Good neighbors

And the times they are a changin'

There have been several recent reports about the one property holder (Bill Mudd) in the proposed multi-block Birmingham Barons’ downtown ballpark site still refusing to sell to the City (see News article about City Council approving the terms of the land agreement). Presumably Mudd, the owner of the B&A Warehouse, which contains an event and catering business under the same name, is hoping for a better deal. The City would prefer not to use eminent domain to acquire the property, but would like to have a coordinated, holistic development of the entire site with no exceptions. Is there a compromise?

As seen in the photo above taken from Railroad Park at First Avenue South, the warehouse in question, while indeed old, does not really contribute to the vitality of the street. This is an illustration of urban change: 5 years ago, when it faced a weedy lot and there were no other nighttime/public uses around it, it felt like a pioneer breathing some life into the area. Now that a large public park has opened in place of the weedy lot, and more public amentities are being planned, the building is not measuring up to its locale. Iron bars hide the few windows facing the park; a loading door and large ramp flank the entrance. The events that take place are private, catered affairs–not open to the general public–and thus are not ideal for a business fronting a public park.

One solution is for the City to agree to let B&A stay, but with a renovation, where a street-side cafe (that could also serve the ballpark) is carved out of the park front, with new plate glass offering transparency and openness.  The renovation would engage the building with the street, the park, and the ballpark. Perhaps the Negro Leagues museum proposed could be built into/above a portion of the warehouse.

Another solution, if B&A was not interested in the above, would be for it to relocate into one of a myriad of similar old warehouses this City is blessed with. There is no intrinsic or unique value to the building they have now, and B&A has proven that people will come to visit regardless of whether their location is edgy or facing a fashionable park.

Hopefully both parties will reach an agreement, with the overall good of the new neighborhood at heart.

13 responses to “Good neighbors

  1. My thoughts were he is holding out for more money. This could be put to MUCH better use. Hopefully this will end amicably. I agree… there are LOTS of old warehouse space in Birmingham Bill Mudd could move into.

  2. Well said. B&A came Downtown when others were leaving and became a destination that invited those who had fled to the suburbs back to the City Center, but the building is really nothing special. The owners should get a fair price and one that allows for relocation but no a windfall. I would hope that the City would make it attractive for them to remain in Downtown, perhaps in the old Victoria’s Station location in the caboose and railroad cars on Morris Avenue, a quaint, safe location with ample parking.

  3. The cafe frontage is a great idea that I hope would be considered.

    It really is incumbent upon the City to handle this fairly. B&A was a true pioneering venture when they opened in this location (10-12 years ago?). To say, “thanks for believing in this City: now give us your land” would be the wrong way to move this forward.

    I’m hoping for a good dialogue between the City and the property owner. And I’m certainly glad that the project has continued to this point where land is being acquired!

  4. Excellent observations. When ONB’s workshop about design standards for new development facing the park was ‘hosted’ by B&A Warehouse, Mudd insulted the city’s planning staff present and even complained about the coming Railroad Park. Civic-minded? The other end of the spectrum. You show his building is similarly oriented. This is what eminent domain is for.

    • Indeed, it is worth pointing out that Mudd has been openly upset at Railroad Park since it removed his “free event parking” (he had been using the empty City lot as a parking lot before construction for the park began). Either changes need to be made to the building, or he should locate in another old warehouse (after being given a fair price for this one).

  5. I recall that happening at the ONB workshop as well. I was disheartened, but not surprised, to find out that B&A was one of the holdouts.

  6. Yes, there are many other old warehouse buildings in the area to which B&A could relocate. The city needs to deal more than fairly with this business and work to keep them in the area. I would also like to see this venue more open to its street and neighbors.

  7. Alison Glascock

    Cheers to Jeremy for his thoughts on resolving the B&A dilemma. I agree that the building itself is nothing special, so either it needs to be upgraded or move to another similar building. Discovering that Bill wasn’t enthusiastic about the Railroad Park is not encouraging. I’m glad the city is moving forward with the baseball park as it will bring additional vitality to the area.

  8. He can find a replacement warehouse venue. It’s all about money.

  9. Cafes of any sort along that strip would be lovely…it’s a wonderful idea.

    Fascinating that Mudd complained about Railroad Park. This “conversation” btwn him and the city sounds similar to the debate around the Columbia University Manhattanville expansion: http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2009/12/03/states_land_seizure_for_columbia_expansion_ruled_unconstitutional.php#more

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