Mind the Gap (2)

The site, within an indeterminate cityscape

I realize we’re all due for some new posts; a deadline in the office has prevented me from publishing in the last few days (though I have a long list of topics just itching to get onto the blog). Hang in there for a couple more days.

In the meantime, let’s jump to Anniston, Alabama about one hour’s drive east of Birmingham. The city has a population of some 24,000, and the metro about 110,000. Its central core, while home to some great historic buildings and some revitalization, feels frayed and pock-marked in many places. Like many other cities, the energy has shifted to the suburbs, especially Oxford.

Downtown Anniston, feeling a little frayed

We were commissioned to design a new dental clinic on a lot at the edge of the business district, where the city starts to transition to neighborhoods. The property was an empty corner, surrounded by suburban-styled parking lots and unmemorable, one-story buildings, as well as some older houses across the street. The owner wanted to make a statement to the city about confidence in its potential growth. This was an unusual part of town for this sort of investment, that’s for sure.

So we designed a building that, rather than sitting back behind a parking lot, comes right up to the corner, with the parking tucked behind it. We used a combination of metal panels and stained wood for the exterior; the interior is high-ceilinged with lots of glass to try to dispel that typical “dentist office” feeling.

While small, the building has already surprised some locals, used to suburban investment and parking lots, not architecture that proposes a more urban edge on the street.

holding the corner

We’ll see if this building (just opened recently) might inspire others to reevaluate the importance of the central urban fabric, and to consider fresh ways of redeveloping un- or under-used property.

(downtown Anniston pic courtesy markbajekphoto1)

And for anyone interested in seeing the site plan, click here: SD 2010-03-12 SITE iii

8 responses to “Mind the Gap (2)

  1. Great use of space. Intriguing aesthetic. I’ll be interested to hear how the town reacts/follows up…keep us posted!

  2. Todd "Urbanotter1" Pierce

    I agree. I like the exterior.
    DO keep this project posted.
    I think of Anniston/Oxford, Gadsden & Tuscaloosa as “Extended Birmingham” in some ways… kind of like one of those British conurbations.

  3. Gratifying how even a small building strategically sited at a corner can strengthen a streetscape. It would be good for Birmingham to set a policy for even short-term structures, like kiosks, at every corner, until all the parking lots can be back-filled.

  4. This would be a great policy, and an opportunity to get creative designing interesting short-term structures. I love that idea.

  5. Can you get inside from the street, or do you have to walk through the parking lot? Mind posting a site plan?

    • Patrick–I will post the site plan shortly. It was designed with a single public entrance but two access points, one from the street and one from the courtyard open to the parking lot. Unfortunately, the owner decided to eliminate the street access during construction–arguing that everyone would be coming from the parking lot anyway, and no one would approach from the sidewalk. We argued, but lost this battle.

    • Patrick–link to the site plan is now posted at the end of the post. Thanks for your interest!

  6. It’s unfortunate that the property owner decided to get rid of the front entrance – there may come a time when downtown Anniston is lively with foot traffic again.

    Thanks for posting the site plan. I look forward to seeing the building next time I’m in Anniston.

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