5 years later: Regions Field developer discusses project’s success, Birmingham's future
“We’ve seen a lot of growth,” Robert Simon said of the area surrounding Regions Field. “This was a catalytic development. It was intentional. We thought this would happen and it did happen."
This month marks the five-year anniversary for the Birmingham Barons to play in their new stadium downtown.
Simon, the developer behind Regions Field, says the growth that’s happened around the stadium is no accident.
“We call it the pebble in the pond,” said Simon. “Wherever the drop point is- you see the ripple effect.”
If Regions Field is the pebble, that ripple effect is clear. From apartments to restaurants, Simon says it was all part of the plan.
“Think about it,” said Simon. “Between this ballpark and that park, you have hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to this area where they didn’t come before. That’s a big deal.”
Simon first pitched the Barons the idea of a downtown stadium around the same time Railroad Park was coming to life.
After studying the impact of stadiums in other cities, he saw a minor league baseball stadium the catalyst downtown Birmingham needed.
“This was very intentional,” he explained. “When we looked at this area we thought from I 65 to Highway 31 from 4th Avenue North to 4th Avenue South would be the directly impacted area. When you look at what we were able to accomplish as a community, it’s been significant.”
“I think it offers us more to do,” said Robert Holloway, who works downtown, not far from Region Field.
Holloway is one of many who have noticed the impact.
“I’ve recognized the change,” said Holloway. “I think one of the things we’re seeing a lot more restaurants opening up for me to go eat lunch and just to have a relaxing walk here in Railroad Park.”
Simon expects that growth to continue. He's part of the team planning to redevelop Southtown off University Blvd. The public housing site neighboring St. Vincent’s Hospital is expected to be torn down for a mixed use development.
He's also supporting the BJCC stadium project, which he sees as a catalyst for Northside Birmingham.
“It’s proven,” said Holloway. “This is not a guess. The goals of the football stadium are to re-energize, come up with something that’s new.”
“Anytime you see the type of impact that’s going to occur there… the BJCC project is a $300 plus million project,” said Simon. “Top Golf has gone in. You’re starting to see things in that area where you haven’t seen anything in a long time and I think that’s because again that catalytic movement that’s gone on when you prime the pump, I think good things happen.”
We asked where Simon sees Birmingham in ten years. He believes the momentum will continue.
“Successful,” he replied. “We’re in a competition and we’re going to succeed. Failure’s not an option right now so we have to succeed.”