Revitalization effort looks to improve business in Ensley

Birmingham Heritage Band at a REB Birmingham event in Ensley, Tuesday, October 15, 2013. (

They're communities often marked by their tragedies. Neighborhoods surrounding downtown Birmingham frequently make headlines after shootings and violence. But an organization -hoping to change that bad reputation- is working one street at a time. Tuesday night, it's putting Ensley in the spotlight.

Food trucks and various activities filled 19th Street as the Birmingham Heritage Band set the mood with its signature jazz music! But REV Birmingham says this is more than just a street fair, and its CEO, David Fleming, hopes it will help people look at Ensley a little differently.

"Sometimes people just need to believe in what is possible," Fleming said.

It was enough to convince William Robertson.

"Actually took a chance and not only relocated our business there, but we live upstairs in a loft downtown here in Ensley," Robertson said.

He started the Monumental Contracting Service company in Ensley. A move he says was the right one.{}

"The city offered the building to us as an incentive to move into an area they consider to be blight," Robertson said. "As a result, we've had zero problems. There's a stigma that comes with Ensley, heavy crime, things of that nature, but we have not experienced anything such as that."

REV Birmingham will spend the rest of October hosting similar events in Woodlawn, Five Points South and East Lake with the goal to change the negative perceptions of each town while promoting new business development.{}

"We want people to see this is a viable business district in a viable community," Fleming said. "Places that people could open businesses very cheaply and affordably."

"Some people look at see the vacancy, we see possibility," Auburn University School of Architecture representative Cheryl Morgan said.

The highly-regarded architecture program on the Plains is lending its hand in drawing out the plans.

"We do a lot of drawings, a lot of diagramming that aren't going to be what anyone does, but helps stimulates the imagination about what could be," Morgan said.

"This is just the beginning and I'm so happy to see all of you out here tonight because we've got some great plans for this area," Mayor William Bell said to the crowd.

"A continuation of this type of activity will boost Ensley back again and revive it," Robertson said.

For more information on REV Birmingham's Street Life Project, visit