Cathy Sloss Jones on Redevelopment and Transportation

02.21.14

By:  Cindy F. Crawford | Birmingham Business Journal


Cathy Sloss Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, is always on the go, traveling the world with her husband, D. Paul Jones, the former head of Compass Bank, or meeting with urban planners all over the country.

When she was in Birmingham recently, Jones took some time to meet with me in her office on Southside that has a stunning view of Vulcan on Red Mountain to Sloss Furnace on First Avenue North that her great-great grandfather founded more than a century ago.

The Sloss name carries on through her as she runs a real estate company that conducts mostly redevelopment of areas like Pepper Place, the Hope VI project Park Place downtown and Lakeview, where they own quite a bit of property.


But here are some additional questions and answers I got out of the high-energy visionary who is passionate about Birmingham’s success and what it takes to make it successful, from economic development to transportation.

On economic development:  
Birmingham is one of the truly beautiful cities, thanks to our natural and built environment. We have an incredible history, many of the finest arts and cultural institutions in the Southeast with creative and engaged leadership. Our restaurants and chefs are nationally recognized (with three James Beard nominees this week). TheLakeshore Foundation is known around the world for its work on behalf of people with disabilities in the field of athletics and recreation. And our Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is excellent. My urban planning friends who visit Birmingham say that we have an embarrassment of riches, and I agree. Who wouldn’t want to live and work in such a beautiful place? But in order to continue growing, to improve education and rebuild our neighborhoods, we need stronger public/private partnerships, government and businesses working better together. To me, this is key.

And the small things count. We are very proud of The Market at Pepper Place. It has grown from seven to 100 tents and incubated many small food businesses over the past 15 years. I’ve been told by representatives from UAB and other companies that our farmers market is one of their best recruitment tools to Birmingham.

On regional cooperation: 
It’s evolving and the conversation has started, with the mayors of many major cities in Alabama starting to talk to each other. But what would our urban agenda look like? What are the five most important urban issues? We need to talk about that together.

On transportation: 
We need a city center circulator that can move the 80,000 people who work downtown easily, because you can’t walk from the (Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex) to Five Points or from Five Points to the entertainment district. We need a circulator that is rail, on a track. It would be a people mover and can be inexpensive.

We need to make 20th Street a go-to district with more lighting, landscaping, street furniture, art and make it a main pathway for Birmingham.

On the historic redevelopment tax credit: 
It has been highly important. I was in and out of the conversation for years and I’m a huge supporter. We need more (tax credit money) and more cities in the state can use it to help redevelop historic properties.

 

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