The once vibrant downtown Ensley business district is now a mere shell of its former self. But on many of the blighted buildings, you can see that the pride is still alive with messages like, I am Ensley. And lately, a young developer named Brian K. Rice has started breathing new life, along 19th street, one building at a time.
Buying up blighted properties in downtown Ensley, Brian Rice has become a neighborhood crusader of sorts. “I always knew I was going to come back to Birmingham and give back to my community.” according to Rice. The engineer and real estate developer returned to Birmingham after living for years in Charlotte, Houston, and Milwaukee. Now Rice owns a three-story structure and seven other buildings he purchased last year. He says, “I believe this whole district can grow but it’s going to take some love, its gonna take some sacrifice but most importantly it’s going to take some resources“
Rice says his tenants have to share his community mindset. He adds, “I can also challenge people who lease space from me, can you mentor once a month because we need somebody to see an architect at work.” Rice says right now the biggest challenge is securing business loans or finding investors. He’s hopeful others will come forward to make it easier for developers like him to help the Ensley business district reach its full potential, and once again thrive.