Design review alert

A sad end is in the works

We have learned that the owners of the building that for many years (1945-2004) housed The Social Grill, plan to sell to downtown landowner Bobby Crook, who in turn plans to tear the building down for surface parking.

The historic building (distressed after years of deferred maintenance and showing the remains of 1960’s-era metal insert panels at the storefronts) holds the SE corner of Third Avenue North and 23rd Street, and is notable for its large projecting sign. While in an official Historic District downtown, and subject to Design Review Committee approval, unfortunately the Committee is limited in its ability to prevent owners from tearing down buildings for surface parking. Once again, Form Based Code would be helpful in setting guidelines that, for instance, would state that corner buildings in particular districts must remain; and conversely corner parking lots should be turned back into buildings.

As of yet, there is not a date set for when this proposal goes before Design Review.

Waffle House across from...the Pancake House?

We do know that this Wednesday morning one of the Design Review items will be a new Waffle House in the Studio Arts building (pictured above right) which faces the circle at Five Points South. The Original Pancake House has occupied the opposite building (pictured above left) for many years and is a local institution for breakfast (although it’s part of a national chain). Waffle House, evicted from its current location just west of the UAB campus to make way for university development, already plans a new storefront location a few blocks west of Five Points in the heart of the university medical district (recently approved at Design Review). Despite the roughly similar menus, Pancake House is only open for breakfast/brunch daily, while Waffle House is a 24-hour, 365-day/year diner.

Finally, on Wednesday the  wonderful guys (from Trattoria Centrale) opening El Barrio in the 2200 block of 2nd Avenue North will reapply to the Committee for approval of a tasteful projecting sign [see our previous post here]. Our verdict: the Committee needs to approve this sign!!!

[thanks to bhydro for the Five Points pic]

26 responses to “Design review alert

  1. In the meantime, why not ask the City to ban surface parking as a use-by right in the City Center? At the very least, let’s have a moratorium on them.

  2. I had hoped the Chick-Fil-A and Walgreen’s sagas would help us realize the need for more proaction and less reaction. We know these types of proposal are going to continue to surface otherwise. Please, let’s try to get away from these Groundhog Day scenarios.

  3. Start by talking with Valerie Abbott and Johnathan Austin, followed by Andre Bittas, or even — the Mayor’s office. Valerie chairs the Council committee on zoning and the Social Grill is in Johnathan’s district. Mr. Bittas is the Director of Planning, Engineering and Permits.

    Who knows, the Mayor might be able to issue some sort of executive order to do a temporary halt while the City’s Legal Department takes up the issue for a written ordinance, or until the new comprehensive plan is completed. Hopefully form overlay will be part of that….and more importantly it is enacted.

  4. Can’t believe this. Another “put up a parking lot” scenario! Unbelievable that the City would have the power to enforce design “details” on new or renovation projects but not to have a yea or nay on razing a whole structure, especially when it alters the whole streetscape and block density. (Oh yeah, I forgot the Birmingham News relocation a couple of years ago…)

  5. We have long had a need for a late night restaurant in Five Points South. Leesa Warren, who has purchased the Studio Arts Building, is putting in a high-end dance club upstairs and a more sedate lounge downstairs to be called Baccus…both are beautifully decorated and will be professionally managed. She has also run electricity, water and HVAC to the formerly dilapidated police substation attached to the building, which makes the folks at the South Precinct very happy. Ms. Warren points out that she’s a huge fan of the Original Pancake House but notes that “the Pancake House doesn’t serve waffles and the Waffle House doesn’t serve pancakes.” She has already made a substantial investment in Five Points and will certainly be an asset to the area.

    • Robert, thanks for this info. Agreed that the main fault of Pancake House is its hours–a huge amount of storefront is dark every afternoon and evening there. 24-hour diners are a huge plus in this neighborhood. Does this mean the substation will be occupied again?

      • I’m confused. The article leads on there may be a Waffle House (pending Design Review), but reading above comments, it sounds like this Baccus place may occupy the space?

      • I think there is multiple ground floor space–some for Waffle House, some for Baccus. We’ll know more about exact locations Wednesday, and it will be reported!

  6. I am happy to hear about Ms.Warren’s contributions to Five Points South. I think some of the property owners in that area have been some of the biggest problem. FPS has needed a 24 hr cheap eat joint for uh, like forever ! I am, of course opposed to tearing down the Social Grill building. Who would park there anyway ?

    • I think without a new business involved, then no parking lot should be involved. I mean it shouldn’t anyway, but this is worse; I think he wants to tear it down just because he owns the buildings with Rogue and Pale Eddie’s, and wants to offer more parking at night? Like that’s necessary!

      It would be nice if more enlightened hands were acquiring the building, planning to actually renovate it and make it available to retail tenants. Now there’s a novel idea….

  7. Sounds great! — the Five Points plans, that is. It needs all three of those components (cool lounge, hot club, and a 24/7 eaterie)! Anybody know how the new “Mill” bldg steak house is doing?

  8. You’re correct….there are multiple spaces in the Studio Arts building. The Waffle House will occupy the former Johnny Rocket’s/Schaeffer Eye Center Space while the club will be located in the former Club 1120 space (both upstairs and down). The BPD has inidicated they will happily staff the substation now that it has electricity, heat and air. One last note: there will also be an ATM in the space where there used to be one on the side of the building facing 20th St.

  9. Very sad to hear about the social grill. Parking lots are the last thing this city needs, southside is full of them and it looks terrible. I’m not a developer but it seems like a building could generate far more revenue than a surface parking lot.

    • Well it has not gone to Design Review yet, so therefore all is not yet lost. A building could generate a lot more revenue than surface parking in this area. The strength of the building vs. parking lot, from an urban planning standard, is invaluable.

  10. Don’t recall that I’ve ever seen a Waffle House with outdoor seating, but there’s certainly no reason why there can’t be.

  11. Pingback: The Heaviest Corner » Blog Archive » Return of Statler & Waldorf

  12. How about getting the Waffle House to run a decent restaurant? I grew up in a city with lots of inexpensive, late night restaurants serving breakfast and greasy food. Great. They could be tacky, but that’s fine. I never had an experience in one of those restaurants as bad as the experiences I’ve had in every Waffle House I’ve ever tried, both in this area and elsewhere. Sorry to be the one person who doesn’t relish getting a Waffle House in 5 Points South.

    • Al’s and Purple Onion run 24-hour diners a few blocks away from the Waffle House site, so you still have other choices in the area. I personally haven’t had a lot of WH experiences; my hope is that whether the food/experience pleases you or me personally, the round-the-clock option in this location will help bolster nightlife/streetlife in Five Points. Lakeview is getting a branch of a New Orleans 24-hour diner, so at least there will be decent competition to both east and west. Thanks.

  13. Ahhh… The Social Grill.

    Those were the days.

    I met my wife at Joe Namath’s in B’Ham in early 1974. We ate at the Soc regularly for quite some time thereafter.

    http://vegasboomer.blogspot.com/2009/11/to-my-wife.html

    ROLL TIDE.

  14. Pingback: End may be near for former Social Grill location | The Terminal - Birmingham AL's hub

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