Revitalization—it’s a word used to describe what’s happening in nearly every American city right now, but in the South, our cities aren’t so much undergoing a revitalization as much as they are an awakening. Sure, we’re breathing new life into historic buildings and settling into homes that are in high rises and once-neglected neighborhoods. But from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic coast, a diverse mix of lifelong Southerners, millennials, newcomers, and transplants are launching start-ups, building new restaurants, creating new music, solving problems, and coloring the South as one of, if not the, most exciting regions of the country to live. And it's happening in ways we couldn’t have even imagined a decade ago.
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Just look at our winner, Charleston, which has made Southern cuisine not only a serious subject, but a globally renown destination to experience it from the culinary cathedral Husk to soul food sanctuary Martha Lou’s and Southeast Asian sensation Xiao Bao Biscuit. Savannah has become a visual arts and design hub thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design, and New Orleans might be one of the biggest comeback stories of all time with its storied restaurant and music scenes more intriguing than ever.
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Then there’s Nashville whose crane-filled skyline signals the endless stream of newcomers to the city. In Atlanta, there’s no city that exemplifies the new South better and rivals cities like New York and San Francisco in innovative city planning, green spaces, and food. (And we’re not just talking about how they have a Shake Shack.) Speaking of San Francisco, it’s not the only place where entrepreneurs and tech sector workers are going; Austin is attracting a whole new generation of business developers and creative thinkers. Up the coast, the North Carolina Research Triangle is firing on all cylinders now that Durham has developed into a cultural hotspot, and Richmond has us daydreaming of finding the perfect house in the Fan neighborhood. But our hometown Birmingham might illustrate what we’re talking about the best: there’s a new generation of Southerners who are not only proud to say they’re from Alabama (or any other state), they are committed to making it a better place. If you’ve visited the Magic City three or five years ago, and then seen it today, it’s clear to see we’re back in business, y’all.