UAB's Master Plan envisions a green boulevard stretching from the Campus Green all the way to downtown Birmingham's Railroad Park, an on-campus stadium, new residence halls, and more. Click here to see the full Master Plan with annotations.
University and city leaders are charting a bold new path to progress in Birmingham that will dramatically reshape UAB’s campus. In the next decade, plans call for state-of-the-art research and student amenities, vast new open spaces, and a campus football stadium. The changes will weave UAB even more tightly into the fabric of a vibrant city with world-class dreams.
From the top of Red Mountain, looking north, the buildings that make up Birmingham’s skyline are arrayed like pieces in a chess game. On one side are the towers of downtown; on the other are the hospitals and schools of UAB’s ever-expanding Southside campus. Separating the two is a steel ribbon of railroad tracks and the low-slung warehouses and businesses of midtown.
But the dividing lines between city and campus are rapidly giving way. The 20-acre Railroad Park opened in September 2010 and promises to bring an influx of public and private investment into the midtown neighborhood. The city plans to build a new ballpark for the Birmingham Barons just to the west of Railroad Park, and a wave of restaurants, shops, and nightlife options is expected to follow.
Meanwhile, UAB is making its own plans to intersect and interact with these new developments. By 2020, an on-campus football stadium, surrounded by new student housing, could be situated a long fly ball from the new Birmingham baseball park; a green promenade could run through the heart of campus; and several new signature buildings will expand UAB’s academic and research enterprise.
For decades, a standing joke around the Magic City has offered a substitute definition for the acronym “UAB”: the University that Ate Birmingham. But UAB’s growth isn’t merely a fact of life for the region’s leaders, notes UAB President Carol Garrison, Ph.D.—it’s all part of the plan. “There is a historic partnership between this university and our surrounding community,” Garrison notes. “That partnership is stronger than ever as we plan and work together toward synchronous goals and a common vision.”
The strength of that partnership was reflected in three major developments last year, Garrison adds. Birmingham and UAB both released their visions for future growth and prosperity, and UAB’s current and potential contributions to the city, region, and state were revealed in a new economic impact report.
According to study authors Tripp Umbach, UAB generates an annual economic impact of $4.6 billion in Alabama. For every $1 invested by the state, the university returns $16.23 to the total state economy. UAB also remains the state’s largest single employer and is responsible for 61,205 jobs statewide. As Garrison points out, “that’s one of every 33 jobs in Alabama.”
In September 2010, the community leaders of the Birmingham Business Alliance revealed Blueprint Birmingham, a road map for the city to reach its goal of becoming a world-class center for innovation. A centerpiece of the plan is increased investment in UAB; the plan’s authors note that “the impact and role of UAB in these efforts cannot be overstated.”
A few months later, UAB revealed its own updated Strategic Plan, which was based on extensive dialogue among students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The plan calls for increased undergraduate and graduate enrollment, an expansion of UAB’s research enterprise, enhanced service to the community and state through health care and the arts, and upgrades to the living, learning, and working environment at UAB through major campus building projects.
UAB’s vision is completely in synch with Blueprint Birmingham, Garrison says. “UAB worked hand in hand with the BBA so that our plans complement each other,” she explains. “The gains we’ve already made in our previous Strategic Plan areas represent progress toward a stronger, healthier, more prosperous city and state. Our updated Strategic Plan will continue that progress.”
The Tripp Umbach economic study, meanwhile, demonstrates what an expanded UAB could do for Alabama as a whole. The report’s midrange projections forecast UAB’s statewide economic impact at $6.6 billion annually by 2020; with even more aggressive growth, the authors say the figure could pass $7 billion annually statewide.
A new Campus Master Plan translates these goals into bricks and mortar, offering a picture of a UAB that is “more connected and more integrated” with Birmingham than ever before, Garrison says.