A Birmingham restaurant will receive $1.3 million in city incentives to renovate part of a downtown parking deck into a 5,760-square-foot eatery.
Yo’ Mama’s, a counter-serve restaurant that has operated on Second Avenue South since 2014, will take over the ground floor of the city-owned Birmingham Parking Authority Deck 3, at 2098 Fourth Avenue North. The deck was initially constructed in 1976 and expanded in 2009, but that expansion left an incomplete, street-level retail space that the Birmingham Parking Authority unsuccessfully attempted to lease out over the subsequent 14 years.
The new redevelopment agreement, approved unanimously Tuesday by the City Council, will require Yo’ Mama’s, co-owned by mother-daughter duo Denise and Crystal Peterson, to contribute $1.7 million of their own funds in addition to Birmingham’s $1.3 million in incentives, which will come from Birmingham Parking Authority coffers.
Amendment 772 of the Alabama Constitution permits municipalities to give money “to any individual, firm, corporation of other business entity, public or private, for the purpose of promoting the economic and industrial development of the county or municipality.”
Mayor Randall Woodfin has been a frequent advocate for Yo’ Mama’s. In 2019, his then-public information officer Chanda Temple wrote an op-ed celebrating the restaurant’s fifth anniversary, which was posted on the city’s website and published in the Birmingham Times. In 2016, when Woodfin was serving as state director of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the candidate visited Yo’ Mama’s as part of a brief stop in the city. And in 2020, Woodfin taped his keynote address segment to the Democratic National Convention at the restaurant.
Yo’ Mama’s also has been featured on the Netflix series “Fresh, Fried & Crispy” and the Cooking Channel’s “Cheap Eats.” The restaurant was also the only one in the state to receive a James Beard Foundation grant in 2021, intended to help majority Black- or Indigenous-owned restaurants weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Deck 3 space will greatly increase Yo’ Mama’s seating capacity from 34 to between 80 and 100.
But Cornell Wesley, the city’s director of innovation and economic opportunity, stressed to councilors on Tuesday that the redevelopment of Parking Deck 3 wasn’t really about Yo’ Mama’s.
“What’s before you is an incentive agreement with Yo’ Mama’s, but I really don’t want to overstate it, because it’s really about an investment in ourselves,” Wesley said. “Even if it were not Yo’ Mama’s, it would be someone else who would stand to benefit from our investment in the completion of this retail floor… It puts that particular (city) asset back working. It has never been working for us, so we’re excited about this asset in our downtown community.”