Tomorrow’s scheduled groundbreaking for the Tuxedo Court HOPE VI development that was reported in the Birmingham News provides a great opportunity to post a picture of current day Ensley. The picture was taken from Avenue H looking up 19th Street Ensley towards the heart of the old commercial district and the former main gate for the TCI Ensley Steel Works, once one of the largest employers in the city and the region. Wikipedia.com has an excellent entry on the history of the district, one on the verge of a renaissance in the eyes of some, including myself. Some things to take note of include the old site of the Western Area Health Center, visible in the immediate foreground on the right, and the Ramsay McCormick Building. That towering structure is visible in the background of the photo on the right with the star located towards its top. There are more than 70 merchants still dedicated to the commercial district and the surrounding residential areas, including Ideal Furniture, whose red and white sign is visible on the right of the photo as well.
The HOPE VI project slated for construction on the site of the old housing development cannot by itself be expected to change the current character and perceived vibrancy of the commercial district. Efforts already underway among area merchants and community leaders will lead the way in that regard. The redevelopment of Tuxedo Court and other activities written about in this week’s Ramble will provide a reason to take a second look at the area to many people, providing a symbolic effort to recapture the magic in the Junction.