Design Review Alert

Design Review Committee will meet Wednesday morning (May 12) at 7:30 AM on the Third Floor of the Center for Regional Planning and Design, 1731 First Avenue North. Thus far there are only 2 items on the agenda (more may be added by Wednesday:

1. Street Banners for Woodlawn;

2. Chick-Fil-A project for Five Points South.

Magic City Manifesto posted an interesting piece this morning about Councilor Austin being upset about several concrete benches being removed to make way for expanded outdoor seating for Cafe Dupont on downtown’s 20th street. Personally, I would rather have vibrant storefronts with lots of outdoor seating–as opposed to empty storefronts and lots of benches. Especially sad, tired old benches. You can view the Birmingham News piece here.

Great architecture and trees; not so great 1970's sidewalks, street furniture, benches

If Councilor Austin were really concerned about 20th Street, he would be working on a long-range complete renovation of the dated, 1970’s -era plantings and street furnishings, which lend a worn-out air to the whole street.  These benches are hardly “historic” or “art” as he states.

Finally, please check out the new Facebook protest site for anyone interested in stopping Walgreen’s from destroying the gorgeous, historic Fire Station No. 22 on Clairmont Avenue. The City Council should vote tomorrow on the sale. City Councilors, please heed the wishes of concerned citizens and don’t sell this historic landmark for $200,000 to Walgreen’s!

(thanks to pjchmiel for the pic)

12 responses to “Design Review Alert

  1. Thanks for posting a link to the FB protest site. I plan to attend the Budget & Finance Committee meeting this afternoon & will hopefully have an update about the city council’s plans.

    Meanwhile, how does one get on the mailing list for the Design Review Committee’s agenda?

    • Glenny—great. I’ll be interested to hear how things went in Budget and Finance.

      Just call Kathy Puckett at Planning (254-2558) and ask her to add you to the list. If you find out they actually have an electronic sign-up (unfortunately I doubt it), let me know. Sure would make it easier for the public to stay informed about the agendas.

  2. About 20th and the benches: Yes, the original plan was suburban in character. It was updated a bit 20 years ago by Nimrod Long (more repeated trees), but the entire downtown streetscape needs a new plan that can be implemented in phases. I also think the median plantings should be removed, or at least modified to restore the view up 20th to Linn Park.

    • Philip—agreed. A phased plan that moves 20th street into the same league as Linn Park and Railroad Park seems so logical to me.

    • (I realize this is late – finals were killing me!)

      I disagree about the median, and in general about the streetscape. I really like the structure it seems to provide with enunciated edges and lush greenery in the median. I spent two years eating my lunches on the benches there and I found it very pleasant.

      Granted, the furniture needs updating. The concrete benches are very uncomfortable, and the wooden benches are in terrible shape. The payphones and the trashcans are looking bad too. But I like the overall concept.

      Regarding the view to Linn Park – I think 20th street itself is the centerpiece – not Linn Park. 20th street will always be more vibrant than Linn Park, because it has a mixture of activities (and far more users besides) than the almost all gov/institutional users at Linn Park. So I think it’s better to make 20th as pleasant as possible, rather than trying to use it to enhance Linn Park. And a lush median accomplishes that. The problem with Linn Park is less that there isn’t a visual corridor, and more that it is surrounded by mostly governmental uses.

      • Patrick–glad you got through finals. I think this is perhaps an argument of degrees–I think many of us appreciate the planting in concept. However their character–holly hedges, beds of pansies–often feels suburban. And the concrete planters, seating, the lamp standards etc.–it just needs thoughtful updating and redesign in my opinion.

        As to Linn Park–while I do thing renovated landscape on 20th Street could better complement the park, the main problem with the park you hit on: the surrounding activity or lack thereof. Without the right surroundings a beautiful park can go mainly unused. It’s a cautionary tale for RR Park.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t think Austin is concerned about the streetscape or integrity of this downtown district. Instead, I think he’s taking the easiest PR opportunities to push his County Commissioner campaign. Then again, he’s young and impressionable… let’s put the pressure on him!

  4. P.S. / Disclaimer: I don’t like to be the skeptic, but rather the cheerleader. I’d love to support Austin’s effort to maintain the integrity of the City and its historic landmarks. Faith in other people, though, is risky… especially considering City Hall’s track record. (I STILL sound like a skeptic – not my intention, truly…just so frustrated with this issue!)

  5. @ LK Whitney: Whitney, come to the Snark Side!

    Birmingham is a city in permanent decline. The pivot-point was Kincaid’s first two years in office.

    Alabamians don’t like cities, especially this one. They’ve completely embraced suburban values. The best hope going forward is to break the city up, and try to get Southside (all of District 3 & most of District 2) incorporated as its own community. Balkanization is this region’s future.

    Have I made anyone mad yet? Join the Snark Side!!

    p.s. (I’m not really serious; just completely jaded & fed up with this community).

  6. FYI- I wasn’t present at today’s budget/finance meeting at City Hall, but I’m told they voted to defer the decision to sell the Fire Station 22 property (to Walgreens) until the June 7 economic development committee meeting. We have time to gather voices and energy- come on, Birmingham! Let’s do this! Suggestions on next steps? (other than harrassing Councilman Austin…)

  7. Todd Pierce sent this great piece from the Urban Conservancy which has examples of Walgreen’s projects in different cities. Thanks Todd.

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