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Tiny Banners, Discount Stores To Revitalize North Birmingham
Taking Cues From East Lake Success
North Birmingham() - Hoping to build on the success of projects in Avondale and East Lake, Main Street Birmingham has embarked on an ambitious program aimed at revitalizing North Birmingham and strengthening the surrounding neighborhoods. The first phase, completed in November, involved placing bright yellow banners on power poles leading into the vibrant commercial district which houses several Etheridge Brothers barber shops, used tire stores, and at least one Green Acres location. "These banners are much bigger than the ones we put up in other business districts," said Mary Allison Haynie community program director for Main Street Birmingham Inc., a non-profit agency under contract from the City of Birmingham to assist merchants in certain key commercial revitalization districts.

"We started working on the banners about two years ago," said Mary Harris Brewster, president of the North Birmingham Merchants Association. Main Street helped the group design them, move the project through the city's design review process and get approval from the Department of Planning, Engineering and Permits. "The department initially thought the banners were too big and that the bright yellow color might clash with Mayor Langford's planned 'red streets' initiative," said Brewster. "But after several meetings (and several shades of yellow) the design review committee finally relented."

This is one of the most visible banner projects we have implemented," said Haynie. "We expect these banners to support the revitalization of the business district by creating a sense of pride and community among customers and merchants." Main Street is also banking on the larger size of these banners to result in correspondingly greater revitalization.

The second phase of Main Street's push resulted in the opening of the Maxway discount store on city owned property just off 26th Street. The innovative store eschews thematic elements like burglar bars and lexan windows in favor of a corrugated aluminum frieze with comic-sans font work. Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and Lt. Governor Jim Folsom were on hand for the store's grand opening. "Given that I am mayor and the city has lots of property, I don't see why we can't make deals like this happen everywhere," said Langford.