Group wants to give Morris Avenue a makeover

By Arielle Clay

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The group that oversees downtown Birmingham's development wants to see a new look for the historic loft district on Morris Avenue.
Businesses in the area are just as hopeful.

After searching out several locations for her optometry business Donna Matthews settled on Morris Avenue in 1994.

"I looked at lots of places and I was not at all attracted to a strip mall or a shopping center," she said.

Over the years Morris has seen many changes.  Last August, one of the street's businesses, Club Zen, found itself in the news for a stabbing that left a man dead and led to the clubs temporary closing.

"I think it's been a bad rap for the area. You have problems on the Southside everywhere that you have clubs and young people," Sam McCord said.

Like many business owners on Morris, McCord does not believe that bad rap will hold the street back from future development. They would like to see more variety in the businesses that are located on Morris.  There are currently several law offices there.

"I love it because the number of lawyers down here," McCord said.

McCord is himself a lawyer and thinks more restaurants and even more clubs are essential for growth.  The president of Operation New Birmingham agrees as long as they are the right fit for the area.

"We're always happy to see more entertainment businesses if it's done in a way consistent to people living nearby people having professional businesses nearby.  It just needs to be a compatible mix," Michael Calvert said.

Operation Birmingham hopes a tax credit will spur development.  The federal government offers a 20% tax credit on historic renovations.

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