January 19, 2024 11:00am

Downtown Birmingham's Future

Here's how influential Birmingham leaders feel about the city center's outlook

Photo of Ty West
Birmingham, AL Correspondent

The return to office ramped up in Birmingham in 2023, but influential Magic City leaders say the hybrid world still represents a threat to downtown's future.

That’s one takeaway from the latest Birmingham Power Poll, a monthly poll of local leaders.

About 45% of respondents said most employees in their organization are now in the office five days per week, while another 39% said they are in the office at least three days per week.

But despite more companies getting back to the office and more than half of respondents (54%) saying they are spending the same amount of time downtown that they were before 2020, Power Poll respondents still identified hybrid work as the biggest challenge facing the city center (24%).

That's perhaps because only 7% of respondents said they are spending more time downtown than they were before the pandemic compared to 40% who said they are spending less.

In Birmingham and beyond, that dynamic has posed a host of challenges for city centers, landlords and businesses that are coping with reduced foot traffic and weekday visits.

Aside from hybrid work, public safety (23%) and office space vacancies (20%) were also cited as significant challenges for downtown.

As for the biggest assets, restaurants (46%) were the runaway favorite for Power Poll respondents. Greenspaces like Railroad Park and Rotary Trail (18%) were the only other asset getting at least 15% of the vote.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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