Five points possibilities

A big change

This morning at Design Review Committee conceptual approval was given to a plan for a new 7-story hotel to be constructed where the former Five Points Music Hall sits on 20th Street in Five Points South (older readers may remember this art deco building as a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, directly to the south of Woolworth’s, itself now Bailey Brothers Music). Richard Rauh, an Atlanta architect, presented early sketches of an imitation stucco tower rising above the original facade, whose glass has been removed and whose storefronts now serve as  a porte-cochere for auto traffic.  Please note this design is in very early stages, and the applicant will return probably several times to the Committee as the design progresses (concept sketch shown above).

From show windows to exhaust fumes?

The current facade, pictured above, has streamlined limestone detailing. While it’s commendable that the facade is being retained, in this instance it’s a shame that one of our most pedestrian-friendly streets would lose storefronts and gain a car-oriented use (and a curb-cut). The tower itself, in the early sketch, is a typical Homewood Suites you’d see out on the interstate somewhere. The Committee, while giving preliminary approval, stressed they’d want to see more urbanity/finesse in the new structure. It’s exciting (and perhaps surprising given the economy) that there’s demand for more hotel rooms here, given the new hotels that have already opened in the last few years in this area. It’s less exciting that a hotel can’t use a storefront for lobby and bar (like the indie Hotel Highland across the street), but instead turns inward and feels very auto-oriented.

Getting closer

Approval was also given to new steel and wood awnings which will shelter outdoor seating at El Barrio, the new restaurant opening in November to be run by the same guys who turn out the excellent food at Trattoria Centrale (pic above shows the exterior space for the new restaurant in the 2200 block of 2nd Avenue North). However, a request for exterior signage was sadly tabled. More on this in our next post.

[thanks to Richard Rauh for the conceptual rendering]

16 responses to “Five points possibilities

  1. I have a dumb question concerning the proposed Homewood Suites: Why can’t they be required to use the existing storefronts?

    • I’m afraid this may be another case related to Chick-Fil-A and the drive-through issue within an historic, pedestrian-oriented district. Without form-based code that would overlay requirements for drive-throughs/auto porte-cocheres, etc. then this there’s nothing overtly stopping a proposal like this. Of course, the committee could have been more skeptical of the idea but, for whatever reason, there was no objection to the auto-based character of the entrance and the loss of the storefronts.

      Of course it’s still early, and things may change. But I assume by conceptual approval today, the Committee is telling the designer that all major components–including the faade–are generally acceptable.

      This of course is much different than a fast-food drive-through. It’s related, but not as odious on the overall scale of things.

  2. I presume, given the perspective of the drawing, that this would extend all the way back to (or almost) 19th street? Maybe they could put the car entrance back there, use it as the main entrance and use the 20th street as a storefront and backdoor?

    Also, what’s the deal with the building above Dave’s? I see that the Carousel Carving place has moved out, but are the renovations still going? What about that parking deck?

    • The building stretches about half-way towards 19th Street. A surface parking lot (L-shaped, following basically the form of existing parking lots back there currently) then extends to 19th Street and over to 10th Avenue South. It looks like the former Five Points YMCA building is demolished to increase the surface parking–not a great thing.

      I would love to think what you suggest could work–Hilton requires meeting space, an indoor pool, dining area, outdoor terrace, etc. all in a pretty narrow area. So while the current plan isn’t ideal, I understand it’s challenging and without study, it’s hard to say.

      Not sure about the Terrace Court, or whether the deck is still in the works.

  3. The existing building abuts the alleyway. It’s difficult to tell from the renderings, but it appears the alleyway is going to remain. I think it’d be preferable to utilize the alleyway and put the “porto-chochere” on the side (if lot size and zoning allow for it). Even if a chunk of the frontage is used as an an “entrance”, it is preferable to using the whole frontage as such.

    • Correct–the alley remains, and becomes circulation from the porte-cochere to the rear parking. It would be tight fit to move a porte-cochere to the side, though a narrower one could maybe work. I know it’s handy, but why can’t an urban hotel just have awnings and a valet out front, and loading spots to pull into on the street, and skip the porte-cochere altogether? This isn’t the Ritz, it’s just a Homewood Suites. Do guests really and truly need this?

  4. I think it’s a great idea…bring some $$ spending individuals in from out of town and maybe “we” in turn make sure at least those 5 points are safe and comfortable for the average citizen unfamilar with our city to walk through.

  5. Pingback: New plans for old Music Hall? « famousfivepoints

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    I am sure this has been discussed Previously, but remind me how we go about getting Form Based Codes.

    Does the DRC understand the need for them? Is there things we as Citizens can do to let the appropriate officials know that we want them?

    Chuck

    • Form Based Code would have to be approved by a particular neighborhood and adopted by the City, or approved by the City for all of Birmingham (less likely). Highland Park residents and leaders lobbied for it and got it. I personally think the main obstacle is education–politicians, developers, and citizens don’t understand the benefits right now, and imagine all sorts of negatives instead. This being, unfortunately, something of a “status quo” town, embracing change from “the way it’s always been done” is all the more difficult. I do think most people on the DRC understand the need, but they have no authority to recommend or draft such regulations.

  7. When the Form Based code was written for Highland Park it was written in two stages. The first was a city wide enabling act that would let Form Base Code to be applied to any area of the city which the residents felt it would be beneficial. The second stage was the adoption of the Form Base for just Highland Park. This two stage step wasn’t understood by many and in turn scared a lot of folks including the Council. Since Highland Park was the only area pushing for this code, the Council modified the stages and made it so that only Highland Park can use the code. So, instead of the city getting the use of Highland Park’s effort, now any area must undertake 100% of the effort all over again.

    As bhamarchitect stated, education is the key.

  8. Interesting that the architect prepared a perspective illustration in which the storefront of Bailey Brothers next door is the foreground. We don’t get to see what is happening at street level on the actual property to be redeveloped.

    • In the architect’s defense, there were other renderings, although at this early stage they don’t really convey much beyond massing. I will try to post one more that shows a close-up of the faade.

  9. This news excites me greatly!! I love the idea of another hotel at 5PS, especially on 20th Street South. Marriott’s Residence Inn down the hill is a lovely and much-appreciated addition to the area (for once I’m conceding the use of red brick as “OK”). I hope the DRC will encourage this new developer to steer away from red brick, and to rethink the porte-cochere frontage. Other than these requests, I’m all for it. Let’s hope DRC also addresses the 10th Avenue South side of the block. I’m no fan of the YMCA there, but a large parking lot would be banal. Somebody needs to point out the ethnic restaurants further west on 10th, and market them to the new hotel accordingly, and work on the pedestrian nature of the whole street, too. “Vote with your feet- because it’s neat”.

  10. Pingback: New hotel inches forward | Bhamarchitect's Blog

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