in their front yard. I’d guess 5% are neo-nazis, JDL’s or KKK’ers. My entire civil rights education was one week in a history class. I was told the trouble was due to trouble-makers. So yeah not a nice place.

  84. Anonymous
    July 29th, 2014 | 1:57 pm

    Mr. Higley, excellent post! I live in Trussville, and I must say that I was not at all offended by your post regarding this area. In fact, if I may add an one adjective…. “ignit”. Initially, young families (including my own) moved to this area because of the affordable, newer, and larger- housing options, in hopes that one day this area would advance and develop into a modern-suburban, “hoover or vestavia competitor”. Alas, the “native trussvillians” pushed back. Refusing to advance into modern day society- actually doing any and everything they can think of to hinder the advancement of the area- including but not limited to protesting a tiny property tax increase to fund additional school to ease crowding and improve the education of the area’s children. Trussville natives love to tell you they are a hardcore Republican with traditional Christian values. Yet, they have no money and complain about the “blacks moving in” every chance they get. Still, you can’t find a better home value for your money AND keep your children outside of the dreaded Jefferson County School zone. And while the education is decent, Stephen was dead on, none of the parents out there have high expections anyways. Unless, of course the expections involve a football.

  85. vj
    August 18th, 2014 | 8:18 pm

    I really liked this article. I grew up in inverness and now live in crestwood, and agree on all that you wrote.

  86. Deborah Dunn, B.A., M.A.
    October 9th, 2014 | 1:58 am

    I found this information very informative, while I grew up in NJ, I left there and went to college in San Fran and obtained my masters in Flagstaff AZ. Three years ago my mother passed away at 88, hence, I relocated to Clearwater Florida, I find the people here very ill educated, obnoxious and rude; so I was thinking of trying Birmingham. I looked into Mobile and Tallahassee but would like to be further north and out of Florida. Is anyone familiar with these cities in comparison to Birmingham? I’ve often thought of Alabama, having met people from there, they had a certain charm that is lacking here in Florida. Coming from Scottish roots, I like charm, sophistication and style, will I find that there? I also like weather a bit cooler than here.

    So in conclusion, would you recommend Birmingham to me? Seattle and California are too far away. lol I will try to find pictures of each place. From reading the above comments I may look into Forest Park, Homewood, Avondale or Trussville, are these places near stores, etc? I like to work out and swim at an indoor gym as well. How is the work situation? I do office work, coordinator, hospital office work, and enjoy working with children. I am a youth mentor, even considering adoption and fostering. I am guessing there is work everywhere. Can you give me any tips? My mother was from scotland and I often think i want to visit England and Scotland, however for now I need something fairly close. I am renting my property out as of Dec 1 so I have 7 weeks to move. I initially considered Houston Texas but I just couldn’t find the right situation and feel i would be lost in the crowd there. Any tips for me. Thank you in advance. Debbie

  87. kricket
    May 5th, 2015 | 6:37 am

    As someone who was raised in the Birmingham metro, I feel this article puts too much emphasis on how a person “feels” about people in a specific community, rather than what the individuals are looking for by living there. I’ve traveled extensively, and would posit that Birmingham is no different than most other metropolitan areas. Most people will be able to find an area that suits them. Mountain Brook isn’t bad if like that sort of thing. My family is one of the highest earning families in the Birmingham metro (I was unaware of this until everyone started releasing their salaries). But, I really can’t see a situation in which we would move to Mountain Brook. No offense to Mountain Brook, it’s just not my cup of tea. We like our elbow room. Regardless of the schools we will not send our kids to public school. As you can see, people are different. If every community looked the same most of the residents would be unhappy. So, while have a diverse mindset is nice, living in a cookie cutter one size fits all community isn’t.

  88. Bruce
    June 12th, 2015 | 4:11 pm

    I am so thankful for the string of comments here.
    Very informative, and even tho based largely on perception, also largely accurate. I do take exception to the perception that our Jewish brothers and sisters are the same race as white protestants – sorry but this is just a casual, rather than an informed, observation.
    Our parents both grew up in and around the Greater Birmingham Area. Like many, my brother and I remain here by default.
    We’ve both been loved and hated by all manner of others, from our immediate families, to those who don’t even know us at all, from around the globe; and for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons, and can only say that we have done the same.
    “Globalization” has required an entirely different perspective than that of our childhood; in it, we are thankful for the education, and our amendments to our beliefs as we have grown older, perhaps wiser.
    We are sure that there may be better places for us to live. Our children are grown and on their own, so we now have more flexibility in our choice of where we live. The good news is, we agree that no other place on earth has a climate or more natural resources to our liking, or is more safe in general, than North Central Alabama; and that no other form of government is better (as dysfunctional as it has become) for the general population.
    The people? Sure we can improve.
    We are certain that we – and all members of collective communities everywhere – would significantly benefit in shedding of jealousy, fear, greed, oppression, hatred, and entitlement; and instead, that we all – beginning with ourselves- begin to encourage others in, and to personally adopt, promote, and support individual beliefs and customs, and equitable opportunities for all in education, work, and risk assumptions which are associated with ours and others’ pursuit of individually determined relative levels of peace, health, and prosperity.
    We recognize and accept that even those who don’t – or won’t – exercise the opportunities, or adopt the beliefs, or or undertake the associated work and risks, may not appreciate the relative goals achieved by those who did.

  89. L A Holmes
    June 28th, 2015 | 10:32 pm

    I have lived in Birmingham three different times in my adult life; Initially, to attend college, second, the result of a company move, and the third time a couple of years ago. I can honestly say that after living in the Northeast, the Southwest, other Southeastern states, and other countries, Birmingham could benefit from a major transformation. I have lived in very large cities and in small cities and have been witness to how all people are accepted for who they are, not for what social group they belong to. Birmingham is stunted socially. Much of the population cannot function outside of their social circles and have a very small view of the world, probably because their world is so small. The air of exclusivity among the most affluent is laughable. These individuals could benefit from breaking out of this mold. GET OUT OF THE BOX !! There’s a whole world out there and it does not revolve around you :)

  90. October 15th, 2015 | 6:43 am

    […] The Wealthy Neighborhoods of Birmingham, Alabama | The … – View Larger Map of Redmont Park. Forest Park and Redmont Park are urban neighborhoods on the city’s commonly called the “Southside”. They were both … […]

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