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  #1  
Old Posted Aug 28, 2009, 4:47 PM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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Detroit's Suburban Centers: Birmingham

In case you've missed the other suburban centers I've photographed, here are the links:

1. Plymouth
2. Northville
3. Rochester


Birmingham, MI is a small city of about 20,000 people located about 15 miles from Downtown on the edge of the denser inner-ring suburbs. The area was first settled in the early 1820's with the village officially incorporating in 1864. The area grew to become a relatively major stop for travelers between Detroit and Pontiac. By the late 19th century the village had grown to over 1,000 people. Beginning in the early 20th century as Detroit's industrial influence began spreading into the surrounding area, Birmingham saw significant growth. Between 1910 and 1930 Birmingham's population grew from just over 1,600 to nearly 10,000. In 1933 the village reincorporated into a city. By the 50's and 60's suburbanization had fully set in and the city grew in size to a 1970 peak of over 26,000.

Historically Birmingham was a traditional middle-class city, but beginning in the 1980's the area began to see gentrification. Metro Detroit's wealthiest citizens live in the more "rural" areas to the north and west and over the past 15 years or so, Birmingham's city center has become the center for the wealthy elite. The downtown district is full of expensive bourtiques and restaurants, and in more recent years the downtown area has become home to dozens of million dollar homes and residential projects.

While Royal Oak is more famous for being the traditional "hipster" center of Metro Detroit, Birmingham is probably the nicest and most over-all put-together urban district in suburban Detroit.

Enjoy:

We'll start in the residential neighborhood immediately south of the downtown district:


During the height of the real estate boom, many homes in the area were selling for well over $1 million:


You won't find any of those famous $1 homes anywhere near here:








Some "historic" infill:




Many of Birmingham's municipal buildings use the style seen in this public library:


Getting closer to the downtown area:




Birmingham has some of the nicest urban infill I've ever seen in a suburban center:








The old Birmingham Theatre is one of the nicer historic suburban movie houses:


In the heart of downtown Birmingham:


This is one of my favorite infill projects:


The Uptown Palladium cineplex in the background:


A closer look:


The corner of Maple and Old Woodward is the historic center of the city:






A newer construction near the north end of the downtown area:


Google World Headquarters!!! j/k


A construction crane working on a new project in the distance:




An historic remnant of Birmingham's past:


Some really nice infill housing near the northern end of downtown:


A developing corner of downtown: (see the crane peeking in on the right.)


Birmingham only has a couple of "highrises", as NIMBYism is strong in the area:


Both highrises are relegated to the south end of downtown near Woodward Ave:


A skyline shot from a parking garage:


I barely scraped the surface, and didn't even get into the more historic neighborhoods in the surrounding areas. I'll need to go back later and get more.

Hope you enjoyed.
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2009, 4:52 PM
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Very interesting tour. Detroit has some quality suburbs.
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  #3  
Old Posted Aug 28, 2009, 10:17 PM
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Agreed!! I like this. I hope Detroit has more of these treasures!! Thanks!!
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2009, 10:52 PM
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Finally! I was wondering when this thread would come. I love Birmingham. Great vibrant downtown, excellent infill, great selection of stores and restaurants, and of course some beautiful houses.

Well covered and great photos.

Ah, I'll admit I'm already a little homesick for Michigan.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 2:30 AM
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This looks like a nice area.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 2:30 AM
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Good job.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 4:00 AM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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I had only been to Birmingham once before this and it was a few years ago in late winter/early spring, so it was a bit of a surprise. With all the talk about Royal Oak being *the* suburban neighborhood, I think Birmingham bests it in nearly every aspect. The only downside to Birmingham is that it isn't affordable for most people.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 6:34 AM
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I'm looking forward to the Highland Park photo thread.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 6:46 AM
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Well, if you're looking for it as part of the "Suburban Centers" series, you'll be waiting, forever. lol Highland Park isn't suburban Detroit.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 7:03 AM
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Well, if you're looking for it as part of the "Suburban Centers" series, you'll be waiting, forever. lol Highland Park isn't suburban Detroit.
Oh well. I guess I'll have to settle for all the Youtube blight videos.
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 1:21 PM
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Reminds me of Chicago's North Shore suburbs!
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 4:18 PM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raining Inside View Post
Oh well. I guess I'll have to settle for all the Youtube blight videos.
Really? I'll give you Hamtramck. But if you want a bit from Highland Park, here's what I've got:










Is it ghetto enough for you?
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Old Posted Aug 29, 2009, 10:28 PM
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The Good:
Highland Park as a whole is more intact than people think. It's spotty with abandonment and vacancies in some areas but not as empty as parts of the East side of Detroit that people tend to picture in their mind. The photos above are pretty typical HP

The Bad:
Hamilton Ave corridor through Highland Park though....well that area is totally abysmal, that's a fact. This is the part people picture of burned out hulks, vacant land, collapsing apartment buildings. If you are into photographing post-apocalyptic urbanity , that's where people go.
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 12:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hudkina View Post
With all the talk about Royal Oak being *the* suburban neighborhood, I think Birmingham bests it in nearly every aspect. The only downside to Birmingham is that it isn't affordable for most people.
I lived in Birmingham while I was in high school, and you're 100% correct.

Birmingham is, by far, the best suburban downtown in metro Detroit. I think some people rip on it because it's rich, snooty and non-diverse (all legitimate criticisms).

Also, downtown Birmingham is big, and quite urban. It's probably twice the size of downtown Royal Oak, even though the city of Birmingham is one-third the size of Royal Oak.

Outsiders usually don't understand that Birmingham serves as the downtown for the entire Birmingham-Bloomfield area, which (even if only one includes Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, and Birmingham) means about 70,000 people. Add in West Bloomfield, Beverly Hills, and Franklin, and we are talking almost 150,000 people.

Hudkina, really great pics and commentary! One small thing; Birmingham was never really a middle-class community. It has always had considerable money. Check out the Quarton Lake area just to the west of downtown. Huge, older homes, some from the 1920's.

The difference is that Birmingham really upscaled quickly during the 1980's and 1990's as Oakland County boomed, and much of the traditional metro area wealth shifted and consolidated in the Bloomfield-Birmingham area. The city is basically half teardowns, as all the more modest neighborhods were rebuilt.

Oh, and Birmingham is pretty pro-development, and not NIMBY (as the pics attest). They have been pro growth for years now, and have added lots of condos, retail, offices and even a luxury hotel (the best in metro Detroit).
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 3:00 AM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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Birmingham has always been a middle-class area, but it was never the epitome of wealth like the Grosse Pointes. Like you said, many of the older, more middle-class homes have been torn down to be replaced by $1 million+ mansions, but back in the 50's-70's, there wasn't nearly as much money in Birmingham.

And while Birmingham is a fairly progressive city, I'm sure we won't be seeing any major highrises in the city anytime soon, even under a better economy. It would be nice to see a few modern residential highrises like Royal Oak, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 3:01 AM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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BTW, as far as Highland Park is concerned, Hamilton Ave is a wreck. It's strange driving through the Palmer Park area and then crossing over into Highland Park and seeing that corridor.

If people think the Woodward corridor looks bad, they should check out the Hamilton Ave corridor.
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 3:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hudkina View Post
I had only been to Birmingham once before this and it was a few years ago in late winter/early spring, so it was a bit of a surprise. With all the talk about Royal Oak being *the* suburban neighborhood, I think Birmingham bests it in nearly every aspect. The only downside to Birmingham is that it isn't affordable for most people.
Nice pics.
Birmingham has been in pretty nice shape for the last 30 years of my personal contact with the place and it looks even better now. I remember going to the Jacobson's there.
I think Royal Oak is overrated. I mean it's okay, but it and Ferndale could be dropped right into the north side of Chicago and be just another neighborhood.
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 3:58 AM
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Jacobsons was such a great tenant of many Michigan downtowns. I wish they never went out of business. It's always easy to identify their buildings despite that just about all of them house different stores.
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 5:01 AM
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Nice pics. If only Birmingham, AL could look as nice!
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Old Posted Aug 30, 2009, 8:03 PM
hudkina hudkina is offline
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Yeah, it's kind of funny. In Michigan when you hear "Birmingham", you instantly think of wealth. Not so much in Suburban Alabama.
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