In our quest to see how downtown Jacksonville's revitalization efforts compare nationally, Metro Jacksonville visits the core of Alabama's largest city: Birmingham
Tale of the Tape:
Birmingham City Population 2012: 212,038 (City); 1,136,650 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1871)
Jacksonville City Population 2012: 836,507 (City); 1,377,850 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1832)
City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Birmingham (326,037)
City Land Area
Birmingham: 151.9 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles
Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2012)
Urban Area Population (2010 census)
Birmingham: 749,495 (ranked 55 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)
Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)
Birmingham: 1,414.4 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile
City Population Growth from 2010 to 2012
Convention Center Exhibition Space:
Birmingham: Birmingham-Jefferson County Convention Center (1976) - 220,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet
Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:
Birmingham: Sheraton Birmingham Hotel - 838 rooms
Birmingham: Wells Fargo Tower - 454 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet
Fortune 500 companies 2013 (City limits only):
Birmingham: Regions Financial (401)
Jacksonville: CSX (231), Fidelity National Financial (353), Fidelity National Information Services (434)
Urban infill obstacles:
Birmingham: Slow growing economy
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.
Birmingham: Five Points South, Lakeview
Jacksonville: East Bay Street
Common Downtown Albatross:
Proliferation of surface parking lots.
Who's Downtown is more walkable?
Birmingham: 90 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Named after Birmingham, United Kingdom, Birmingham was established in 1871 as an industrial center with an emphasis on mining, the iron and steel industry, and railroad. It was positioned as a city where cheap, non-unionized, and African-American labor could be utilized to create a competitive advantage over Midwest and Northeast cities. Between 1900 and 1910, the city's population increased by 245% as it became nationally recognized as the Pittsburgh of the South.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Birmingham's image took a negative hit internationally as the city's leaders fought to preserve the Jim Crow system during the fight for civil rights of African-Americans. Ultimately defeated and forced to embrace change, in the 1970s, efforts were made to focus on major medical and research opportunities around the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Now, with nearly 19,000 employees, UAB is the area's largest employer and the city is nationally known as a center of medical research. Today, Birmingham is experiencing a rebirth of its urban core, with a multitude of efforts underway to restructure the downtown area into a 24-hour district.
Downtown Birmingham is a major southern banking center. It's anchored by the headquarters of Regions Finanical Corporation and BBVA Compass. Despite its decline as a retailing epicenter, downtown's streetscape is still lined with hundreds of buildings that once housed a mix of businesses. Blessed with an abundance of historic building stock still remaining, in recent years, several adaptive reuse projects are helping bring the downtown core back to life.