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Dreaming great dreams for Birmingham

May 11, 2009

It's time to imagine Birmingham's future... I’ve been wearing a reminder on my left wrist about today’s 50th anniversary celebration for more than a year. It’s a dark green band in the tradition of “Live Strong” or “ONE” with the words “Imagine 50” pressed into it.

This simple piece of plastic has served as a conversation starter as I was sitting on a trolley in San Francisco, working on in a community in Colorado during the fall or getting a chance to decompress during a stressful December in New York City in a crowded museum on a Friday evening. It’s a conversation that I enjoy getting into…

When someone would ask what it represented, I’d tell them about the directive issued by UAB’s founding president, Dr. Joseph Volker, that “we would do Birmingham a great disservice if we dream too little dreams.” This is of course after I explain just how I ended up in The Magic City by way of The Bronx and Savannah, GA, which always seems to surprise them, but I digress…

I’d tell them that Birmingham and the region are the best kept secret in the Southeast, and then I’d ask them what it would take to get them to join in on the fun of dreaming new dreams for us.

When we imagine the best for Birmingham, we are asking ourselves to reach deep into ourselves and dream as big as we can for our future. Dreams allow us to reach for the stars, even through difficulty, and lift our vision for the region high for all to see.

A strong city center in Birmingham is extremely important to our future, but when I think about what I’d like to see in 2059 and beyond, my thoughts shift to what brought me here to Birmingham in the first place, the soul of our community – our neighborhoods. I’m one of those folks who likes to go exploring all of the hidden corners of a city, and my journeys through the region only want me to make sure that others know of all that Birmingham has to offer, now and always.

I imagine large crowds walking the streets in downtown Ensley, getting a chance to look out on a reenergized Western area from the top of a restored Ramsay McCormack building. They’ll enjoy that coffee and scone that Wade wrote about over there, just down the block from Cotton’s – and all of the boutique stores that are out there. I’ll have taken the bike there along the Village Creek Greenway – I do plan on still riding at age 84 – and hopped on over to downtown Fairfield for a minute.

I imagine taking the trolley from Norwood through downtown to West End to catch a baseball game at a restored Rickwood Field with a chance to walk over to Tuscaloosa Avenue after the game for a sit down meal while admiring the beautiful homes that grace the neighborhood.

Another day might allow me to ride my bike to East Lake and the Tree Top Visitors Center at Ruffner Mountain, though it would now have a much larger sister facility on the other side of the mountain. I could keep riding up to downtown Trussville, enjoying yet another renaissance resulting from the influence of Trussville Springs.

I imagine a community that lives the words of The Birmingham Pledge every day, with more people taking an active role in the education and well-being of our children and our neighborhoods. Residents in the region will have a “Why not?” attitude. Birmingham will be proud to be Birmingham, a leader in the Southeast and nationally in technology, thought leaders, music and food.

I can only imagine what ideas will come from those that will grace our city in 2059 if they only continue to dream the big dreams for the region that we must act on now.

Dreaming can wake the nation to the future of Birmingham and bring them along for the ride.

Let’s begin, shall we? What do you imagine for Birmingham?

André Natta

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2009 6:58 pm

    I’m afraid everyone knows my dream by heart as I feel I’ve been shouting it for 18 months: a music education program for the community’s youth similar to Venezuela’s El Sistema. Starting to materialize, too, thanks to a lot of hard work from some very dedicated people: Craig Hultgren, Dwight Houston, Jimmy Hrom…

  2. May 12, 2009 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the mention, and for a great vision of Birmingham. Let’s make it happen!

  3. Eniart permalink
    May 14, 2009 6:39 pm

    I dream of closing off the Five Points South intersection, 20th Street at 11th Ave South, to vehicular traffic and making the area a destination for locals and visitors to walk safely as they partake of the live music, outdoor vendors, shops and restaurants.

  4. May 18, 2009 2:53 pm

    I dream of a network of community farms connecting urban farmers with usable land, were crops can be shared between the owner and the farmer. I dream of community compost piles in every neighborhood were people bring grass, leaves, and food waste to be recycled in to rich earth. I dream dense tree plantings on every empty lot in birmingham.

  5. April 1, 2014 6:13 pm

    Howdy! Quick question that’s totally off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website
    looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might
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