There is no doubt that Millennials are the driving force behind much of the rise in people living in downtown Birmingham, especially the demographic referred to as Young Professionals (ages 25 to 34 with at least a college bachelor’s degree).
According to data from the Birmingham Business Alliance, the number of YPs living in the Magic City grew by 56.2 percent from 2010 to 2015, the seventh-largest increase in the nation (the national average was 17.6 percent). And that number is likely to expand significantly, since the current data ends before most of the new housing options became available.
There also is a second demographic embracing the move to downtown, and that is Baby Boomers (ages 53 to 71), the same people who preferred the suburbs for so many decades. As their children move out of the house, many Baby Boomers are looking to downsize their lifestyle and now prefer a smaller space that doesn’t require yard work. According to the BBA data, the percentage of Baby Boomers living in Birmingham increased 7.5 percent from 2010 to 2015.
The move into Birmingham has led to a building boom that continues to send ripples of construction activity throughout the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the housing market, as numerous new condominiums, apartment complexes and mixed-use developments have popped up throughout the city center over the past few years.
According to data from the Birmingham Business Alliance, there are nine multi‐family development projects that either have been completed recently or are currently under construction in greater downtown. Combined, those projects have 1,864 units and 2.25 million square feet of space, at a total cost of $379 million.
And those numbers don’t include the $40 million, 196-unit apartment project planned to open in Five Points South in 2019, or the newly announced Lakeview complex that will have 30 condos, 73 apartments and nearly 40,000 square feet of retail space.
Urban renewal is happening in cities throughout the nation, as many people become disillusioned with suburban living. The original appeal of suburbia was to get away from the congestion of downtown and move closer to nature. Then nature was replaced with strip malls and traffic lights, and the congestion for commuters became worse than anything they had experienced downtown.
So at the same time that housing production in the heart of Birmingham slowed to a trickle, the desire to be in the downtown area became as great as it had been in more than a half-century. From the creation of Railroad Park and Regions Field to the renewal of Second Avenue North and the Avondale neighborhood, there has been a steady rise in attractions luring people downtown.