Once dying, Birmingham is suddenly hot

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USA Today tapped Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival as one of the nation’s top movie events, and the cultural website Flavorwire listed the majestic Alabama Theatre, built in 1927, as one of the 10 most beautiful theaters in America.

Much of the recent attention was linked to commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the ’63 civil rights demonstrations, but other things are happening to create buzz. People like Ron Lee have come to town and enjoyed what they found, including the revamped Vulcan Park that overlooks downtown from atop Red Mountain.

Even the city’s minor-league baseball team — which dates back to 1885 — has returned to town after making nothing more than occasional visits since the late 1980s.

After 25 years in a concrete-and-steel park in the city’s southern suburbs, the Birmingham Barons this spring moved back downtown into a new, $65 million stadium that offers views of the city’s financial and medical centers. Critics said people wouldn’t visit an urban park for fear of crime and blight, but they were wrong.

The Barons already have had three sellouts at the 8,500-seat Regions Field — the most since NBA star Michael Jordan played with the Barons in suburban Hoover in 1994 — and the average attendance so far is 5,528 fans a game compared to 3,004 all last year.

New housing developments are planned near the stadium, plus shopping. Team spokesman Nick Dobreff said the club is happy to be part of the new Birmingham.

“Things are moving in the right direction, and we hope to be a catalyst for more growth,” he said.

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