The Magic Wheel


London. Copenhagen. Vienna. Some of the most captivating cities in the world offer their residents and visitors a central place to get the most amazing view of the city, enjoy a fun atmosphere, and create memorable experiences that keep you coming back. But except for Santa Monica, no other US City to my knowledge has truly capitalized on the magnetic potential of a permanent custom Ferris Wheel. This is Birmingham's opportunity to create a visible landmark of progress within our skyline, for all to enjoy on a multitude of levels, and create a destination for residents and visitors alike.

Our concept, "The Magic Wheel," includes a modernized Ferris Wheel with enclosed steel and glass buckets painted by local artists, with a replicated resurrection of the iconic "Birmingham the Magic City" sign (that used to reside at Birmingham's Railroad Terminal until it was demolished in 1952) centered and illuminated within. The Magic Wheel will be complemented by railroad cars re-purposed as casual dining establishments on the northern side of the property where you can dine al-fresco, take in the lights and view of the adjacent park, and enjoy Birmingham's culinary talents. Sloss artists can create a metal-arts musical art installation that children can enjoy playing. A bike/walking path will continue to meander from Railroad Park through the new property with the intention of continuing it all the way to Sloss eventually. Like the Prater in Vienna, or Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Railroad Park and the Magic Wheel concept will create a must-see destination for the community to enjoy on many levels year round. Whether you are enjoying the romance of amazing city views with your sweetheart, taking your children somewhere fun, going for a night out with friends, or showing visitors Birmingham for the first time, Railroad Park and the Magic Wheel will be THE place to go.


Remember the wonder and joy of riding a Ferris Wheel for the first time as a child? Seeing the world from a birds-eye view? Our idea recaptures that universal feeling, but for a whole city. The Magic Wheel will establish Birmingham as a hip, creative city from the skyline down. The creative endeavors of our community will be on display with this project by the painted steel buckets, the musical art installation, and the creative re-use of railroad cars. Part of what makes it cool and exciting for our city is the diversity of appeal. A businessperson might take a client up in the Magic Wheel so they can see Birmingham for the first time and get acquainted with the city. Below them might be a father and daughter enjoying the musical art installation. Next to them a group of teenagers might be eating gourmet burgers in a rail car. The total experience of the Magic Wheel is so different- and uniquely tied to Birmingham's history and future, but yet it relies on that simple, common feeling of happiness one feels when seeing something beautiful and nostalgic.

Creating a cool, high-profile symbol of our community that is visible from most vantage points of the city will also help recruit and attract talent by uplifting Birmingham's image as a progressive city with a lot to offer. On a less analytical note, seeing a Ferris Wheel lit up in the distance with the old Magic City Sign would just make you want to smile.

Forged of steel and incorporating re-purposed railroad cars, the Magic Wheel concept will complement Railroad Park and the Sloss Corridor both in materials and concept. The Ferris Wheel became a symbol of the industrial age after debuting at the Chicago World's Fair in 1892. In fact, that Ferris Wheel was produced by a railroad company in Pittsburgh. Creating a modern Ferris Wheel will acknowledge our past while looking forward to the future of our community, highlighting important Birmingham history and achievements, while providing panoramic views of Railroad Park, the entire Sloss Corridor, and our changing city. The centralized "Birmingham The Magic City" sign (see attached image composite) will be a reminder of what train travelers where originally greeted with upon arriving in Birmingham at the Terminal. A bike path will physically connect the property to Railroad Park (and eventually, with funding, the entire corridor). The Sloss Metal arts musical installation will be a nod to Sloss's instrumental role in the history of our city and it's current reincarnation as a nationally-recognized arts studio. The eating establishments will be a necessary addition to provide dining options with all of the foot traffic in both parks. Children and adults alike could easily spend an entire day at the two parks with the addition of activities that the Magic Wheel concept contributes.

Because the Magic Wheel concept incorporates a lot of re-purposed materials, I would imagine it to be very feasible to make it happen within a 1-2 year timeline. The railroad cars that become restaurants would simply need to be brought to the site and plans drawn to transform them into working restaurants. Someone will need to recruit local chefs to participate in the railcar restaurants. With the food truck trend, popularity of gourmet fast-casual food, and the walkable proximity of the site to 80,000 workers, this should be achievable. A landscape architect will need to devise the plan for the al fresco area to make sure sufficient shade and space is given for a comfortable experience. The Magic Wheel could be either custom designed from the start, or simply a pre-fabricated Ferris wheel that is customized for Birmingham's specific needs by engineers after purchase. The musical installation could be commissioned at Sloss as soon as the installed within 1 year.

Upon the launch and opening, scores of Birmingham area residents would flock to experience the Magic Wheel for the first time, discover the new eating establishments, or reminisce about old Birmingham by seeing the new replica of the Magic City sign. Visitors driving through our area would be struck by the new addition to the skyline (easily viewable and accessible by the interstates and hwy 31) and make a point to stop along the way for a break from traveling- offering them a short respite with the conveniences of casual restaurants. But this idea also has a lifecycle far beyond a grand opening. It would become, like Vulcan or the old Magic City sign, a recognizable symbol for the city that would be a must-see-and-do Birmingham activity that would be often-photographed. Strategically located within walking distance of 80,000 downtown workers, the fast-casual restaurants would become the lunch destination with al-fresco seating. This would also make it a convenient meeting place for happy hour, casual business dinners, or gatherings of families and friends. Because of the beautiful views, it would become the perfect place for a romantic evening for people of any age. The change of seasons throughout the year would give an ever-changing panoramic view of the Magic City that would give visitors a reason to keep coming back.
Food. Entertainment. Outdoor activities. Magnificent Views. In short, there is something for everyone. Kids of all ages would be attracted to the Magic Wheel, the musical art installation, and the magnetism of seeing the lights and views. Older residents would enjoy the civic pride of seeing the resurrection of the old Magic City sign they remember from childhood. Teens and young professionals would enjoy all aspects of the plan, from the restaurants to the Magic Wheel. Foodies would enjoy the culinary possibilities. The creative community would appreciate the artful repurposing of older materials, and moms and dads will be happy to have new family-friendly activities combined with the adjacent railroad park. One would be hard-pressed to find someone of any age and demographic to whom none of the aspects of the Magic Wheel appeal to.