The Living City
by Cathy Sloss Jones
I was born in Birmingham and consider myself a daughter of Birmingham. Throughout my career, I’ve worked hard, along with many others, to help make it a more beautiful, walkable, livable city. We have a well organized street grid, lush parks and trees, ample sidewalks and streetscapes, all essential building blocks for creating a great city. My urban planner friends are quick to say that we have “an embarrassment of riches.”
When we acquired the first buildings at Pepper Place in the late ‘80s, the neighborhood was abandoned and neglected. I could see its potential and believed it could be revitalized if we respected the architectural integrity of the structures and the history of the place. With help from the design community, we worked to build the neighborhood organically. It took a while for new businesses to get established and for people to feel more comfortable coming there to shop. Slowly, the transformation happened, and the district began to thrive. When we opened the Market at Pepper Place in 2000, it drew more visitors to the area. Over the years, people realized what an appealing place it had become, and appreciated the positive feelings they experienced with their families at the market, meeting a friend for coffee, or sharing a wonderful meal prepared by a local Birmingham chef.
Now, many years later, Pepper Place is sparkling and incredibly alive. Its offices, shops, and restaurants are busy day and night, filled with creative people and businesses. Nearby, new apartments are popping up simply because people want to live next to Pepper Place. The newly extended Jones Valley Trail attracts walkers, runners and cyclists who stop for a drink, or a bite to eat. The farmers market is bustling every Saturday morning, and we host all sorts of other events year round, from wedding receptions to Eat in the Streets, from Dia de los Muertos to Break’n Bread. The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) chose Pepper Place and Sloss Furnaces to host their annual conference in October and the World Games will be here next summer.
I’ve never been so optimistic about our city and its future. We have outstanding leadership in place and are all in agreement that we want Birmingham to be a great city that’s open and welcoming to ALL people. Working together, it’s possible! I’m proud to be part of its future.
by Leigh Sloss-Corra
Born and raised in Birmingham, I moved up north after college, eager to experience and discover the cultural variety and richness I felt did not exist here at the time. When I finally moved back to Birmingham in 2007, I was blown away by how the city had changed. It was clean, stylish and beautiful, with cool shops, amazing places to eat and drink, and a vibrant music and art scene, all of which were incredibly accessible and affordable. People were SO NICE! The food was SO GOOD! There were so many outstanding events and fun things to do, especially at The Market at Pepper Place which seemed to bring the best of everything together in one spot every Saturday. I quickly became a regular, and the Market provided my re-education, introducing me to the most creative chefs, food specialties, artists, local bands and people who were making the city and state a welcoming 21st century place to live. Birmingham had changed for the better, and the proof was at Pepper Place every Saturday morning.
The Market at Pepper Place has served as a catalyst for Birmingham’s revitalization, bringing people back downtown every Saturday morning for the past 21 years. During that time, the city has continued to grow and progress in the best of ways, and I believe the Market is one of the reasons. People travel from all over the state to learn new things, connect with others who work the land or cultivate rare flowers or shape clay pots, and to meet up with friends. There is an alchemy that happens at the Market, where creativity, commerce, hustle-bustle and positivity turn into joy, and that remains long after the morning is over. The Market thrives because of the city’s growth, and I believe the city will continue to flourish as long as the Market keeps working its magic and bringing people together.