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APRIL 2017

VOLUME 1

ISSUE 11

IRON CITY

INK SWINGING FOR THE FENCES Barons continue to flourish as team enters 5th season at Regions Field. 22

INSIDE

SIPS & BITES

HAPPENINGS

FACES

BIZARRE

Ready? Set? Play!

Exposing hidden beauty

From kickball to cricket, city offers unexpected recreation opportunities. 20

Steel City Urbex discovers Birmingham’s forgotten treasures — both up high and down low. 26


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IRON CITY INK

IRONCITY.INK

ABOUT

BUSINESS

SIPS & BITES

HAPPENINGS

SIGHTS

APRIL 2017

FACES

B’HAM BIZARRE

NECK OF THE WOODS

DISCOVER

14 CREATIVE ENERGY: Magic City Art Connection ushers in 34th year with April 28-30 festival.

BUSINESS

HAPPENINGS

READY? SET? PLAY!: From kickball to cricket, city offers unexpected recreation opportunities. 20

EYES ON COMMUNITY: Optometrist seeks to ‘do good’ with new business on 18th Street North. 6

ON STAGE: Alabama Ballet will conclude its season with “Ovation” at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. 12

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES: Barons continue to flourish entering 5th season at Regions Field. 22

REAL ESTATE: Transactions and developments slated for the metro’s real estate market. 8

FACES

B’HAM BIZARRE

SIPS & BITES HOW SWEET IT IS: Honeycreeper Chocolate brings high-quality beanto-bar movement to its pop-up shops across Birmingham. 10

EXPOSING B’HAM’S BEAUTY: Steel City Urbex discovers city’s forgotten treasures — both up high and down low. 26

IRON CITY

INK

GARDENS TAKING ROOT: Community-supported urban agriculture growing thanks to local green thumbs. 16

DISCOVER

NEXT CHAPTER: ‘Adventurous’ rabbi seeking new challenges after retirement at Temple Emanu-El. 18

APRIL’S BEST BETS: Your quick guide to metro Birmingham music and events scheduled this month. 36

Publisher: Managing Editor: Contributing Editor: Design Editor: Director of Photography: Digital Editor: Copy Editor:

Dan Starnes Sydney Cromwell Jesse Chambers Kristin Williams Sarah Finnegan Alyx Chandler Louisa Jeffries

Community Reporters: Erica Techo Lexi Coon Contributing Writer: Rachel Hellwig

Advertising Manager: Matthew Allen Sales and Distribution: Warren Caldwell Eric Clements Don Harris Michelle Salem Haynes Gail Kidd James Plunkett Rhonda Smith

Published by: Starnes Publishing LLC

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Please submit all articles, information and photos to: sydney@ starnespublishing.com P.O. Box 530341 Birmingham, AL 35253

Legals: Iron City Ink is published monthly. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without prior permission is prohibited. Information in Iron City Ink is gathered from sources considered reliable, but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All articles/photos submitted become the property of Iron City Ink. We reserve the right to edit articles/photos as deemed necessary and are under no obligation to publish or return photos submitted. Inaccuracies or errors should be brought to the attention of the publisher at (205) 313-1780 or by email.

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IRONCITY.INK

ABOUT

EDITOR’S NOTE

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wo months ago, I was talking about getting ready for my wedding day in this Editor’s Note. Now, my husband and I are on the hunt to buy our first home. I’m just a dog and a white picket fence away from the classic picture of the “American dream.” For me, buying a home is a stretch in more than just the financial sense. I could generously be described as “overly cautious,” and I hate making any decision without knowing every possible outcome, particularly the disastrous ones. That doesn’t really work in home buying. Last week, we sent our real estate agent a list of six homes we’d like to visit. By the time she had made calls to set up visits, four were already under contract. That snapped me to the realization that my standard decision-making procedure would need a major shift. It’s time to stop analyzing every decision to death, and start putting a little more faith in gut decisions. I have to stop assuming every fork

in the road will lead to the worst imaginable result, because none of the paths I’ve taken thus far have even come close to that outcome. It’s not as simple as that, but I keep reminding myself that risk and a little bit of impulse will take me farther than a carefully managed, predictable set of decisions. If you’re also the type of person who gets paralyzed by decisions, I’d encourage you to try the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s trying a new hobby, taking a trip somewhere you don’t speak the language or that DIY home project you’ve got your eye on. Take a step, and see what it feels like to trust your gut. Spring’s here, with all its flowers, birds and that feeling of fresh new possibilities in tow. It’s time to live a little.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS 20 Midtown (2) 24e Fitness (13) 30A Realty (31) ARC Realty (40) Bedzzz Express (11) Birmingham Aero Club (6) Birmingham Botanical Gardens (19) Birmingham Broadway Theatre League (13) Birmingham City Council (9) Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery (32) Children’s of Alabama (30) Decorators’ ShowHouse (13) EZ Roof & EZ Restoration (33) Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (5) Hutchinson Automotive (37) Ingram New Homes (18) Iron City Realty (12)

Jeff Richardson - Brik Realty (34) LAH Real Estate (27) Magic City Art Connection (25) Mountain Brook Art Association (29) Pies and Pints (7) Pitts & Associates Mental Health Professionals (18) Prideline Transportation (15) RealtySouth (3) Rozar’s Paint Supply (12) Savoie Catering (6) Seasick Records (37) The Altamont School (30) The Maids (1, 27) Tower Homes (35) UAB Center for Exercise Medicine (15) UAB Health System (39) Urban Suburban (29) Watts Realty (19)


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BUSINESS Dr. Tiffany Luke, a graduate of UAB School of Optometry, recently opened her business on 18th St. N. and plans to donate a portion of her proceeds to provide eye care for needy children. Photos by Jesse Chambers.

IRONCITY.INK

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Optometrist seeks to ‘do good’ with new business

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By JESSE CHAMBERS r. Tiffany Luke, an optometrist and the owner of Do Good Eye Care, a new downtown business, wanted her company’s name to reflect her goals and passion in the most unambiguous way. “We wanted to give back to the community and make the name of our company what we’re about,” she said. A graduate of the UAB School of Optometry, Luke — along with her husband, David, who serves as chief operating officer — plans to use a portion of each sale to help provide eye exams and glasses to the needy, including children, in Birmingham and foreign countries. “We want to be a viable company, but that’s my heart,” she said. “That’s what I want to be in business for.” And the Lukes said they are excited about being part of a newly revitalized downtown Birmingham. It was the recent boom downtown — new apartments and restaurants, the Lyric Theatre renovation, Publix and Regions Field — that drew the couple, who live in Hoover with their two children, to locate their business there.


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BUSINESS “It just seemed like this was the place to be,” she said. Luke, originally from Baxley, Georgia, earned a business degree from Valdosta State in 2003 and graduated from UAB in 2014. While at UAB, Luke and her fellow optometry students did a lot of community work, offering free or reduced-price eye exams to low-income people, sometimes at homeless shelters and women’s shelters. “That became something I looked forward to,” she said. Luke and a group of students also traveled to Grenada to provide eye exams and glasses for children. She said she wants to do similar work through Do Good Eye Care, both locally — partnering with nonprofits — and in other countries. For example, she’s planning a trip to Haiti later this year with a couple of other physicians. Luke wants her customers to feel involved in Do Good’s charitable activities. “We’re trying to sell a good product at a good price but actually have people feel if they come to us that they’re part of something bigger than just eye care,” she said. Luke said she will likely start a newsletter to help keep people informed about exactly

Dr. Tiffany Luke and Do Good Eye Care office manager Deanna Jones. “There are a few optometrists downtown, but we thought we could have a good business and be competitive and actually be the optometrist for the people who live down here,” Luke said.

Do Good Eye Care • WHERE: 310 18th St. N., Suite 100 • HOURS: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. • CALL: 774-1010 • WEB: dogoodeyecare.com

how Do Good is spending customers’ money to give back to the community. Donating a portion of each sale “is a real and tangible thing that we can actually give and do,” she said. Luke also said she hopes customers will enjoy visiting her storefront on the first floor of the historic Pythian Building on 18th Street North across the street from the Lyric Theatre. “The tile in here is original,” she said. “The space itself is so beautiful. I love the old building. I love the history. And we’ve tried to keep as much of it as organic as we could.” In recent years, the space served as Sidewalk Film Festival headquarters. Luke said she believes Do Good can thrive in its new home.

“There are a few optometrists downtown, but we thought we could have a good business and be competitive and actually be the optometrist for the people who live down

here,” she said. David Luke is also co-owner of Two Maids & a Mop, a cleaning service on two upper floors at the Pythian Building.


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BUSINESS

IRON CITY INK

IRONCITY.INK

SIPS & BITES

HAPPENINGS

SIGHTS

APRIL 2017

FACES

B’HAM BIZARRE

NECK OF THE WOODS

DISCOVER

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Work has begun on the third phase of the 20 Midtown development on a full block between 20th Street South and Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard and Second and Third avenues south. The third phase will include retail space and more than 200 apartments. The developers recently purchased the long-vacant, 16-floor Liberty National Building at the southeast corner of the intersection and will add it to the project. At press time, no announcements had been made regarding specific plans to the building.

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Appleseed Workshop, a Birmingham design and construction firm, is restoring the historic four-story Graves Building, formerly the home of Lichter’s Furniture, at 1818 Third Ave. N. Wheelhouse Salon, a hair salon in Homewood, is opening a second location in the Graves Building and expects to open by April 1, according to co-owner Johnny Grimes. Other tenants include tech firm Platypi, which expects to move into the fourth floor of the building by early April.

Openings/Closures

Construction began in February on ROW5, 6 a group of five luxury row houses on Morris Avenue downtown developed by Metropolitan LLC. The project was financed by Renasant Bank, with construction by Nearen Construction and design by architectural firm BILT. Four of the units

Pizitz, a $70 million renovation of the 8 The old Pizitz department store, is complete. Bayer Properties held a grand opening ceremony March 16 in the already popular Pizitz Food Hall, which has 13 food stalls, two restaurants and The Louis bar. There will be two retailers, War-

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Construction began in January on Topgolf — a 65,000-square-foot, high-tech indoor driving range with luxury amenities east of the BJCC. The facility is expected to open by December, according to Topgolf communications specialist Morgan Wallace. Topgolf, which is expected to draw about 500,000 visitors per year, is a “golf entertainment complex” that will offer a driving range, restaurant, bar, lounges, corporate meeting space and family game. It is between 24th and 26th Streets North and 11th and 12th Avenues North.

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The Hilton Garden Inn and Home2Suites, a project from Sunbelt Development, is under construction in the Parkside district on 2nd Avenue South between 17th and 18th streets south. Completion is expected by late summer or early fall, according to Mandi Sowell of LBA Hospitality, which will manage the facility. The custom hotel, with about 200 rooms, will feature two brands — the Garden Inn, catering to families and business travelers, and the extended stay Home2Suites. Hollis & Spann is the general contractor.

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Hoar Construction is restoring the 120-year-old Powell Avenue Steam Plant in Midtown, an Alabama Power facility, for commercial development. At press time, workers were putting a new roof on the building, making it watertight, according to the Alabama Power blog. Workers also installed 119 custom-made windows, including 66 on the front of the building.

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The Empire Hotel, a luxury, 117-room Marriott hotel downtown, is scheduled to open in May, according to Denise Vandersall, the hotel’s general manager. The hotel is in the historic Empire Building at 1928 First Ave. N. Ascent Hospitality of Buford, Georgia, is the developer. An old Alagasco facility next door will become a smaller, limited-service Marriott called The Fairfield. A completion date for that project was not available.

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by Parker and Yellowhammer Creative. The project Developer Jim Rowland has renovated 11 the old History Massey Business College also includes office space, a courtyard, a parking deck and 143 apartments. The Residences at The at 2024 3rd Ave. N. downtown for use as ue S. Pizitz occupy the six upper floors of the16thbuilding office space. ExecuSuites, which offers upscale, Aven Vulcan Park and opened in December. turnkey co-working spaces for small businesses, is on the third floor. The space opened March 9. Thomas Jefferson Tower, a renovation of Project cost was about $1.2 million. When fully 9 the historic, 19-story Thomas Jefferson leased, ExecuSuites could house as many as 100 Hotel built in 1929, is nearly complete. The tenants. building, at 1623 2nd Ave. N., features 96 one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as retail space, a Downtown, a delicatessen, opened 12 O'Carr's ballroom and Roots & Revelry Restaurant, operated in mid-February at 214 18th St. N., near by Birmingham chef and restaurateur Brandon Cain. the Lyric Theatre. It is operated by June The apartments and commercial spaces are now and Cameron O’Carr, operators of the long-popular leasing. The building also features the world's only O’Carr’s in Homewood. The couple renovated the remaining zeppelin mooring mast. entire building and will live in a third-floor loft while renting out two other units. Do Good Eye Care opened in March on the 10 first floor of the historic Phythian Building at 310 18th St. N., across the street from the Lyric Theatre. Operated by Dr. Tiffany Luke, a Urban Standard, the coffee house and 13 restaurant at 2320 Second Ave. N., expects graduate of the UAB School of Optometry, and her husband David, Do Good will use a portion of each to reopen soon. The popular spot had to sale to help provide eye exams and glasses to the close temporarily after a kitchen fire in January. For needy. updates, go to facebook.com/urbanstandard.

Coming Soon


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DISCOVER

Honeycreeper Chocolate brings high-quality bean-to-bar movement to its pop-up shops

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By ALYX CHANDLER

herever Courtney Pigford travels, her question is always the same: “Where’s the good chocolate?” Pigford, who is in the process of getting certified as a master chocolate taster, is the mastermind behind Honeycreeper Chocolate, Birmingham’s only craft chocolate pop-up shop. Honeycreeper Chocolate purchases a variety of high-quality bars and truffles, all made from sustainable cacao bean farmers and small-batch craft chocolate makers, and then brings them to the Birmingham area. For a while now, she’s been “that lady that has three bars of chocolate in her purse” — which gets to be a real problem in the summer, she added. “On travels, I’d have to find the good chocolate, the real chocolate — not the candy,” she said. “People used to just expect gas station chocolate, or a Lindt bar from the grocery store. Now, there is so much more available in terms of flavor and variety.” A couple of years back, Pigford asked herself if she could do anything, what would she do? The answer came instantly: sell chocolate. “Birmingham needed some fine chocolate,” she said, deciding it was time to transport the craft chocolate scene to Birmingham. The weekend before Valentine’s Day, Pigford hosted her first Honeycreeper pop-up shop at Circa Interiors & Antiques, selling chocolate ordered from all over the world. Since then, she’s successfully hosted several pop-up shops at locations including Winslet & Rhys, Elle Birmingham, dinner. and Woodlawn Cycle Café. “It’s fun to bring in something and introduce something new,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a challenge in that people don’t know what they are getting and eating. There’s a large educational component.” Pigford began years ago by researching chocolate and how it’s made, as well as training her palate in craft chocolate tasting. She traveled to Seattle for the past two years to attend The Northwest Chocolate Festival,

Courtney Pigford, the owner and mastermind behind Honeycreeper, sells her assorted specialty chocolates at Winslet & Rhys on Thursdays during lunchtime. Photo by Alyx Chandler.

which is among the top shows in the world for artisan chocolate. “[Craft chocolate] is not a huge industry, so when you meet people, you have these amazing discussions,” she said. “It’s seriously about relationships; I know many of those makers now.” When she started ordering chocolate for Honeycreeper, she called up several of the small-batch makers she met and ordered their chocolate. In order to ship the chocolate, they usually wrap it in ice packs and

send it overnight so that it doesn’t melt. Bean-to-bar, which is a movement Honeycreeper Chocolate supports and represents, refers to using limited ingredients, just cacao and sugar — “no weird added ingredients” — and sourcing the beans from a local farmer and processing them cleanly all the way to the finished product. With this, Pigford said farmers and makers are paid fairly for their high-quality beans and specialized equipment needed to make the chocolate.

“This is where the sustainability of the product comes in,” she said. Though this generally leads to a pricier product, Pigford said the variety and sweet intensity of the taste is worth it. The origin of the bean, the way the beans themselves were grown and the maker’s process all greatly affect the flavor and make the tasting a visceral and delicious experience. For her, opening this business is about bringing the chocolate to locals while at the same time explaining the process and educating people how bean-to-bar chocolate works. Craft chocolate taste is wholly unlike the “industrial chocolate and candy,” she said, that’s commonly commercially sold. As a bonus, the packaging is just as carefully made and visually compelling. Pigford said she’s been chocolate-obsessed her whole life, so the prospect of what Honeycreeper will become in the future excites her. She plans to let Honeycreeper grow organically over time, with an end goal of a brick-and-mortar storefront — but not anytime soon. For now, the pop-up shop fits her needs, and she will continue testing out stores and finding opportunities to host her pop-up shop. “Chocolate has a way of making friends,” she said. After attending chocolate tastings over the years and hosting some for her friends, she hopes to host tastings for Birmingham groups and locals as part of Honeycreeper. She also is looking at pairing her chocolate with beer since Birmingham has no shortage of breweries. On eating craft chocolate, she advises people not to bite it, just to let it melt in the mouth. This way, she said it lasts longer, and you feel more satisfied. When it comes to whether to buy a craft bar or a truffle, though, she said it’s “a toss-up.” “Truffles are great when you just want a treat and moment of indulgence, but the great thing about a bar is that you can keep it in your purse, break off a small piece and let it melt in your mouth any time of the day,” she said. To learn more about where the Honeycreeper Chocolate pop-up shop is headed or about placing a pre-order for chocolate, go to honeycreeperchocolate.com or visit its Facebook page, Honeycreeper Chocolate.


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‘Ovation’ to conclude Alabama Ballet season By RACHEL HELLWIG

A Courtesy artsBHAM

labama Ballet will conclude its season with “Ovation” at the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ Dorothy Jemison Day Theater from April 6-9. In contrast to the company’s recent classical works such as “Giselle” and George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” this program will highlight contemporary dance works. “Ovation” will feature “In the Upper Room” by renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp. Created in 1986 and since performed by companies around the world, the piece blends ballet, modern dance, tap, pedestrian movement and more to the music of Philip Glass. It will be Alabama Ballet’s first time taking on this notable work, and both company members and artistic staff say they are eagerly anticipating the occasion. “The dancers were excited about it last season and have been excited about it all of this season,” Artistic Director Tracey Alvey

Alabama Ballet dancer Hannah Strauch in Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room.” Photo courtesy of Arik Sokol.

said. “I know I am excited about it. It’s always thrilling to take on a new challenge and see the dancers rise to the occasion.” Also on the program is a new piece inspired by the late music icon Prince. “When several attempts to obtain the

rights of Prince’s music were declined, I decided to create a plan B,” said choreographer Jamorris Rivers, former Alabama Ballet dancer and current artistic director of AROVA Contemporary Ballet. “Instead of celebrating the late icon’s top hits, I’m

challenged with creating a work that is inspired by his impact on our generation. “I am planning on using Mozart, Bach and other mixed media,” Rivers said. “The choreography is symbolic, featuring a soloist who portrays the icon, bringing desire and freedom of self-expression to the people, while the corps de ballet represents the collective social consciousness of the people. Prince’s prolific abilities as a songwriter, musician and artist have an exceptional degree of connecting to everyone. His music transcends class, race, gender and the politics of culture, which totally disrupts the narrative of mainstream society’s various divisions.” Tickets for “Ovation” are $25-$50. To purchase, go to alabamaballet.org or call the box office at 202-8142.

Editor’s note: This article was produced in partnership with artsBHAM. To learn more about them, visit artsbham.com.


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HAPPENINGS

Girls Inc. hosts 7th annual Cajun Cook-off

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By ALYX CHANDLER s if spicy food isn’t enough of a reason to come out to its seventh annual Cajun Cook-off, Girls Inc. has an extra incentive for the Birmingham community this year. “The event has been so successful the past few years that we are able to offer a financial incentive for the Best Overall Cajun category winner,” said Karen Griner, development director for Girls Inc. of Central Alabama. The winner receives $1,500, Griner said, and some participants receive trophies. The Cajun Cook-off is April 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m at Railroad Park. A panel of community representatives act as judges and cast votes for the best dish in various food categories. Everyone attending is also encouraged to cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award category. The family-friendly event features live music, taste-testing and activities for kids such as face painting, a balloon artist and games. Last year, 22 teams competed, and more than 1,100 people attended. All money

Cajun food is served up at the Girls Inc. Cajun Cook-off. Photo by Ron Burkett.

benefits the Girls Inc. programs. “Girls Inc. is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold, and our programs are designed to help girls excel in school and do better in STEM subjects and to empower them to have higher self-esteem,” Griner said. Griner encourages people to buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines. Tickets are $25 at bhamcajuncookoff.com. Children 12 and younger get in free.

APRIL 5-16 • 800.745.3000 • BroadwayInBirmingham.com

Tickets available online and at the BJCC Centr al Ticket Office • Group 15+ 205.919.3721


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creative energy

CELEBRATING

Magic City Art Connection ushers in 34th year with April 28-30 festival By RACHEL HELLWIG

M Courtesy artsBHAM

agic City Art Connection, the annual contemporary art festival, was founded 34 years ago by Eileen Kunzman. This year’s event is April 28-30 in Linn Park, and festivalgoers can expect the same variety they’ve gotten in years past: art, live music, food, workshops, dance performances and more. “After moving to Birmingham from Pittsburgh with its Three Rivers Art Festival, I missed the creative energy of a major city center arts event,” Kunzman said. “Making things happen in the city through an arts festival seemed like a pretty interesting idea to support a melting pot of artists, cultural organizations and the people who influence the city’s livability factor. Especially important was having a platform to give artists a great connection to the people and institutions that support their craft and careers, while capturing the community’s imagination, communal heart, cultural opportunities and the sense of fun that make a city come alive.” The festival’s platform for artists has grown considerably over the decades. Beginning with 75 juried local and regional artists for a two-day festival during its inaugural year, Magic City Art Connection has expanded to showcase more than 200 artists from around the country for three days. Along the way, the festival grew to include culinary arts in addition to visual and performing arts. “‘Corks & Chefs now includes 10 restaurant features daily, wine, craft beer and spirit samplings, plus guided seminars among other special programming on Saturday and Sunday,” Kunzman said. Throughout the years, Magic City Art Connection also

has kept a focus on its young visitors. “Children plus art were always part of the festival’s core mission,” she said. “‘Imagination Festival’ offers opportunities to make art under the tutelage of working artists. More than 25 interactive workshops serve thousands of unabashed creative kids. Many of those Birmingham City Schools third- and fourth-graders attending Friday have become a centerpiece of the festival’s celebration and interface with the arts.” This year, Magic City Art Connection will feature Birmingham artist Celeste Pfau as the 20th recipient of the Emerging Artist Award. Her work will appear on the festival’s poster and media campaign. Pfau is an interdisciplinary artist who frequently takes inspiration from the nature and the culture of the Magic City. She creates water and ink paintings, prints, pine-needle-vine-leaf sculptures as well as photography, video, writing and performance work. Other participating artists include Eli Allie, Larry Allen, Chris Bruno, Susan Clayton, Claire Cormany, Bethanne Hill, Shadow May, Miriam Omura, Charles Pinckney, Stephen Ray, Chiharu Roach and Beau Stahl as well as newcomers Zan Barnes, Sara Canon, Michelle McDowell-Smith, Daniel Powell and Lillis Taylor. Magic City Art Connection also will showcase artists from the University of Alabama and Birmingham-Southern College at the University Art Professors exhibit. “We want to draw attention to their accomplishments and their place as influential artists and teachers at the source for perpetuating the craft, content and methods of contemporary visual arts to our future artists and creative thinkers,” Kunzman said. The work of young artists will be on display in the High School Sculpture Competition. “We are always excited to see the artful and thoughtful creations from students,” Kunzman said. “These temporary

The Magic City Art Connection will feature food, music and the work of over 200 artists. Photos courtesy of Charity Ponter.

installations in the park have garnered much attention and interest. And we love spotlighting the talent of future artists of the world.” Festivalgoers can expect a few additions this year. Kunzman said to look for more lounges for those who need to take a break and recharge, a new support category, “Spotlight Partner,” featuring benefits to meet the needs and interests by Birmingham companies and the inaugural MY Choice Award Ribbon Program, highlighting artist picks from Birmingham collectors and art enthusiasts. Admission to Magic City Art Connection is $5 for adults and free to children younger than 12. Tickets for “Corks & Chefs” are $35 in advance and $45 at the door and include admission to the festival. For more information, go to magiccityart.com. Editor’s note: This article was produced in partnership with artsBHAM. To learn more about them, visit artsbham.com.


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URBAN GARDENS TAKING root

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By LEXI COON

Above: At the Avondale Elementary Farm Lab, students are encouraged to cook what they grow. Below: Unexpectedly caught in a downpour, these gardeners made the most of their situation by playing in the rain. Photos by Sarah Finnegan.

rowing fresh produce doesn’t necessarily take acres of farmland. Given a small plot or a patio and some spare time, healthy and fresh foods can become much more readily available even in the hustle and bustle of cities. Larger metropolitan areas are often viewed as a “food desert,” meaning there is a lack of produce easily grown in a garden such as lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers and squash. Recently, community-supported urban agriculture has started growing once again in Birmingham thanks to the local green thumbs. Local gardener Hank Layman said he is hoping to help with the produce shortage with his new

project, Oasis Gardens, in Ensley. “When I was a kid, I liked to plant things. I brought bushes, flowers and tree saplings home from trips to Mobile and planted them in my yard in Ensley,” Layman said. While the free, open-air community garden is still being built, Layman understands the significance of small-scale farming, even in a city. “It takes a lot of produce to feed a community the size of Birmingham,” he said. With his garden, which was donated by A.G. Callins from a former parking lot behind 615 19th St., Layman is working to reinvent the farm and provide the Ensley community with the opportunity to have access to its own local produce. “I grew up in Ensley and went to school there,” he said. “When I retired, I wanted to do something to give back somewhere. I realized that Ensley


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FACES and much of western Birmingham is a food desert, so I began to work on a plan.” Being in a food desert, community members are more easily affected by a poor diet, which can result in hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Layman acknowledges these complications and that there is an aging population in his hometown, so he sees this garden as a way to provide the neighborhood with healthier food options within a reasonable distance. Through this urban sanctuary, he also wants to encourage more gardening and to use his garden to BEFREE, or to “Benefit, Enrich and Feed the Residents of Ensley and Environs.” His garden will then have the potential to have a positive effect on the community in many different areas. “There’s an increasing interest in ‘farm-to-table’ food preparation. Urban gardening provides locally sourced food directly to the consumer as well as local chefs,” Layman said. By keeping the foods local, consumers and farmers are able to cut out the middle distributor and connect on an economical level. Many farmers markets have sprouted up with this in mind, and even students of Birmingham are able to grow and sell their own produce. Together with the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Avondale Elementary School hosts a weekly farmers market where students sell the vegetables they have grown to their local neighborhood. “The students fill every role from accountant and inventory manager to salesperson and marketing lead,” said Maria Dominique Villanueva, Good School Food instructor for Avondale Elementary. “They also harvest a good amount of the produce they sell directly from the Farm Lab, so the connection between locally grown produce and local business is clear to them.” The Ministry of Independent Presbyterian Churches also noticed the significance of the urban farming experience when they created the Children’s Fresh Air Farm in 1923. “My ministry focuses on urban kids, and for urban kids to be able to get outside and be safe is of incredible importance,” said Gini Williams of Children’s Fresh Air Farm. The farm, which hosts a day camp every summer for underprivileged children, provides education in reading, math and the environment. “Morning is academics, and afternoon is rotating around more camp activities [like gardening],” Williams said. “To pick a fruit and eat a fruit, it’s such an odd concept [to these kids].” Other urban farms in Birmingham include the East Lake community garden, Urban Ministry’s community garden that feeds West End Community Cafe and the Woodlawn High School Urban Farm, which is also part of Jones Valley. Layman said he is hoping to continue the theme of education for both school-aged children and the general community as his oasis grows. With a preschool directly across from the gardens, he is planning to offer a raised garden bed to the children and to develop a lesson plan to educate the preschoolers and create a Master Gardener course to teach the public. “For one thing, it’s important to be in touch with the soil and the earth. Gardening is strenuous, sometimes difficult and occasionally frustrating, but it’s always rewarding when your crops come in,” Layman said. “Urban gardening is becoming an increasingly important aspect of urban life in this country.”

Maria Dominique Villanueva, or Farmer V, talks to her students about the different plants they are growing in their garden at Avondale Elementary School, which hosts weekly farmers markets in conjunction with Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Coming soon to Ensley, Oasis Gardens will provide local residents with a free, community garden. Photo courtesy of Hank Layman.


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‘Adventurous’ rabbi seeking new challenges after retirement at Temple Emanu-El

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By JESSE CHAMBERS

Rabbi Jonathan Miller poses in the Temple Emanu-El of downtown Birmingham. Rabbi Miller will be retiring later this year after 26 years of service in Birmingham. Photos by Sarah Finnegan.

onathan Miller — who announced in January he’d retire as senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in June after a quarter century leading what he calls the city’s “flagship Jewish institution” — admits he had doubts about moving to Birmingham in 1991. Miller had never been to Alabama, or even the South — except for some weekend visits to North Carolina to offer sermons while a student. “Birmingham’s reputation — part of it deserved, part of it undeserved — was wellknown,” Miller said, referring to the Magic City’s battered national image after the civil rights era. He also had concerns about being a Jew in “an actively Christian environment,” he said. But Miller said he’s “always been an adventurous person,” and his Birmingham adventure worked out well. Miller has served as rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, founded in 1882, for longer than all but two men — Morris Newfield, from 18951940, and Milton Grafman, from 1941-75.

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APRIL 2017

The temple has flourished under Miller, expanding and renovating its facilities and maintaining a vibrant congregation. And Miller — who will become rabbi emeritus — has made a home in the Deep South and become an integral part of Jewish life in Birmingham. “I’ve had the sad privilege of burying a generation and a half or two generations of Jews in this community,” Miller said. “I came here knowing nothing. Now I seem to be the bearer of history of so many people and so many families.” A rabbi’s son, Miller was born in New York but spent his formative years in Boston, where he graduated from Brandeis University. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College in New York in 1982. Miller had another big adjustment to make when he came to Temple Emanu-El, one that had nothing to do with the South. He had worked for nine years at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, which he calls “a mega-congregation.” “There were more Jews in that synagogue than in the whole state of Alabama,” Miller said, who had also served a congregation in New Zealand. By contrast, Temple Emanu-El was “a little quieter, a little sleepier,” he said. But Miller liked the smaller scale.

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“It’s a place where people can — if they try — make real human connections,” he said. “That’s something that I have enjoyed and that has sustained me during my time of service here. And it is also large enough and dynamic enough that we can do some good things.” Those good things — carried out with support from an “engaged, active and enthusiastic” congregation — included raising about $17 million to renovate and expand the temple’s facilities on Highland Avenue in 2002, Miller said. The temple, in good financial shape, has expanded its staff and composed its own prayer book, according to Miller. “We’ve also developed a sense of presence and meaning in the community-at-large for Jews and Judaism,” he said. “We have enhanced pro-Israel support, which is important to me. We have stood for justice issues and helping people who are not as privileged as we are.” The temple has “maintained a steady and enthusiastic membership,” something many mainline religious institutions — Christian, Jewish or otherwise — have struggled to do, Miller said. In 2016, Miller published a book, “Legacy: A Rabbi and A Community Remember Their Loved Ones,” a collection

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These threats of violence are threats to the fabric and ideals of our country.

of the eulogies he has delivered at funerals here. Writing the book was a way for Miller to honor the strong bond he felt with his congregation. It was also a way for him cope with his mother’s death in December 2015. His father was already deceased. “It was my way of working through my grief and my loss,” he said. “Also, I was anticipating the end of my career.” The rabbi’s heightened sense of mortality helped lead him to make a change. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and if I want to have new challenges in life, I need to do that now,” he said. His future will almost certainly involve writing. “I enjoy it, so I think that will be my focus,” Miller said, who has four book projects in mind. He’s written numerous op-eds for AL.com, including a piece March 1 in which he responded to the bomb threats at

RABBI JONATHAN MILLER

the Levite Jewish Community Center, as well as other recent hate crimes and racial incidents in America. “These threats of violence are threats to the fabric and ideals of our country,” Miller wrote. Retirement, at least at first, will also be a time for Miller to relax and recharge. He’ll spend more time with his three grown children in Washington, D.C. He also has a granddaughter there, with a second grandchild on the way. His wife, Judith, “is a very effective, successful psychotherapist” who would like to remain with her practice, he said. “Maybe I will be a house husband for a while,” Miller said with a laugh. And Miller’s desire for challenges is still strong. “I’m not entirely sure what the future will be, but I know it will be an adventure I would not be able to have while I have these responsibilities,” he said.


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READY? SET?

PLAY From kickball to cricket, city offers unexpected recreation opportunities

Photo courtesy of Stephen Rhea.

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By JESSE CHAMBERS pring came a little early to Birmingham this year, and it’s in full force — time to get outside, exercise and lose those winter pounds. But you don’t have to resort to the same old athletic pursuits. There are several fun, unusual options for sports and recreation in the Magic City this spring and summer. So try something you’d never done before. You’ll likely have a blast and even meet some cool new friends.

DISC GOLF

Disc Golf Birmingham hosts league play on a permanent course at George Ward Park on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. during its spring season, ending May 10, and its summer season, May 24 through Aug. 30. The sport has several advantages, according to Ben Swam, the group’s president. “It’s definitely inexpensive,” he said. “It’s for all ages. It’s good exercise. It’s not tough on you. And it’s a year-round sport here in Alabama.” Membership is $20 a year. For details, go to the group’s Facebook page or email board@discgolfbirmingham.com.

Photo courtesy of First Avenue Rocks.

Top: Ultimate Disc, also called Ultimate Frisbee, is “a good time,” organizers say, and you don’t have to be a great athlete. Above: You can try indoor climbing at First Avenue Rocks downtown or its sister facility, Birmingham Boulders. Right: The Hugh Kaul Adventure Tower at Red Mountain Park is the starting point for a thrilling zip ride.

KICKBALL

Photo courtesy of Abraham Odrezin.

This old playground game is increasingly popular among adults, and Birmingham has its own league at George Ward Park created by GO Kickball in Atlanta. The league draws about 1,500 players a week, according to Austin Boyd, GO Kickball’s local contact. “You don’t have to be athletic to play,” Boyd said. “It’s a good time.”


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FACES Games are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Tentative start dates for the eight-week summer season are May 31 and June 1. For information, including fees and registration, go to gokickball.com/birmingham/.

CRICKET

This very British sport is represented here by Birmingham Cricket Club, which has its own field at East Thomas Park and is part of the Cricket League of Alabama. The league has six teams, including four in Birmingham, according to Rajen Shah, a club officer. “Cricket is considered a gentleman’s game and one of the top 10 sports in the world,” he said. Shah said the club welcomes anyone who wishes to play, even those new to the sport. The season lasts from March to early November and plays practice matches almost every Sunday. Membership is $150, covering about 25 games per year. Students receive a discount. For contact information, go to birminghamcricket. wordpress.com.

RUGBY

This rough-and-tumble British sport, an antecedent of American football, is played in the spring, summer and fall by the Birmingham Vulcans, part of the Birmingham Rugby Club Foundation. And though the Vulcans’ spring season ends April 8 at home against Memphis, that’s actually a good time for new players to get involved, according to Michael Laney, a club vice president. “They can join any time,” Laney said. “We practice all year round, except December.” Even total newbies to rugby are welcome, according to club vice president Zachary Ronk. “We’ll teach you how to play from scratch,” he said. “We’re happy to have you regardless of age, size or gender.” In fact, the club is interested in fielding a women’s team if they can recruit enough players, according to Ronk. A good time to visit is during the club’s community two-hand touch rugby sessions, hosted at Ramsay Park the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. Anybody ages 6 and older can play, and it’s free, according to Laney. “It’s a no-pressure, no-cost way to try rugby,” he said. The club also has a youth program for boys and girls ages 6-11 and boys ages 12-18. First-time players and full-time students can play a fall or spring season for $60, according to the club’s website. For details, check out Birmingham Vulcans Rugby on Facebook or Twitter or go to birminghamrugby. com.

ULTIMATE

Ultimate, also called Ultimate Frisbee, is organized by the Birmingham Ultimate Disc Alliance. Its summer league — a good time for new players to break in, according to club president Steve Millburg — meets at various locations Thursday nights, beginning about May 11 and continuing through early August. BUDA also hosts two days of open play a week during its season at Homewood’s Patriot Park on Sundays from 1-3 p.m. and at Levite Jewish Community

Photo courtesy of Desmond Lyles/Always in Motion.

Photo courtesy of Clay Carroll.

Center — if available —Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. Those games are free and are open to all, regardless of age, skill or experience, Millburg said. It costs $65 to play a full season. For details, including contact information and sign-up dates, go to birmingham.ultimatecentral.com.

OTHER DIVERSIONS

Do you have a hunger to climb rocks but want to start in a controlled environment? Check out First Avenue Rocks, an indoor facility on First Avenue South downtown. It also has a newer, larger sister facility, Birmingham Boulders. Call 3202277 or 201-4616 or go to firstaverocks.com.

Above: Birmingham’s A.I.M (Always In Motion) is a company that provides archery tag, sometimes called “combat archery,” for parties, school functions and corporate events. Left: Kickball, the old playground game, is attracting lots of adults. That includes a popular league held at George Ward Park.

If you’ve never ridden a zip line, you can try it at Red Mountain Park Adventure Area. The Vulcan Materials Zip Trip is an hour-long tree-top tour, and The Mega Zip at the Kaul Adventure Tower is a 1,000-foot thrill ride. For details, including prices, go to redmountainpark.org. If you want jump on a trampoline or play dodgeball, check out Steel City Jump Park at the Crestwood Festival Center. Call 683-5867 or go to steelcityjump.com. Archery tag, sometimes called “combat archery,” is available for your party, school function or corporate event courtesy of Birmingham’s A.I.M (Always In Motion). Call 602-8836 or go to aimalways.com.


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COVER STORY: Barons continue to flourish entering 5th season at Regions Field.

Barons GM Jonathan Nelson said construction of Regions Field and returning the team to downtown was one of the most “fun” projects of his career. Photo by Sydney Cromwell. Cover image by Sarah Finnegan.

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES

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By KYLE PARMLEY

he goals have yet to change for the Birmingham Barons, even though the franchise has firmly settled into its new digs. “We just want everyone, when they come out to Regions Field, to have the best possible experience, whether it be their first or their 50th,” said Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson. “It’s fun, fresh, and it’s as fun as it was the first time they came out.” Regions Field was designed and constructed in 2013 as the avenue to bring the baseball team back to the heart of the city, where it had not been since the team left Rickwood Field for Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in 1988.

“When we moved down to Regions Field, we knew it would be a game changer in so many different ways,” Nelson said. “It’s been an incredible opportunity for the organization and for this entire community.” It certainly has been a game changer. Since the Barons’ arrival in 2013, surrounding areas such as the Uptown and Parkside districts have begun to flourish. Railroad Park continues to prosper, and residential options are appearing at seemingly every turn. The ripple effect is still ongoing, as the Barons are entering their fifth season back in Birmingham in 2017. “Talk to me a year from now, and there’s going to be even more of an atmosphere,” said Mike Ferko, director of productions and promotions for the Barons. “It’s really a fun, exciting time,” Nelson added.

The White Sox organization — of which the Barons are a minor league affiliate — coordinates spring training in Glendale, Arizona, from mid-February through March. Players assigned to the Barons will report to Birmingham at the beginning of April. The Barons begin the season on the road, with the home opener slated for April 11 at Regions Field.

THE EARLY DAYS

When designing Regions Field, the Barons’ organization was not content with a cookie-cutter facility. The move back downtown needed to be met with a state-ofthe-art ballpark. “We certainly wanted to design a modern ballpark that had all the modern bells and whistles and amenities that fit the needs of

this community,” Nelson said. That mission was accomplished. In 2013, Regions Field was named Ballpark of the Year by BaseballParks.com, a service that looks at baseball stadiums around the country, not limited to any specific league or level of baseball. In 2015, Baseball America rated Regions Field the third best minor league park in the country. “That’s a pretty great recognition for the ballpark, for the city of Birmingham and for this community overall, because it continues all of those acknowledgments and awards,” Nelson said. Looking back on the construction of the stadium and move of the team, Nelson calls it one of the most “fun” projects he has worked on in his professional career. He continually emphasized the community


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BIRMINGHAM BARONS: THROUGH THE YEARS PENNANT

1906

1906

The Southern Association baseball league forms and includes Barons (originally named the Coal Barons) 1914 PENNANT

1921

A tornado rips through Rickwood Field, causing $30,000 in damages. A temporary fence is quickly erected ahead of a series kickoff two days later.

1910

PENNANT

1912

Millionaire industrialist A.H. (Rick) Woodward buys the team, constructs first concrete-and-steel ballpark in the minor leagues: Rickwood Field.

PENNANT

1931

PENNANT

1929

PENNANT

1928

1938

Following the roils of the Great Depression, Woodward sells the Barons to Ed Norton, who in 1944, sells the Barons to Gus Jebeles. PENNANT

1959

PENNANT

1958

1961 1964

Southern Association disbands following years of regional franchises shifting to other leagues because of the Association’s segregation policies. Birmingham is left without a professional team after the Barons franchise moves. A’s move from Birmingham.

1975 1981

Barons return after Art Clarkson moves Montgomery Rebels franchise to Birmingham. SL TITLE

1993

1994

Basketball icon Michael Jordan switches sports and joins Barons, who see a boost in attendance.

Southern League forms; Barons return to Birmingham but again move following the 1965 season.

1967

Plans to build new downtown stadium underway. Regions Field is named the No. 1 Double-A Ballpark by Baseball America and the Ballpark Digest’s Best of the Ballparks: Double-A classification.

impact the stadium would have on the city of Birmingham. “The big picture was that we were creating something much bigger than Barons baseball, something huge for this community and huge in so many ways,” Nelson said. “We knew that we were creating something special with Regions Field, and it was fun to sit back and hear people talk about it and get that enthusiasm.” Ferko is set to begin his sixth year

1967

Owner of Kansas City (later Oakland) A’s brings baseball back to city with Birmingham A’s.

1986

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1989

1983

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1987

Negotiations over a new stadium fail between the city of Birmingham and Clarkson, who decides to move the Barons’ home field to the Hoover Met in 1988.

1995 2006 2012 2013 2015

Franchise bought by Elmore Sports Group, who establish Rickwood Classic.

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SL TITLE

2002

Franchise bought by Logan Family. Met updated. SL TITLE

2013

Barons kick off season at Regions Field, ultimately win Southern League title.

SOURCE: BARONS.COM

working with the Barons organization. He was with the team during its final days in Hoover and helped with the transition to Regions Field. “There was a lot of anticipation and excitement of moving to a new ballpark,” he said. “We obviously enjoyed and appreciated our history in Hoover, and there’s a lot of history that will always be centered around that ballpark. With that, came a ton of work to be done over that offseason, and is something

According to the Barons’ website, attendance has grown from 437,612 in 2014 to 444,639 in 2015 (2016 data not available). Barons management expects the 2017 season to be a strong one both on the field and in the stands. Photos courtesy of the Birmingham Barons.

I’ll always remember.” That initial season in 2013 was by all intents and purposes a “dream season” for the entire organization. Along with the new ballpark drawing rave reviews and large crowds, the team put together a great year and won the Southern League championship. The Barons have limited control over the quality of the team each year, but after speaking with Chicago White Sox management, Nelson said he believes the 2017 on-field product will be a competitive one.

KEEPING THE PRODUCT GREAT

The fact the team fluctuates on a yearly basis puts the onus on the Barons organization to ensure that no matter the competitiveness of a given year’s team, an attractive environment is produced for every game at Regions Field. “We have to continue to examine our operation, create fun and new things at Regions Field to make our product fresh,” Nelson said. “It goes into all the different details of everything that we do.” Whether it is training game day employees to greet incoming patrons with enthusiasm or adding intriguing concession items to the stadium’s menu, Nelson said the team’s perpetual goal is “to continue to want to raise the bar in everything that we do.”

Ferko assumes much of that responsibility as well, as he has a large hand in the in-game entertainment and promotional events throughout the season. “We’re always looking for creative ways to entertain the fans,” he said. As far as promotions go in 2017, the Barons will feature season-long staples as well as a few new wrinkles this season. “Fans can definitely look forward to the fan favorites, as far as entertainers and giveaways,” he said. “This year, we’re trying to put a spin on some things. Fans can look forward to some new things as well.” One of the additions was announced in March: The SwitchYard on 14th will feature two airstream trailers — one offering gastropub-type menu items friendly for both adults and kids, and the other offering a full bar that includes 20 draft beers on tap — plus a shaded entertainment area with outdoor games such as bocce and ping pong. Despite having such a great facility, Nelson refuses to sit on his laurels and passively put things in cruise control. He harkens back to his days in the early 1990s working under former Barons General Manager Bill Hardekopf, who made a profound statement that Nelson repeats to his staff today: “We’re in the memory-making business.”


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call

HEEDING A

Cornerstone basketball coach Ronald Steele finds his way to impact lives Photo by Todd Lester.

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By KYLE PARMLEY

Ronald Steele said he always knew he wanted to be a basketball coach, he just didn’t know where his journey would lead him. Photo by Sarah Finnegan.

he gymnasium at the Cornerstone School in Huffman is a far cry from Coleman Coliseum, and that’s just fine with Ronald Steele. At capacity, Coleman Coliseum — where the University of Alabama plays its home basketball games — holds more than 15,000 people. By comparison, a few hundred people might be able to squeeze into Cornerstone’s gym before the fire marshal raises an eyebrow. After playing at John Carroll Catholic High School and winning “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Alabama twice, Steele became a star in Tuscaloosa. Injuries derailed hopes of a career in the NBA, but he still played professionally in Turkey, Italy and Israel. But Steele continued to feel a different calling for his life than simply playing the game of basketball. “I knew coaching was my real passion, and I wanted to get settled,” Steele said. “I knew I wanted to coach; I just didn’t know the path.” He also knew he wanted to move back to the United States in order to provide more stability for his wife and young son. So he began searching for

that path back where it all began — at John Carroll — as an assistant with the boys basketball program for his brother Andrew, the head coach. After a season doing that, the school needed a girls coach, and Steele took on that challenge successfully. His team advanced to the Class 6A Central Regional in Montgomery. But once again, Steele felt a different calling. “I was at John Carroll, and that was great, but I felt God was calling me to do something a little different,” Steele said. “I wanted to make sure I was making a good impact.” As he enjoyed breakfast with one of his past high school teammates one morning, he was pitched the story, mission and opportunity at Cornerstone. Steele was convinced. “This is a perfect fit for me,” he recalled. At Cornerstone, Steele has the perfect balance: a chance to coach basketball and to have an impact on lives. “We have some really good kids that come from tough backgrounds a lot of times,” Steele said. “I really want to step into that role and help mentor them and show them how basketball helped me along. I was blessed to play college and professional basketball,

but the lessons I took from basketball stuck with me, and I think we need more of that in our communities.” Instead of searching for a job that Steele knew would allow him to compete for championships at the highest level, he found the opportunity he saw the greatest potential for significant leadership, even if it was a private school competing in Class 1A. “It’s not about championships or winning,” he said. “If that was the case, I would’ve tried to be on a bigger stage. But I felt like this is where God was calling me to be, and I’m going to do my best to do that.” Winning is a goal, and Cornerstone advanced to the state semifinals at the BJCC in Steele’s first season. But there is a greater need he is attempting to fulfill. “If you allow the scoreboard to determine your self-worth, you’re going to have a tough life,” he said. “Someone’s always going to make more money than you. Someone’s always going to be better than you at this or that, and if you can’t find happiness in doing your best, it’s going to be tough. As long as we perform to our standard and do the best we can, we can walk away better. Winning comes from that. It’s not the other way around.”


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EXPOSING BIRMINGHAM’S

BEAUTY

Steel City Urbex discovers city’s forgotten treasures — both up high and down low

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By SYDNEY CROMWELL s the members of Steel City Urbex explored the newly opened Thomas Jefferson Tower with its furnished apartments and rebuilt zeppelin-mooring mast, they compared it to the abandoned building they had explored not so long ago. “It was like a time capsule. There was so much stuff left in here. I never even made it to the roof because you get lost going on each floor seeing what was left,” said Urbex member Josh Box, who first explored the Thomas Jefferson Tower about seven years ago. “When they said they were going to open this thing back up, I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ Holes were in the floor. It was horrible. Dust everywhere, it was dirty. I don’t know how long it had been since someone had been in here,” Urbex co-founder Jake Know about Evans said. something in Because they were invited to Birmingham you see the reopened tower, there was consider bizarre, a definite upside to visiting an eclectic or utterly occupied building rather than an original? Let abandoned one. us know! Email “It’s much easier using an information to elevator to get up to the roof than sydney@starnesgoing up the stairs,” Evans said. publishing.com. The Steel City Urbex (short for urban exploration) was started by Evans and lifelong friend Justin Self based on a mutual love of exploring abandoned buildings and photographing the things they find. Their first official adventure, along with now-member Matt Glasscock, was to the Memorial Mound, an abandoned mausoleum in Bessemer. Their exploration of the Mound, where they found several buried bodies and evidence of break-ins and theft, earned the group some media attention. While a lot of urban

Above: Jake Evans, co-founder of Steel City Urbex, films the Birmingham skyline. Left: Josh Box of Steel City Urbex takes photos of the mooring mast atop the Thomas Jefferson Tower. Photos by Sydney Cromwell.

What’s going on?

explorers only share their discoveries with a small group of people, Evans said he saw an opportunity to share an unseen side of Alabama. “I knew that was an aspect we needed in Steel City Urbex. I wanted to get people’s attention. I wanted to get people upset because that’s how you get people,” Evans said. “I want people to be like, ‘Whoa, this is cool.’” Two years later, the Urbex has gotten people’s attention.

They have nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook — including meteorologist and local celebrity James Spann — and nearly 4,000 on Instagram. A typical outing for the nine members of the Urbex includes several cameras, a GoPro mounted on Evans’ home-made selfie stick and Glasscock’s phone ready to broadcast Facebook Live videos as needed. Many of the Urbex’s adventures have been in downtown Birmingham, including Carraway Hospital, the Pizitz


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B’HAM BIZARRE

Members of the Steel City Urbex pose for a photo atop the Thomas Jefferson Tower.

building before its renovation and City Federal, where member Brett Bellomy climbed up to hang from the neon letters. They have also explored factories, old mines, mills and other long-empty buildings in other Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee locations. Box in particular has a love for mines. “These guys like the top of buildings, everything like that. My passion is underground, abandoned mines,” Box said. “Anyone can see the buildings but to actually go underground and see what the catalyst [is] that brought the city out — because underground built this city.” Glasscock said he often finds new sites to investigate just by driving around or talking to longtime residents of the city. Self said what catches his eye in a building is its history and any items left behind by previous occupants. “If you go inside a building and there’s nothing left, just walls and the floor, it’s not much to shoot,” Self said. “I know in this building [Thomas Jefferson Tower] before it got renovated, there were some TVs, a bunch of stuff in the basement, actually items in the rooms.” And sometimes, one exploration leads to another. “It seems like every time I go on top of a building, I see something new that looks really cool,” Self said. It can be a little perilous with the structural conditions of some of the buildings, which is why the Urbex doesn’t reveal the locations of every place they visit. “Somebody will go there and get hurt,” Evans said. Sometimes the danger comes in unexpected forms. The first time Bellomy joined the Urbex on a trip, the group encountered a rattlesnake, spiders falling from the ceiling and a strange man chasing them. After the trip, Evans remembers thinking Bellomy “is never going to hang out with us again.” “It all fell apart. It was horrible but still

fun,” Bellomy said. But Bellomy did stay, not only because he enjoyed urban exploration but also because he enjoyed the people doing the exploring. Evans said he loves that the Urbex has become a way to spend time with “likeminded people.” The Steel City Urbex has a code of conduct, in a way. In addition to keeping many of their locations secret, Urbex members don’t drink, smoke, graffiti or bring backpacks inside to steal anything left behind. While they don’t always ask for permission to enter buildings, Evans said they don’t force their way in either. “We’re not ever going to break anything to come in. If the door is not open, we’re not coming in. If there’s not a hole in the fence that we can squeeze through or a little gap … we’re not getting in. We will not tear down or vandalize anything,” Evans said. Since they aren’t harming the buildings, Evans said the few times they have encountered police have resulted in new Instagram followers rather than being escorted out. Box said being part of the Urbex gives him a chance at “exposing the city for the beauty that it really is.” Plus, it’s just fun to see something few Birmingham residents ever will. “Some people go to the movies and pay $20 for a tub of popcorn, and we go take pictures for fun,” Glasscock said. But it’s not for everyone. Evans warned the average person should probably just watch the Urbex’s adventures from Facebook. “There’s a lot of stuff that people would never know about in this city because they don’t get out, they don’t do these kinds of things — which is OK. You’re not supposed to. We’re crazy. This is what we do,” Evans said. “And my thing was, I’ve always wanted everyone to see how awesome this city really is.”


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Public fund drive launched for Bards & Brews

By JESSE CHAMBERS There’s trouble brewing for Bards & Brews, a series of spoken-word performances and craft-beer tastings held on first Fridays at the Birmingham Public Library downtown. The event started in 2010 and is the longest running and most successful adult program the library has had, according to librarian and series coordinator Brandon C. Smith. “We routinely get 150 to 200 people in our doors,” he said. But Bards & Brews is in jeopardy because of a convergence of funding issues — the recent loss of some grant money, the increasing costs of staging the event and budgetary pressures at BPL that have caused cutbacks in adult programming, Smith said. But organizers have launched a public fund drive and are holding benefit shows to save a program they believe has created opportunities for writers and performers, drawn people to the library and added to Birmingham’s cultural life. “I think Birmingham needs more events that bring people from all over the community

Jahman Hill performs at a Bards and Brews All-Star Show. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Library.

together, and it would be a shame for us to allow Bards & Brews to disappear without a fight,” Smith said. One hurdle faced by organizers is a change in the policies of the state ABC Board — in reaction to changes in state beer laws — that means craft brewers cannot donate free samples of beer to the library. The library would now have to buy the beer, which it can’t do with taxpayer money. “We’re trying different avenues to source

HIGHLAND PARK

FIVE POINTS

Hands On Birmingham to honor ‘unsung’ volunteers with Ignite Awards By JESSE CHAMBERS Many volunteers in the Birmingham area go unrecognized, but that’s about to change. Hands On Birmingham — the volunteer arm of the United Way of Central Alabama — will host its inaugural Ignite Awards Ceremony at The Club April 25 at 10:30 a.m. to give overdue recognition to dedicated volunteers and service leaders in the area. “We’re trying to get people to understand there are a lot of people out there working to better our community,” said HOB Executive Director Benga Harrison. “They’re unsung heroes. They’re giving time, not dollars, so people don’t know what a value they are.” The organization will name the HOB Volunteer of the Year, as well as additional Volunteer of the Year awards in categories including corporate, government, nonprofit, student, small business and faith-based. The nominations, which were open to the public, closed March 1. Harrison said she hopes the Ignite Awards

outside funding,” Smith said. Bards & Brews never before charged admission but hosted two “pay what you can” events Feb. 3 and March 3 to raise money. There are plans for an off-site Bards & Brews fundraiser, and the library is working on other grants, according to Smith. The next Bards & Brews open mic will be April 7 at Avondale Library. It takes about $900 to produce a Bards & Brews open-mic event, including the emcee,

security, refreshments, a beer server and some advertising. Costs for the quarterly poetry slams are higher because of $300 in prizes. Poet and longtime emcee Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins calls Bards & Brews “an intersection of art and culture” in Birmingham where writers, performers and visual artists have been inspired or met collaborators. “Birmingham needs Bards & Brews to continue to grow arts and culture in the city,” Hawkins said, who helped librarian Haruyo Miyagawa, now retired, launch Bards & Brews and serves as its creative director. “It’s so special to have an outlet to present my creativity and enjoy the creative thoughts of others,” said poet Lee Green, who has appeared at many Bards & Brews events. The public can make donations at bplonline.org/about/contributions or send donations to Birmingham Public Library, Development Department, 2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203. For more information, contact Smith at 591-4944 or bcsmith@bham.lib.al.us.

Hands On Birmingham volunteers at work. Photo courtesy of Alice Gordon.

and the ceremony itself — in addition to inspiring new volunteers — will be an emotional lift for volunteers. “People working in the community and at the grass roots … get discouraged sometimes, so we want a room of people who do this work to ignite each other,” she said. The awards can help more people understand the positive economic impact of volunteering, Harrison said, who added each volunteer hour in Alabama equates to approximately $20.84, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the Ignite Awards can propagate a positive message about the city. “There’s a lot of good that goes on in Birmingham, and that never gets talked about,” Harrison said. “I want to change that.” For more information, go to uwca.org/ ignite.

Law firm launches Kindness Campaign to benefit cancer patients, families By JESSE CHAMBERS Birmingham law firm Environmental Litigation Group has represented thousands of clients suffering from cancer, many after exposure to asbestos or other substances. And after getting to know these gravely ill people and their families, ELG staff wanted to try to make their lives a little easier. So the firm recently launched The Kindness Campaign, in which it urges people in Birmingham and across the United States to fill gift baskets with healthy food and other items and deliver them to cancer sufferers. “We know what they are going through, and we just wanted to bring a smile to their face and make them happy,” said Hilda Oltean, ELG marketing manager. The response has been good, with about 200 baskets delivered since the beginning of 2017, according to Oltean, “It just kind of went viral, and more and

Hilda Oltean of the Environmental Litigation Group with a patient receiving a Kindness Campaign basket. Photo courtesy of Environmental Litigation Group.

more people got involved because others did it, and they posted pictures and talked about it on social media,” she said. “I’m getting 50 to 100 emails a day.” The effort is personal for the ELG staffers who have had family members face cancer, some due to asbestos exposure, according to Oltean. Items recommended for the gift baskets include vitamins; fresh fruit and vegetables; protein, including eggs and lean meat; such foods as honey, green tea and organic soups; and non-food items such as socks, robes, blankets, soaps, shampoos, books and movies. For more information, including a complete list of items, call 328-9200, ext. 138, or go to elglaw.com/kindness.


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EAST LAKE

4-legged friends now permitted at East Lake Park

By JESSE CHAMBERS Dog lovers in East Lake can rejoice: They are now allowed to take their dogs to East Lake Park, as long as they keep the animals on a leash. The change was made a few months ago, and new signs have been installed at the park, according to Stanley Robinson, public relations coordinator for the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board. The old signs read, “No dogs allowed.” The new signs read, “All dogs must be on a leash.” This reflects the rules at most other Birmingham parks, according to Robinson. In addition, the old rule — at East Lake and, in the past, at some other parks — was not strictly followed by users, according to Robinson. “The old signage was up, but how could you enforce it unless you had park rangers?” he said. “Finally, we just took down the signage.” Dog owners should be responsible

as they take advantage of the new rule, according to Robinson. “We’re stressing that they have their pet on a leash and under their control, so everybody gets to enjoy the park,” he said. “We want people to bring a little plastic bag to pick up the waste.” Valerie Proctor Davis, president of The Friends of East Lake Park, supports the change. “I hope all dog walkers will be good citizens and show consideration for everyone by keeping their dogs leashed and cleaning up after them,” Davis said. The rule change is driven in part by an increase in the number of people, including dog owners, who frequent the park, according to Robinson. The facility’s “become more attractive to residents, to people who want to get out and exercise with their dogs,” he said. The rule change is good because it “expands the usage of the park,”

Robinson said. “And you see so many people have a dog as a companion, so they like to recreate with their pets. So often the pets are part of the family, and dogs do need exercise.” Ideally, dog owners and other park users will “coexist” and be respectful of each other, according to Robinson. “Just be courteous and make the other person feel welcome, and that’s what the park is about,” he said. The only designated dog park in the city is at George Ward Park, according to Robinson. Robinson said that, irrespective of park rules, residents are required by a Jefferson County ordinance to have dogs on leashes at almost any time. “When you have the dog outside the yard, you should have it on a leash,” he said. In addition, dogs — even on leashes — should be kept out of certain areas in city parks, including baseball, softball and football fields.

The change to allow leashed dogs at East Lake Park was made a few months ago, and new signs have been installed around the park. Photo by Jesse Chambers.


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Film apprenticeship aims to teach storytelling

By LEAH INGRAM ENGLE When Urban Avenues created Fish Camp Films, it aimed to teach high school students, specifically in Woodlawn, how to be storytellers. A nonprofit designed to foster ideas and art initiatives around the Birmingham area, Urban Avenues was started by Mt Laurel residents John and Laura Lankford in 2013. Fish Camp Films started in April 2015 as an apprenticeship approach to teaching filmmaking in Birmingham. They rent a studio in Woodlawn shared with three filmmakers, and 15 students who move through each rotation of apprentices get to see firsthand how they work. They held a camp last year that sent eight students out with video cameras and 35mm cameras to learn everything from scratch. Students filmed parts of the city, then spent time interviewing entrepreneurs in the city to hear what it takes to build a business. Kayla Gladney, a producer for Fish Camp Films, learned about the program in film

A group of recruits during a training on Feb. 28. Photo courtesy of Urban Avenues.

school at UAB in a class taught by one of the sector leads of Fish Camp Films. She got involved teaching students, and when

a job opened up after graduation, Gladney accepted the position. “They wanted a young recent college

graduate to take their place and keep the program going,” she said. “The students inspired me to be more creative. It was rewarding for me as well.” The program recently started back and will have six sessions this semester. Shawn Mack, a senior at Woodlawn High School, has worked at both Five Loaves and Fish Camp Films and said both ventures have given her great opportunities. “At Five Loaves, I got to meet different chefs and learn essential skills I need for culinary school,” she said. “Fish Camp Films has inspired me to purchase a camera, and I’ve already learned really good skills to help me in the long run. I found a passion I didn’t even know I had.” Mack said she has known she wanted to work in the culinary industry ever since she was 5. After graduation, her plan is to attend culinary school. Her advice for other students is to be open to new things. “You can find something about yourself you don’t know,” she said. “That’s what happened to me, and it has worked very well. I encourage everyone to give things you haven’t thought about a chance.”


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CRESTWOOD

Residents hope to preserve undeveloped parcel of land By JESSE CHAMBERS About 50 South Crestwood residents want to turn the last piece of undeveloped land in their neighborhood into a nature preserve. The effort began with their recent success in stopping a development on the 6.5-acre parcel, which has an entrance at 12th Avenue and 50th Street South. Tower Development’s plan to clear-cut the parcel and build 29 homes was rejected by a city planning commission subcommittee in February after residents voiced concerns about flooding, landslides, increased traffic, loss of wildlife habitat and the density of homes planned for the site. “It’s probably a good fit for [the parcel] to be a green space rather than some other development,” said Brad Edmonds, one of the group’s organizers. The group consists of South Crestwood residents along with a few from North

Crestwood, Forest Park and Avondale, Edmonds said. “This area is dear to a large part of the neighborhood, especially those nearest to it,” said Andrea Paschal, who has lived near the parcel for 17 years and started a petition to help stop the development. The group planned to meet recently with several local and state conservation groups to explore their interest in the project. The response the group receives will determine who is going to spearhead the project, Edmonds said. “Having a resource like this for Crestwood South would be something special,” Edmonds said. Neither the developer, Price Hightower, nor his attorney responded to requests for comment. For more information about the preservation effort, contact crestwoodpreserve@ gmail.com.

AVONDALE

Chucks & Tux to benefit Growing Kings By JESSE CHAMBERS Growing Kings is a nonprofit that provides mentoring and enrichment services to at-risk male students in the Birmingham City Schools. “Part of our work is to help our students discover and cultivate what interests and passions drive them so that they can have a clear vision of who they want to be when they grow up,” said the group’s executive director, Marcus Carson. So it seems appropriate that the organization’s annual fundraiser, Chucks & Tux — at Old Car Heaven April 29 at 8 p.m. — is centered on the talents and creativity of Birmingham high school students. The event will feature a silent auction of classic Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers customized by the students who won the recent GKChucks: Student Shoe Design Contest. “Being able to provide a space for … students to express themselves creatively and

Chucks & Tux is set for April 29 at 8 p.m. Photo courtesy of Beyond Sight Photography.

bring this type of exposure to their skills and talents is very rewarding,” Carson said. The contest is in partnership with the UAB Department of Art & Art History, where contest winners attend a boot camp to complete their designs. The students’ designs are “incredibly creative and well executed,” Carson said. In keeping with the event’s theme, attendees are encouraged to wear Chuck Taylors along with formal attire. “We have a number of guests who will custom-tailor their Converses to reflect their own personality,” Carson said. The first Chucks & Tux was in 2016 at WorkPlay. Tickets are $50. VIP tickets are $125. For more information, go to growingkings.org.


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Spring is in bloom, and it’s the perfect time to plant a garden, do some cleaning or start a home renovation. Find tips and tricks from area businesses to jump-start any project in our guide.

APRIL 2017

Home & Garden Guide special advertising section

INDEX Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery .... 32 EZ Roof ................................................. 33 Jeff Richardson - Brik Realty ........... 34 Tower Homes ....................................... 35

CHARLIE THIGPEN’S GARDEN GALLERY

Unlock your gardening potential Some people feel limited in their gardening ability due to limitations in their space, but Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery is working to show everyone their gardening potential. Located in Pepper Place, this garden gallery sells more than plants — “We want to sell success,” said owner Charlie Thigpen. “We want to help people purchase plants that will successfully grow in their environment.” A great way to incorporate plants, even without a yard, is through container gardening. Containers can be placed around entryways or other areas where you and guests can enjoy them, Thigpen said. They are also a simple way to start gardening — just choose the right planter to fit your space, select a quality potting soil and pick out the right plants for the right areas. “Even if you don’t have a yard and live in a loft or an apartment, you still can garden if you have a patio or balcony,” Thigpen said. “It might be a small window box attached to a railing, but if you have enough room

for a planter you have enough room to grow plants.” Charlie Thigpen’s aims to help novice gardeners learn and work with more seasoned gardeners, providing new and improved selections of plants each year. The shop also carries a large selection of planters, annuals, perennials, shrubs and other items. “People always come in the shop looking for ideas, and we love helping them come up with creative solutions to their gardening and landscape needs,” Thigpen said. “The name of our shop is Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery, so besides plants, we have lots of art objects, and most of it is locally created.” For more information, visit charliethigpensgardengallery.com or call 328-1000.


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EZ ROOF

What you need to know about roofing We asked roofing specialist Gerry Rotter of EZ Roof what homeowners should be aware of regarding roofs. Here’s what he had to say: Q: What advice would you give to homeowners thinking about replacing their roof? A: Talk to a professional. Find someone who is fully licensed and insured, with experience and a good reputation. Always use a company that is rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau. Remember, if you have any warranty issues that arise, you want a company that will be around — one that you can find years down the road. Look up the address of the business using Google Earth. Choose a company with a brick-and-mortar business versus one operating out of a basement. Find reviews and ask for references. The biggest thing is to ask questions. Your roofing contractor should be knowledgeable about products and solutions for your individual project. Also, ask about warranties. What

extended warranties does the company provide? What is the warranty? Q: What are some signs that it’s time for a new roof? A: If you notice your shingles are curled, cracked or missing, or you find shingles on the ground, it’s time for an inspection. Age is also a big factor. If your roof is at least 20 years old, you may need a new roof. Are your neighbors getting new roofs? Homes built around the same time period and in the same location will experience the same types of weather conditions and natural wear. Did your neighborhood experience a hailstorm or high winds? You may have damage that is covered under your homeowner’s insurance. When in doubt, call a professional roofer for a free consultation. A professional can tell you how much life is left in your roof, if there is storm damage worthy of a filing a claim, and what action is recommended. Be careful, though. There are groups that I refer to as “storm chasers” that exclusively

pursue insurance claims. These groups will encourage you to file a claim, whether there is one or not, which can increase your insurance rates. Make sure you are talking to someone that has your best interest in mind. Q: Why should homeowners choose EZ Roof as their roofing contractor? A: EZ Roof is locally owned and operated, and has been in business for over 20 years. We are fully licensed and insured, and have worker’s compensation and general liability insurance. EZ Roof has an office and showroom located on Valleydale Road in Hoover. You can visit us in person and view real samples of the products we use. You can always put a face to the name. EZ Roof has a full-time staff, which means we do not subcontract out our work. You will always be getting someone reliable, professional and experienced on your job. We also make payment easy. We do

not collect anything up front, but rather upon completion and satisfaction of the job. Financing is also offered to help with the upfront expense of a new roof — including borrower-friendly plans like 12 months with no interest or payments*. We pride ourselves on our reputation and treating our customers like we would our own family. EZ Roof is top rated on professional roofing sites, has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and A rating with Angie’s List. I encourage you to read our reviews or even visit us in person to learn more. EZ Roof & EZ Restoration is located at 2078 Valleydale Road. For more information, call 968-1034 or visit ez-roofer.com.


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APRIL 2017

JEFF RICHARDSON, BRIK REALTY

Nearly 11 years of experience, expertise Spring is one of the best times to sell your home, and the right team of agents will make sure your home is ready for buyers to fall in love when they walk in the door. “Spring is definitely the hottest market of the year,” said Brik Realty agent Jeff Richardson. “We have one chance to make a good first impression.” With nearly 11 years of experience and almost 500 sold properties under his belt, Richardson knows what to look for when putting a home on the market. It starts with curb appeal, so sprucing up the front yard, adding spring flowers and refreshing your mulch and pine straw is a must. “The overall presentation of your home from the minute they park in the driveway to the minute they walk in your door is critical,” Richardson said. Inside, a home should be clean and free of clutter. Richardson said homeowners should remember that storage space is important to a potential buyer. Even if your closet space is being used to keep clutter out of the

rest of your home, make sure visitors can see how much storage space you have to offer. “Having the ability to see all four corners and the floor space and walls is an advantage,” Richardson said. He also noted that having too much furniture in a room can make it seem small and less attractive. Richardson joined Brik Realty in February 2015 and he said he loves the opportunities, community involvement and use of technology and social media that the “BrikFam” provides to him. He works with buyers and sellers all over Birmingham but specializes in the Crestwood, Avondale, Forest Park, Homewood and Mountain Brook areas. Richardson created his own team, now made up of six people, in June 2016. He views his team as a mentoring opportunity to help build the careers of talented agents who are newer to the real estate field. After over a decade in real estate, Richardson said he still loves helping his

clients get exactly what they want in buying or selling. “I absolutely love the people aspect,” he said. “Helping someone find their dream home and that huge smile you see at closing is pretty priceless.” Richardson has strong negotiating abilities and the experience to successfully guide the contract process. However, he said one of his most important services is reliable communication to keep his clients up to date on the selling or buying process. That commitment has earned Richardson several honors, including Birmingham’s Favorite Realtor by Birmingham Parent Magazine in July 2016 and Brik Realty’s Realtor of the Year in February 2017. “2016 was my best year, with almost

$16 million in sales,” Richardson said. For more information, call 2064320 or visit brikrealty.com/ agents/59577-Jeff-Richardson.


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TOWER HOMES

Find your dream home with Tower Homes Throughout his 24 years in business, Price Hightower has learned the best way to serve customers is to listen to them. As president of Tower Homes, Hightower strives to help customers improve their quality of life through their homes. “They will tell us what they do not like about their current home and how a new home can improve the quality of their lives,” Hightower said. “That’s what we are here to do — improve the quality of life by providing a home tailored to our customer’s needs. At Tower Homes, we build ‘wow.’ And that wow comes from listening to our customers and delivering more bang for the buck than is expected.” Tower Homes’ newest development. Grants Mill Valley in Irondale, is set to be Irondale’s largest residential development in decades. It will cover nearly 100 acres and have 140 new three- and four-bedroom homes, with the first homes ready for move in this fall. Homesites will come in a variety of sizes, with the largest on 10 acres.

“Because of the variety of lot sizes, these homes will be unique to the over the mountain market,” Hightower said. “Some homes will feature three-car garages, huge outdoor living spaces, basements and flex spaces for personalization such as a home gym or office. We have heard the need for an empty nester product, and we are going to provide the best in town.” In addition to large, wooded estate lots, Grants Mill Valley will also include green space and sidewalks. The area around Grants Mill Valley also meets the three most important factors in the home buying decision, Hightower said — location, location, location. Residents will be close to neighborhood and community conveniences without compromising a high-quality living area. “It is close to everything but still quiet and peaceful,” Hightower said. “Like all Tower communities, it offers easy access to I-459 and all the things that people need and love to do.” Tower Homes also offers a new

design studio. Interior designer Erin helps customers talk through samples of fixtures, flooring, colors and lighting packages and personalize their homes while they enjoy a glass of wine or cup of fresh coffee at the studio, Hightower said. “Erin has been with us for years, and she is an expert at listening to our clients’ dreams and making those a reality through selections of colors, flooring and fixtures,” Hightower said. “She is a pro. … Everyone deserves (and gets) a red carpet experience at Tower. That’s just part of wow.”

All homes in Grants Mill Valley will feature Craftsman-style architecture and state-of-the-art design. Tower Homes is this area’s largest builder with other communities such as Grants Mill Crossing, Montevallo Park, Bainbridge Trace and Overton Crossings. For more information, call 970-2363 or visit tower-homes.com.


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PUT THESE IN APRIL’S BEST BETS

ALABAMA AUTO SHOW

April 6-9: BJCC Exhibition Hall, 2100 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N.

This show features more than 400 vehicles from the 2017 and 2018 model years, including domestic and import cars, vans, light trucks, SUVs and hybrid vehicles of all sizes, and vans. Thursday, noon-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission $8; children younger than 14 admitted free. For more information, visit alabamaautoshow. com.

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CAHABAQUE BBQ COOK-OFF

Noon-5 p.m., April 8, Cahaba Brewing Company, 4500 Fifth Ave. S., Building C

This benefit for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama features craft beer, live music and a competition to name the best backyard barbecue in Birmingham. Admission $20 for ages 21 and older; $15 for those younger than 21; $5 for those 12 and younger; children younger than 6 free. For more information, visit crowdrise.com/ cahabaque.

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MUST SEE

See this? It means we think you ought to go!

LEBANESE FOOD AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL

TODRICK HALL PRESENTS STRAIGHT OUTTA OZ

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. , April 21-22, St. Elias Maronite Church, 836 Eighth St. S.

7 p.m. , April 27, Carver Theater, 1631 Fourth Ave. N.

Celebrating its 19th year, this event features traditional food items such as kibbee, grape leaves, spinach pies, tabouleh, grilled chicken and baklava. Free offsite parking at two UAB locations, or opt to rent a Zyp bike and leave it at our pop-up virtual station. Silent auction and 5K run scheduled Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call 252-3867 or visit stelias.org.

Entertainer Todrick Hall’s North American tour makes a stop at the historic Carver Theatre to present his musical “Straight Outta Oz.” Based on the novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the show has more than 20 original songs. Adults $25, VIP $80. For more information, call 327-9424 or visit todrickhall.com.

OFFICIAL BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL April 3: Birmingham City Council Public Safety, Transportation Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, council chambers.

Governmental Affairs Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E. April 11: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor.

April 4: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor.

April 11: Birmingham City Council Public Improvements and Beautification Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, Conference Room A.

April 10: Birmingham City Council Economic Development, Budget and Finance Committee. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.

April 17: Birmingham City Council Public Safety, Transportation Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, council chambers.

April 10: Birmingham City Council

April 17: Birmingham City Council Planning

and Zoning Committee. 4:30 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, Conference Room A.

April 25: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor.

April 17: Citizen Advisory Board. 7 p.m. City Council Chambers, Birmingham City Hall, third floor. The Citizen Participation Program is designed to achieve improved communication, understanding, and cooperation between Birmingham citizens and city officials through increased personal contact between City Hall and neighborhoods and communities throughout the city. The public is welcome to attend.

April 25: Birmingham City Council Education Committee. 2 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.

April 18: Birmingham City Council. 9:30 a.m. City Hall, third floor.

April 25: Birmingham City Council Utilities Committee. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E. April 26: Birmingham City Council Committee of the Whole. 4 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E. April 28: Birmingham City Council


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DISCOVER Administration/Technology Committee. 1 p.m. Birmingham City Hall, third floor, Conference Rooms D and E.

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MEETINGS April 4: Forest Park/South Avondale Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. Avondale Library, 509 40th St. S. Visit forestparksouthavondale.com for more information. April 10: Woodlawn Neighborhood Association meeting. 5709 1st Ave N. Call President Brenda Pettaway at 593-4487 for more information. April 11: Highland Park Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. Upstairs meeting room of the Highland Park Golf Course clubhouse. Meeting notices are sent out to recipients of the Highland Park email list. If you wish to be included on this list, email President Alison Glascock at alisonglascock@gmail.com. April 13: Roebuck Springs Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. South Roebuck Baptist/Community Church. Call President Frank

Hamby at 222-2319 for more information. April 18: Central City Neighborhood Association meeting: 6-7 p.m. Linn-Henley Library, Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium. Neighborhood social to follow at Tavern on 1st, 2320 1st Ave. N. April 24: Crestwood South Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. 1220 50th St. S. April 24: Crestwood North Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. Girls Inc. of Alabama. April 24: Huffman Neighborhood Association meeting. 7 p.m. Cornerstone School, 959 Huffman Road. April 24: Five Points South Neighborhood Association meeting. 6-7:15 p.m. Southside Library, 1814 11th Ave. S. Visit fivepointsbham. com for more information. April 25: Bush Hills Neighborhood Association meeting. 6:30 p.m. Bush Hills Academy School, 901 16th St. S.W. Call President Walladean Streeter at 602-4237 for more information.

Did we miss something? If you would like to have your neighborhood association meeting mentioned in next month’s calendar, email the meeting info to kwilliams@starnespublishing.com.

COMMUNITY April 1: Woodlawn Street Market. 55th Place S. An urban street market featuring produce, prepared food and home-grown retailers offering arts, crafts and other items. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. Call 595-0562 or visit woodlawnbhm. com/street-market. April 3: BAO Bingo. Birmingham AIDS Outreach, 205 32nd Street South. 7-9 p.m. This popular monthly BAO event features bingo with cash and door prizes. $15 for 5 games; $1 for final bonus game. Call 322-4197 ext. 107 or visit birminghamaidsoutreach.org. April 8: Walk MS: Birmingham. Regions Field, 1401 First Ave. S. The National

Multiple Sclerosis Society presents this walk to raise money to fight the disease. Registration at 8 a.m.; walk at 9 a.m. Admission free. 855-372-1331. main. nationalmssociety.org April 8: Cajun Cook-off. Railroad Park, 1600 First Ave. S. A cooking competition and zydeco music are featured at this benefit for Girls Inc. of Central Alabama. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Adults $25; children 12 and younger free. Call 5995683 or visit bhamcajuncookoff.swellgives. com. April 15: Funky Fish Fry. Avondale Brewing Co., 201 41st St. S. Enjoy beer, fried catfish and live music at this fundraiser for the Autism Society of Alabama and Mitchell’s Place. Kids’ activities include moonwalks and face painting. Noon to 8 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit funkyfishfry.com.

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MUST SEE

April 22: Gumbo Gala. Sloss Furnaces, 20 32nd St. N. Professional and backyard gumbo chefs compete in this 12th annual event, which also features music and a kids’


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zone and raises money for the Episcopal Place senior living facility. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission charged. Call 939-0085 or visit gumbogala. swellgives.com. April 25: Ignite Awards Ceremony. The Club of Birmingham, 1 Robert S. Smith Drive. Hands On Birmingham introduces an innovative awards ceremony to recognize outstanding volunteers and service leaders in Birmingham and surrounding communities. 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 201-785-7593 or visit uwca.org/ignite/! April 29: Chucks & Tux. Old Car Heaven, 3501 First Ave. S. An annual benefit for Growing Kings, a nonprofit that provides mentoring and enrichment services to male students in the Birmingham City Schools. Custom Chuck Taylor Converses designed by high school students will be available for purchase at a silent auction. For information, call 417-2478 or go to growingkings.org.

MUSIC April 1: Alabama Symphony Orchestra EBSCO Masterworks Series. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Carlos Izcaray leads the ASO and ASO Chorus, along with guest choirs, in a performance of Verdi’s monumental and dramatic Requiem Mass. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$74. Call 975-2787 or visit alabamasymphony.org. April 2: UAB Music Faculty recital. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Bassist Won Cho and pianist Chris Steele will perform. 4-5 p.m. Admission free. Call 934-7376 or visit uab. edu/cas/music. April 3: UAB Music Jazz Ensemble. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. 7 p.m. Admission free. Call 934-7376 or visit uab.edu/cas/music.

HAPPENINGS

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April 9: Anoushka Shankar. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is an important figure in Indian classical and progressive world music. 7 p.m. Admission $38 and $62. Call 9752787 or visit alysstephens.org.

April 13: Lalah Hathaway. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. This Grammy Award winner has made six albums that chronicle her journey through R&B, jazz and soul. 7 p.m. $39 and $59. Call 975-2787 or visit alysstephens.org. April 17: Concert Band Invitational Festival. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Concerts throughout the day, with a finale performance by the UAB Wind Symphony. Noon. Call 934-7376 or visit alysstephens.org. April 20: Niyaz featuring Azam Ali. Alys Stephens MUST Center, 1200 10th Ave. SEE S. Niyaz has become an evolutionary force in contemporary Middle Eastern music by blending medieval Sufi poetry and folk songs from Iran and other Persian Gulf countries with acoustic instrumentation and modern electronics. 7 p.m. $42.50. Call 9752787 or visit alysstephens.org.

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April 6: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Lyric Theatre,1800 Third Ave. N. This Americana band from Tennessee draws inspiration from Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. 8 p.m. $20 and $39.50 plus fees. Visit lyricbham.com/events.

April 21: The Story Tour: An Acoustic Evening with Brandi Carlile. Lyric Theatre, 1800 Third Ave. N. In honor of the 10th anniversary of “The Story,” Carlile will play the entire record, as well a second set of her popular tunes. 8 p.m. Tickets $39.50, $49.50 and $59.50 plus fees. Visit lyricbham.com.

April 7: UAB Computer Music Ensemble. Hulsey Recital Hall, 950 13th St. S. The concert features new works of electro-acoustic music and multimedia by student composers. 7:30 p.m. Admission free. Call 934-7376 or visit uab.edu/ cas/music.

April 23: The Sewanee University Choir. Cathedral Church of the Advent, 2017 Sixth Ave. N. The group is considered to be one of the best collegiate choirs in the Southeast. 6-7:30 p.m. Admission free. Call 226-3505 or visit adventbirmingham.org.

April 8: Kari Jobe. BJCC Legacy Arena. Jobe makes another stop on her Garden Tour with opening act Jonathan David and Melissa Helser from Bethel Music. 7 p.m. $27.50, $42.50 and $77.50. Call 800-745-3000 or visit bjcc.org.

April 23: Jeremy Denk. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. One of America’s foremost pianists, Denk was the winner of a 2013 MacArthur Genius Fellowship. 7 p.m. $42-$78. Call 975-2787 or visit alysstephens.org.

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ARTS April 5-9: A Little Night Music. Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. Theatre UAB presents this Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. WednesdaySaturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $20; $10 for UAB employees and seniors; $6 for students. Call 975-2787 or visit alysstephens.org. April 6: Birmingham Art Crawl. Various locations, downtown Birmingham. Every first Thursday, the Art Crawl turns downtown into a walking art gallery with artists, performers and food. 5-9 p.m., rain or shine. Admission free. For information, call 530-5483 or go to birminghamartcrawl.com. April 6-9: Ovation. Dorothy Jemison Day Theater, Alabama School of Fine Arts, 1800 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. Alabama Ballet will present a mixed repertory performance of contemporary ballet. Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20-$50. Call 322-4300 or visit alabamaballet.org April 7-29: James and the Giant Peach. BJCC Theatre. The Birmingham Children’s Theatre presents Roald Dahl’s magical adventure story. For tickets and show times, including showings for school groups, call 800-745-3000 or visit bjcc.org. April 21-30: School of Rock. RMTC Cabaret Theatre, 301 19th St. N. Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school and creates his own curriculum. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.; Thursday, April 27, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $19. For more information, call 324-2424 or visit redmountaintheatre.org. April 25: Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science. BJCC Concert Hall. Brown mixes science, music, comedy and food into two hours of entertainment. 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $27-$102. Call 800-745-3000 or visit bjcc.org. April 27-May 14: Nana’s Naughty Knickers. Theatre Downtown, 2410 Fifth Ave. S. A farce by Katherine Disavino in which a young woman stays with her grandmother and is surprised to find the old girl has a business on the side. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 14, 2 p.m. Adults $18, students $12. Call 565-8838 or visit theatredowntown.org.

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MUST SEE

April 28-30: Magic City Art Connection. Linn Park, 710

20th St. N. This 34th annual show spotlights 200 local and national artists, along with music, dance, food, sculpture installations and art experiences for kids. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission at the gate: Adults $5, children 12 and younger free. Call 595-6306 or visit magiccityart.com.

SPORTS Through April: UAB baseball. Young Memorial Field, Eighth Ave. S. at 11th Street. The Blazers take on Jacksonville State, April 5, 6:30 p.m.; Marshall, April 7, 6:30 p.m., April 8, 2 p.m. and April 9, 12:30 p.m.; Charlotte, April 28, 6:30 p.m., April 29, 2 p.m. and April 30, 1 p.m. Adults $5, kids $3. Call 975-8221 or visit uabsports.com.

April 1: Professional Bull Riders. BJCC Legacy Arena. 7 p.m. Tickets range from $17-$162. Call 800-745-3000 or visit pbr.com or bjcc.org. April 28: Powershares Series Tennis. BJCC Legacy Arena. Tennis greats John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and Mardy Fish compete in two one-set semifinals with the winners meeting in the championship match. (Players subject to change.) 7 p.m. Tickets from $34.25$199.25. Call 800-745-3000 or visit bjcc.org.

BIRMINGHAM BARONS (HOME GAMES AT REGIONS FIELD) April 12: Montgomery Biscuits, 7:05 p.m. April 13: Montgomery Biscuits, 7:05 p.m. April 14: Montgomery Biscuits, 7:05 p.m. April 15: Montgomery Biscuits, 6:30 p.m. April 16: Montgomery Biscuits, 4 p.m. April 22: Jacksonville Suns, 6:30 p.m. April 23: Jacksonville Suns, 3 p.m. April 24: Jacksonville Suns, 11:30 a.m. April 25: Jacksonville Suns, 7:05 p.m. April 26: Jacksonville Suns, 11 a.m.


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Iron City Ink April 2017  
Iron City Ink April 2017