Operation New Birmingham

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Operation New Birmingham was a non-profit organization whose mission was to promote commercial activity in Birmingham's City Center and interracial cooperation in public affairs.

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 former 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 2004, ONB released their 12 Most Wanted list of downtown buildings in need of renovation and rescue, sparking interest in most of the properties by investors.

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. The idea of merging ONB with the Birmingham Business Alliance was revisited by the city after the retirement of longtime director Michael Calvert. Fran Godchaux served as interim director afterwards.

Former ONB staffer and Main Street Birmingham executive David Fleming assumed the directorship on November 1, 2011. In April 2012 the organization announced that it would merge with Main Street Birmingham under a new name.


  • 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
  • "City of Birmingham committee formed to explore ONB-BBA merger." (December 10, 2010) Birmingham Business Journal
  • Tomberlin, Michael (February 13, 2011) "Downtown dreams: Renovation slow for prominent buildings." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (October 11, 2011) "David Fleming named new Operation New Birmingham president." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (April 8, 2012) "Operation New Birmingham, Main Street Birmingham to merge." Birmingham News

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