Several major changes are headed to Birmingham in 2019, although some will be more apparent than others. They range from the bureaucratic – such as new members on the Birmingham City Council, ongoing personnel shake-ups at the Birmingham Public Library and calls for a comprehensive public safety plan – to the physical – including a major interstate closure and construction of a new open-air stadium at the BJCC.
Read about what the year ahead looks like for the Magic City.
More What to Watch in 2019
Economic development is likely to be a primary focus for Jefferson County and the County Commission during 2019. The county hit a mother lode, or at least the offshoot of one, during 2018 with Amazon and DC Blox announcing they are establishing operations in Bessemer and North Titusville, respectively. Look for Jefferson County to continue prospecting for more golden nuggets in 2019. Read more.
Environmental issues have made headlines throughout 2018, and 2019 promises to be no different.
Decisions will be made that affect the cleanliness of the state’s waters, air and land. Issues that will affect recycling, coal mining and solar, nuclear and hydropower generation also are looming on the horizon. Here are a few of the issues to watch in 2019.
A gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements is expected to be a major topic of the 2019 Alabama legislative session. Legislators also are expecting several hundred million more dollars to spend in the education budget and will be debating raises, a child literacy program and other education improvements. Other issues include funding improvements in prisons and a possible lottery proposal. Read more.
You’d have to excuse Valerie Abbot for feeling a sense of déjà vu when she attended the groundbreaking Thursday for the new BJCC stadium.
The president of the Birmingham City Council had been here twice before when ground was broken to build a stadium near the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
“I was present for both of them, back when Mayor (Larry) Langford was mayor of Birmingham,” Abbott said. “It was right over there in that other block. This is my third groundbreaking for this structure so I’m glad that it’s finally going to happen.”
Dozens of elected officials and citizens were near the corner of 11th Avenue North and 23rd Street for the latest edition of turning dirt. But this one is different.
This time, it seems that everyone is on board with making the stadium a reality. The difference, Abbott said, is cooperation. Read more.
March 27, 2018 — After more than four hours of debate, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve funding for expansions and renovations to the BJCC, including the construction of an open-air stadium.
Mayor Randall Woodfin pushed for the council to approve the project, which will require the city to contribute $3 million a year for 30 years. But the project received major pushback from critics — most vocally District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales — who questioned the city’s return on the investment as well as the necessity of a new stadium.
Other councilors said they had been given the detailed agreement just hours before the meeting and did not feel comfortable voting on it without more time to study it.
The council voted 6-3 to approve the project. Construction could start by the beginning of the year. Read more.
Feb. 6, 2018 — The Birmingham City Council voted today to support the construction of a new multi-purpose facility at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
The vote followed a lengthy back-and-forth among the council, Mayor Randall Woodfin and members of the public, with proponents arguing that the development will bring much-needed revenue into the city and opponents expressing skepticism about the necessity of the proposed 30-year, $90 million investment.
The BJCC expansion and renovation, which would include the construction of a new open-air stadium, would be funded by a mix of public and private sources. The city is slated to contribute $3 million a year for 30 years to the stadium; the BJCC Authority will pay $10.7 in annual debt service; UAB and private entities will contribute $4 million a year for 10 years; the Jefferson County government will pay $1 million a year for 30 years; and a proposed increase to the city’s rental car tax, still pending in the state Legislature, would account for $3.5 million in annual funding for 30 years.
Woodfin and Council President Valerie Abbott both emphasized that Tuesday’s vote was not for a specific contract or to allocate any funds, but rather a general statement of willingness to negotiate a specific plan. A Q-and-A between District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt and Woodfin, published online Monday, highlighted that many of the details have yet to be set in concrete.
Woodfin compared the resolution to a marriage proposal. “A person asking you to marry (them) is very different from the process of a prenuptial agreement,” he said. Read more.
Jan. 31, 2018 — Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced his support for an expansion and upgrade to the BJCC arena Wednesday, saying revenue generated by the renovated stadium would go toward his administration’s priority of neighborhood revitalization.
The upgrades would include renovations to the Legacy Arena and outside piazza, as well as the construction of a $174 million new open-air stadium, though design specifics remain undetermined. Read more.