Operation New Birmingham
The organization was founded as a committee of the Birmingham Downtown Improvement Association (BDIA) in 1962, with Vincent Townsend as chair. As a planning committee, it worked alongside the Downtown Action Committee, created in 1961 to market the city center as a shopping, business and entertainment destination.
Operation New Birmingham was originally charged with creating the "Design for Progress", a comprehensive master plan for the downtown area. The plan was commissioned from Harland Bartholemew & Associates of Atlanta with wide participation from the Birmingham League of Architects. As it turned toward implementation of its plans, the BDIA adopted the name of its committee. It has been credited with the initial planning for the Red Mountain Expressway, the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, and the project for a federal plaza on the site of the former Birmingham Terminal Station which was later reduced to a new Birmingham Post Office.
ONB also absorbed the city's Community Affairs Committee, headed by Cecil Bauer and Lucius Pitts, which had been charged with improving race relations in the wake of the Birmingham Campaign of 1964. That body's numerous subcommittees were headed by co-chairmen, one black and one white, with the primary aim of initiating discourse on matters of public concern across racial boundaries. Black civic leaders were given a then-rare opportunity to address white officials about community-wide concerns and initiatives. The CAC also began organizing neighborhood groups into a structure that emerged in 1974 as the Birmingham Community Participation Program.
Since then ONB has been involved in numerous planning efforts, lobbying for and administering government programs to aid in redevelopment, and in promoting the city through the media and with special events such as the Magic City Art Connection, which it sponsors. ONB was involved in the first attempts at establishing Birmingham's Citizen Participation Program, but was pushed out before the program was successfully implemented.
In May 2009 Mayor Larry Langford suggested that ONB join with an organization being formed from the merger of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Development Board and Regions 2020. He also suggested that the city no longer fund ONB operations.
- Townsend, Vincent (August 1971) "In Birmingham, the phrase 'status quo' is a bad word" "White Voices of the South" Ebony magazine. Vol. 26, No. 10 p. 167
- King, Pamela Sterne (2008) 50 Years and Counting: A History of Operation New Birmingham 1957-2007. Birmingham: Operation New Birmingham.
- Natta, André (May 19, 2009) "On the agenda: Langford reccommends cutting ONB budget" The Terminal
- Operation New Birmingham web site