Linn Park Revival
Charles Linn Park was established to be a grand, central park. Purchased in 1883 for $10, the park is one of three original city parks the Elyton Land Company planned for the city of Birmingham. With its central location and elevated perch, the park became the perfect central square for development on every side. Today, the park serves as anchor for the Museum of Art and Boutwell Auditorium to the North, City Hall to the West, Park Place office tower to the South, and the courthouse and library to the East. Over the last 136 years, Linn Park has held major events in our city’s history and the lives of our citizens. In addition to hosting many dedications and memorials, the park held speeches by both President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 and President Warren G Harding in 1921. It renewed the country’s greatest football rivalry in 1948 when a hatchet was buried in the park to reconcile 40 years of differences between Auburn and Alabama supporters. The park has also played host to countless art shows, marathons, picnics and strolls in addition to City Stages, one of the top music festivals in the South from 1989 to 2009.
Unfortunately, today Linn Park is in dire shape. I have not seen water run through the fountains and waterfalls in years, and I rarely hear of any major events going on at the park. Its general state is stale and forgotten. Why is that?
For starters, the last renovation to the park was completed in 1988 for $2.5 million. At the time there is no question it was probably one of the nicest parks in the country, but that is far from the case today. Bottom line is that some money needs to be spent to bring the park up to speed.
Another major problem the park faces is competition. Why fund or visit a rundown park when you can go to Railroad Park, Crestwood Park, and Avondale Park? On the flip side look at what can happen after a city park has been renovated or built in a first-class manner. Railroad Park was completed in 2009 and has literally created a new district, The Parkside District. Parkside now connects UAB to downtown. Long gone are dilapidated and vacant warehouses. Now we have Regions Field, apartment complexes, office buildings, breweries and coffeehouses in this district. Crestwood Park completed its renovation in 2012. The Crestwood neighborhood has likely seen the highest % increase in price per sf for their homes than any neighborhood in the city. The Crestwood housing market is crazy good! Avondale Park redid the villa in 2006 and the rest of the park in 2011. The business district and housing market in Avondale has absolutely taken off since that time. Lastly, Avondale could now be described as the food court of our city with all the various restaurants and bars now in operation. Avondale also has one of the hottest apartment markets in our city.
It is time for Birmingham’s “Central Park” to come back to life. There is no good reason that Linn Park is in the condition that it is currently in. So what can you do? Write the mayor and city council and tell them what you see. Contact Rev Birmingham and the Birmingham Business Alliance and tell them you believe that once renovated this park will spur economic growth. Share the sad state of affairs with wealthy and philanthropic friends and family.
In my job, I often get to give out of town developers and clients tours of our great city. Currently, I steer clear of the Linn Park area due to the condition of the park. Please join me in recognizing that we can improve our city by improving this once thriving park. We don’t have to look far for proof that our time, effort, and treasure will be well spent on this objective.