Hoover’s hidden Mayberry might be one of Birmingham’s best-kept secrets. The Preserve at Moss Rock, a more than 400-home community buffering 250 acres of preserved woods, is not only an ideal spot to live but also a great place to climb a sandstone boulder, enjoy an acoustic show while sharing a Neapolitan pizza or sip a house-made margarita with top-shelf tequila. It’s also the kind of place where your kid can pedal up to the local market, park their bike and buy a cold Coca-Cola.

“We’re going back to the Main Street type of community — something that has a core and a heart to it,” says Billy Silver, real estate director for U.S. Steel, which owns The Preserve property.

The Preserve’s commercial space features two — soon to be three — restaurants, a salon and business offices. All construction at The Preserve adheres to a strict set of guidelines reminiscent of Old South architecture.

The Preserve’s commercial space features two — soon to be three — restaurants, a salon and business offices. All construction at The Preserve adheres to a strict set of guidelines reminiscent of Old South architecture.

Folks from all around Birmingham come to The Preserve to enjoy its natural scenery and open spaces, which are 100 percent kid-friendly and dog approved.

Folks from all around Birmingham come to The Preserve to enjoy its natural scenery and open spaces, which are 100 percent kid-friendly and dog approved.

 

More than 400 homes have already been built since The Preserve’s conception. With plans to max out at 725 lots, The Preserve blends large estate homes with smaller cottages to create a community featuring a wide range of sizes and shapes. All styles stay in line with a traditional makeup reminiscent of the Old South.

More than 400 homes have already been built since The Preserve’s conception. With plans to max out at 725 lots, The Preserve blends large estate homes with smaller cottages to create a community featuring a wide range of sizes and shapes. All styles stay in line with a traditional makeup reminiscent of the Old South.

Community-style seating at Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato encourages patrons to get to know their neighbors and strike up a conversation. The pizzeria is also kid-friendly and hosts an array of summer camps where kids can learn how to toss pizza dough while mom and dad relax. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Located on the corner of The Preserve’s commercial district, Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato anchors the area and attracts crowds daily. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Back in the early 1990s, U.S. Steel pitched an idea to the City of Hoover for turning Moss Rock — an area once inhabited by Native Americans where waterfalls careen off Shades Mountain — into a recreational paradise where hiking trails abound and locals could enjoy unspoiled nature.

Impressed by the concept, the city purchased the area now known as Moss Rock, 250 acres of preserved nature enjoyed by many Birmingham locals. Moss Rock features numerous natural caves and boulder fields where climbers can be spotted scaling the massive rocks. And hiking trails weave throughout the land, creating meandering paths, canopied by tall trees, that lead to waterfalls and other natural splendors.

Hidden waterways and trails abound throughout Moss Rock. Local legend has it that the remains of old moonshine have been found tucked away in Moss Rock’s woods, giving a nod to the days of prohibition and mountain-made “white lightening.”

Hidden waterways and trails abound throughout Moss Rock. Local legend has it that the remains of old moonshine have been found tucked away in Moss Rock’s woods, giving a nod to the days of prohibition and mountain-made “white lightening.”

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The Preserve’s eight-acre green space located in the center of the neighborhood is the perfect place to camp up for an afternoon picnic. The large open space also plays host to the fabulous Moss Rock Festival each year.

The Preserve’s eight-acre green space located in the center of the neighborhood is the perfect place to camp up for an afternoon picnic. The large open space also plays host to the fabulous Moss Rock Festival each year.

Boasting 250 acres of preserved nature, Moss Rock features numerous natural caves and boulder fields perfect for a weekend hike or climb.

Boasting 250 acres of preserved nature, Moss Rock features numerous natural caves and boulder fields perfect for a weekend hike or climb.

Teens looking for parent-approved escapes chill out on hammocks in one of The Preserve’s many public green spaces.

Teens looking for parent-approved escapes chill out on hammocks in one of The Preserve’s many public green spaces.

The babbling Moss Rock waterfalls create a soothing backdrop for a lovely hike. | Image courtesy Miles Hudson

The babbling Moss Rock waterfalls create a soothing backdrop for a lovely hike. Image: Miles Hudson

On any given weekend, climbers can be spotted scaling one of Moss Rock’s numerous boulders. The area supports a rare variant of Little River Sandstone Glade — one of only 35 known surviving examples in the world — and four rare plant species.

On any given weekend, climbers can be spotted scaling one of Moss Rock’s numerous boulders. The area supports a rare variant of Little River Sandstone Glade — one of only 35 known surviving examples in the world — and four rare plant species.

Not long after the Moss Rock nature preserve was established, the vision for The Preserve — a residential development modeled after the architecture of the Old South — started to form.

“The concept for The Preserve is based on a traditional neighborhood development, a TND,” Billy says. Most TND’s, he says, focus on a few key elements inherent to a traditional neighborhood setup such as walkability, green spaces and weaving in commercial development like restaurants and salons. All three features are visible at The Preserve, where folks frequently walk dogs and push strollers along sidewalks, and several parks with playgrounds and ball fields dot the area. And, thanks to a Birmingham chef with a passion for authentic pizza made with nothing but the freshest ingredients, residents and visitors to The Preserve can enjoy brick-oven pizza at the neighborhood pizzeria — Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato.

Located on the corner of The Preserve’s commercial strip, aromas of fresh dough waft from the open-style kitchen where a Frank Sinatra album frequently plays. Brianna Tamburello, who helps lead the restaurant alongside Bernard Tamburello, says Vecchia is all about community.

Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila, the follow-up to next-door neighbor Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato, features plenty of outdoor seating for a lovely afternoon or evening of al fresco dining. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila, the follow-up to next-door neighbor Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato, features plenty of outdoor seating for a lovely afternoon or evening of al fresco dining. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Several times a week, Vecchia hosts local musicians who serenade restaurant goers — or anyone else walking by the eatery, for that matter — with acoustic jams. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Several times a week, Vecchia hosts local musicians who serenade restaurant goers — or anyone else walking by the eatery, for that matter — with acoustic jams. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Community-style seating at Vecchia encourages patrons to get to know their neighbors and strike up a conversation. The pizzeria is also kid-friendly and hosts an array of summer camps where kids can learn how to toss pizza dough while mom and dad relax. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Community-style seating at Vecchia encourages patrons to get to know their neighbors and strike up a conversation. The pizzeria is also kid-friendly and hosts an array of summer camps where kids can learn how to toss pizza dough while mom and dad relax. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

“We want you to feel like you’re in a loud, crazy Italian home,” Brianna says of the restaurant’s setup, which has long community picnic tables where patrons can share pizza, pasta and other gourmet Italian dishes. “We have a philosophy in all of our restaurants, no matter which one it is — and especially here at Moss Rock — that the luxury is in the food.”

The community caught on to the pizzeria’s concept so well that the culinary pair decided to open up another restaurant next door. This time, however, they channeled flavors from south of the border. Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila — an authentic Mexican restaurant boasting a sushi-style, mark-your-order type menu and full bar — is in keeping with the laid-back lifestyle of The Preserve and Moss Rock area.

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“We’re trying a lot of really cool stuff on our menu that you can’t really get anywhere else in town,” Brianna says, adding that there are talks of having a weekend brunch menu with huevos rancheros and a “Bloody Maria bar” — Moss Rock’s take on a Bloody Mary. “We really want to put Moss Rock on the map and let other people know how great it is out here.”

The best part of both restaurants, Brianna says, is that they belong to the community. Most employees, she points out, don’t even have to start a car to get to work. They hop on a bike, drive a golf cart or arrive on foot. “Most of the neighborhood kids work here,” she says. “They’re close to home. It’s not uncommon for their parents to come in and annoy them — it’s fun.”

Featuring a long list of tacos all made with fresh ingredients, Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila has already grown a steady customer base. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Featuring a long list of tacos all made with fresh ingredients, Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila has already grown a steady and loyal customer base. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

The owners of Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato, Bernard and Brianna Tamburello, recently opened Moss Rock Tacos and Tequila next door in the space that used to be The Boot. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

The owners of Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato, Bernard and Brianna Tamburello, recently opened Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila next door in the space that used to be The Boot. Image: Yellowhammer Photography

Folks looking for a sweet treat can ride up to Urban Pops, a modest trailer parked outside Moss Rock that offers popsicles, iced coffee and other sweets.

Folks looking for a sweet treat can ride up to Urban Pops, a modest trailer parked outside Moss Rock that offers popsicles, iced coffee and other sweets, perfect after a hot afternoon of hiking!

Now with two restaurants to their name at The Preserve, Brianna says a third is in the works. The venture will likely feature something sweet, she says. “It’ll be called Nonita’s, which means little grandmother,” Brianna says. “We’ll sell gelato, coffee and pastries.”

In the mist of the budding commercial development and thriving neighborhood, Billy says the future of The Preserve and Moss Rock can only get brighter. One thing will always remain the same, however, and that’s the dedication to preserving what came first — nature. “When you find something like this little patch of land that makes up Moss Rock and The Preserve neighborhood, you’ve found something really nice,” he says.

So, take a day to escape Birmingham and enjoy the slow pace of the babbling brooks and winding trails at Moss Rock, followed by a stroll through the charming, walkable village of The Preserve!

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