Rooftops & retail in downtown

Birmingham now has approximately 10,000 people who live downtown.

Many of them are in lofts, apartments, or condominiums that are "above the shops."

Trouble is, some of those retail spaces have yet to be filled in. The saying goes, that "rooftops bring retail."

"We can have a big building filled with people from floors two on up, but if the ground floor is vacant, people feel like the place is vacant," says David Fleming, executive director of REV BirminghamHe believes it takes the right combination to fill these vacant storefronts. "Sometimes it takes a building owner who understands how to make it work, and italso takes the right market, the numbers of people," says Fleming. "Retailers need some assurance in the market. But, they also need to know that what's going to be around them is going to complement them."

Across downtown Birmingham, you'll find new retail and rooftop style apartments and lofts. Many of them, have only one or two retail occupants. One of those, is the 29/7 building in the Lakeview community. Todd Becker works with Retail Specialists, the company that leases the available spaces on the ground level.

He says many of the "For Lease" signs won't be up much longer. "We actually have two concepts, both food and beverage that are going in on each end of the building' they both want to be open by spring or summer," says Becker. "Once those are in we will have 80% occupancy."For 23-year-old Jacob Mueller, who lives and works downtown, he would like to see more entertainment fill up the empty spaces. "I would like to see more things like Iron City, that opened up recently. I know that broughta lot of nightlife in the area, especially where I live."Fleming says a prime example of the growth that can take place with lofts and retailis 2nd Avenue north.This district has boomed with several businesses, restaurants and boutiques. Ultimately, it takes people, and time. "That was really ground zero for the residential growth downtown," says Fleming. "The historic loft district grew up around there and once that got to a point of stability, you saw 2nd avenue become the main street for the loft district."

Fleming says right now there are more than 1,500 apartment units that are in the works for the coming years, across downtown Birmingham.