Play ball (2)

And it's happening

The City’s Design Review Committee conditionally approved demolition of an area just south of Railroad Park to prepare for construction of the new ball park of the Birmingham Barons. The area, pictured above, is four square blocks bounded by First Avenue South (facing the park) and Third Avenue South, and 14th and 16th Streets. The hatched buildings will be taken down; noticeably unhatched is the B&A Warehouse building at the corner of 16th and First Avenue, no longer part of the project.

Conceptual--with the hope of solid urban edges

Brian Wolf of Corporate Realty presented the 2 simple documents–the demo plan and the concept ball park plan, above. The Committee’s main objection was the lack of even schematic drawings illustrating the nature of the street edges of the project. Committee member Cheryl Morgan stated her concern about the importance of the 14th Street corner, and the need for parks to have active, vibrant edges. The rest of the Committee had similar concerns. Mr. Wolf assured the Committee that much time and effort has been put into creating an active street edge, and that he’d come back in January with completed schematics showing this. In the end, given the fast-track schedule and the scale of the project, the vote was to allow only partial demolition to occur, with the remainder waiting until schematics are presented in January. The main concern of this blog has been similar to the Committee’s–having a backside of a ball park fronting a major public park is not good urban planning. That we will get even a small buffer of pedestrian-scaled architecture between sidewalk and ball park is hopeful.

Big improvement

About a year ago we posted on the unfortunate deterioration of an aging strip center in Five Points South at the corner of 19th Street and 11th Avenue South. A massive “Bail Bonds” sign that had gone up without Design Review permission seemed to symbolize the challenges of this historic commercial area’s struggle to rejuvenate. This morning, the above proposal was unanimously passed by the Committee. All existing (and mainly non-conforming) signage will be removed, and a new red sign band created to provide a unified appearance. Needless to say, there was practically cheering in the aisles. (Cohen, Carnaggio, Reynolds are the architects).

More urban amenities = good

Last but not least, the above shows a major renovation of historic structures at the corner of 6th Avenue South and 22nd Street South into a music performance space and lounge, able to hold up to 1000 patrons (design by TRI Architecture and Interior Design). Located within the same block as Workplay, across the street from the Fish Market, and adjacent to the Liv on Fifth lofts, this is a major investment in downtown entertainment. Healthy cities have lots of entertainment options that make urban places attractive to the coveted younger demographic of people in their 20’s and 30’s. We wish Iron City Live Music Hall much success, and hope it inspires additional development in the area.

[thanks to Corporate Realty for the ball park plans; Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds for the Five Points rendering; and TRI for the Iron City Music Hall elevations]

50 responses to “Play ball (2)

  1. Just WOW!!!

    Thanks for the update Jeremy

  2. Great update about the ball park and other items. Thanks. Can you explain why the orientation of the ball park is such that fans in the stands will not be facing toward the railroad tracks and skyline of downtown Birmingham? That would seem, to me, to be a very pleasant view for the fans to experience while enjoying a game.

    • See other comments in response to this. Hopefully the January renderings will clarify the view issue better. At first glance it appears about half the seats face the skyline at least partially, while another half don’t. It does seem unusual. Thanks.

      • Will Sheppard

        Agreed. The stands are facing the exact opposite direction that most of them do in downtown areas. Thanks for the update, though!

  3. RE: Five Points Strip Center
    Lipstick, meet pig. Sorry, CCR. Jeremy, thanks for the optimism, but the only money that should be spent on that building would be for demo. The rendering says it all.

    • I will not disagree that ideally, the entire corner should be demolished and become a good mixed use building coming out to the sidewalk. This is what I would hope is a short-term solution to a bad situation. Clearly to make this corner excellent, we need a new project altogether. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Nice. Thanks for the updates, Jeremy. One question: any word on why the stadium orientation was changed from N to E? It seemed a lot of people were excited about the views of RRP and the Financial District skyline the former orientation would have offered. I’d also venture to guess that a northern situated field would create a rather nice and seamless transition with the park’s greenspace. Just thinking out loud. Deferring to your experience and expertise on this one.

    • As has been noted by others, the only thing I can imagine is that the edge/street context won out over skyline/ball park orientation. Angles of the sun are also very important in baseball play, and others could maybe comment on that. Thanks.

      • I’ve been told, reliably, by people involved in the project, that baseball league officials prefer this orientation. Home plate at SW corner would be less desirable because of the angle of the sun. Purely baseball reasons, not urban design reasons.

  5. They most likely made the change in orientation because this would mean the majority of the pedestrian activity would take place in view of the park, bringing additional activity to 1st Ave. S. The previous configuration would have had the majority of the pedestrian traffic taking place on 2nd Ave. S., removing a good deal of that traffic from the park and the main street. It goes along with Cheryl’s reported comments, allowing for the edge of the park to benefit from more activity. The orientation allows for the front door of the park to point in the direction of the open space the park provides.

    • Good points. Thanks. Although, I have to wonder if the original orientation couldn’t have been used as a way to bring activity and anchor developments along 3rd Ave South which, unless this has been changed too, was promoted as a future entertainment district of sorts. But I suppose a worthy case can be made that 1st Ave (and, as a result, the park) stands to benefit more from the increased activity.

      • And more good points from you. I hope more answers will be in the January schematics.

      • One other thing to point out – as someone who played baseball (albeit briefly) in college, I don’t know who’s getting the worst of this deal now; the batters who’d be fighting late day glare in the batter’s box if it had stayed the way it was supposed to be originally or the outfielders looking into a late afternoon glare if the new configuration stays as is.

  6. Do you know if there are any plans to update the Five Points Music Hall and Twist/Club Crush buildings? Both of those have so much potential, but are such eyesores!

    • Five Points Music Hall is on track to become a new mid-rise hotel, with only the front facade saved (albeit in the form of an open porte cochere). As to the others–it would be great if Barber companies renovated those buildings and attracted some good tenants. Thanks.

  7. Some comparisons of this conceptual layout with Rickwood Field:

    1. Orientation: Batters at Rickwood face about 51° S of E. This drawing shows a more easterly-facing batter, about 16° S of E.

    2. Outfield dimensions: Rickwood’s current fence is 321′ to left, 393′ to center and 332′ to right with a long of 399′ at left center. This park appears to be a little deeper at center, but shorter at the foul lines, with about 314′ to left, 400′ to center, and 325′ to right with a long of 411′ to left center.

    3. Stands: The layout of stands is similar, with Rickwood having a much deeper foul ball area behind the batter’s box. Like Rickwood, the new park has most of its seating on the third base line and seating behind the right field fence.

    On the surface, it appears that those responsible for the conceptual design referenced Rickwood Field. It will be interesting to see if the visual design of the stands makes any reference to the distinctive covering of the older park.

    Spectators along this 3rd base line and in right field should have an excellent view of the skyline at the financial district, while the whole park will be able to look toward UAB and Red Mountain as well. As André underlined, this plan shows more potential for an entrance plaza accessible from the RR Park instead of an isolated plaza on the midtown side. It encourages commercial development to radiate from the park rather than setting up a long walk along blank walls between two pedestrian areas. I’m very happy with this revised orientation, myself.

  8. These comparisons to Rickwood are helpful, though I don’t think it would be appropriate to try and recreate its architecture. Good to know they might animate that key corner opposite Railroad Park and still have skyline views for most of the seating.

  9. Glad to see they are leaving the B&A. So what will happen to the skate park?

    • A lot of us are sad to see the skate park leave, as it’s a great example of authentic, grassroots, public recreation space which popped up to meet a demand–we are one of the largest metros in the US with no proper skate park. Local skate leaders are hard at work trying to lobby area cities to help them with a new park. The short answer to your question is that in a few months, the current skate park will be gone. Thanks. —–Original Message—–

  10. The ‘skate park’, as described is on private property that has been sold as part of the ballpark site. The activity, in legal terms, is ‘trespassing’.

  11. Thanks for the timely reporting on the ballpark. Hopefully the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue can be an entrance plaza (the entrance to the ballpark across the intersection from the Peabody Hotel comes to mind) and the ground floor can be vibrant commercial spaces including restaurants with outdoor seating.

    Q. Is the site across from the park the best location for the Negro League Hall of Fame? Will it be an active use? How about near either the Alabama Sports HOF or the Civil Rights Institute?

    • Yes, hopefully in January we’ll see schematics showing a grand, corner entrance at that corner–verbally this is what the Committee was told. As to the Negro League Hall of Fame–I agree that just because the ballpark is here, doesn’t mean it’s the best place for a museum. I guess it will depend a lot on how large it is, how active its street edges are, etc. Sounds like its on a slower track than the ballpark itself, though I’m not sure. Thanks.

    • I’d like to see the museum returned to Rickwood, and re-combined with the proposed Southern League museum there. The problem is that there are multiple groups trying to control the museum, and the only personality forceful enough to get them to all work together was promising money that didn’t exist and is now cooling off in federal prison.

  12. Good argument. The Negro League has strong ties to Rickwood and none to the new ballpark. Rickwood is about history, and a combination of museums there would reinforce it as a destination.

  13. Hey, I see your picture with a skateboard here, what about the demolition of the skateboard park there… What are the reconstruction plans for these guys. I’m writing a blog post about this as my son now has lost a place to skate….

  14. Oops… Please add a question mark for me….

    • I’m a huge supporter of urban skate parks. It’s not good that a city our size doesn’t have one. While we’re all saddened that the “pop-up” skate park is disappearing (to make way for a new downtown baseball park), I’m encouraged that A-skate Foundation appears to have won a decent amount of money to fund a new park–they need to secure property for it. As soon as I get more info I will post it. Thanks.

  15. Any idea how B&A escaped unscathed?

    • The City was unwilling to get into a protracted “Eminent Domain” legal situation, despite the importance of that corner property. Hopefully beyond that, B&A was willing to make improvements to its facades/amenities to make the facility more welcoming to the general public and more attractive to the new surroundings.

  16. Pingback: Keep the dream alive | Bhamarchitect's Blog

  17. I thought more details were coming out this month? Well, January is almost over, and the details about the ballpark has not come out yet. When do think it will come out? At the next Design Review Committee meeting? City Hall meeting?

    • I had the same thought. It has not come to Design Review again (in fact, Design Review this morning was relatively modest, with approval/rejection of signage cases, and no new renovations or buildings announced). The Ball Park will not now come back until February at the earliest. In the meantime, partial demolition has started on the site (although nothing really visible yet); the remainder can’t continue until they come back to Design Review, as part of the November deal. Stay tuned–although you are right, there’s a chance drawings could come out first at a City Hall presentation in advance of a DRC meeting.

      • I just read in the Bham News that the final renderings for the stadium will be on the Barons website on the day of groundbreaking (Feb. 2). And I went to RR Park today, and they’re already putting up fences around the site. When is the next DRC meeting?

      • Next DRC meeting is next Wednesday Feb. 8, I believe. I receive an advance notice of the agenda, and will let everyone know if the Ball Park is on it. Thanks.

  18. Part of the City Council meeting on 1/24 included:

    – Set a public hearing February 28, 2012, to consider the adoption of a resolution assenting to the vacation of 147,188 square feet (3.379 acres) of 15th Street South, 2nd Avenue South, Block 130 Alley, Block 131 Alley, Block 127 Alley and part of Block 126 Alley, on behalf of the City of Birmingham, owner so that the City can combine the vacated rights-of-way and seventy-six (76) lots into one (1) lot for the Parkside Ballpark Project, Case No. SUB2011-00051.

    – Set a public hearing February 28, 2012 to consider the adoption of an Ordinance “TO AMEND THE ZONING DISTRICT MAP OF THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM” (Case No. ZAC2011-00020) to change zone district boundaries from M-1 Light Industrial District and B-6 Health and Institutional District to B-4 Central Business District, filed by the City of Birmingham, for property located on Lots 5-20, Block 126, Lots 1-20, Block 127, Lots 1-20, Block 130 and Lots 1-20, Block 131 of Elyton Land Company’s Survey of the City of Birmingham, situated in the SW¼ of Section 36, Township 17 South, Range 3 West, Birmingham.

    • Thank you for posting this. That’s good to see the zoning will be amended to B-4, which not only allows mixed-uses in a broad sense, but also is I believe the only zoning to not have minimum requirements for parking. Those requirements, based on 1950’s precedents, have given little room for more modern thinking about shared parking facilities, remote parking to encourage walkable districts, etc.

  19. I live in North Crestwood and would rather poke myself in the eye than drive all the way out to Regions park in Hoover for a Birmingham Barron’s game. I can’t WAIT to head to our cool new downtown Birmingham ball park to catch many games! Birmingham city limits for life! So glad they are relocating!

    • I think naysayers will be surprised at the surge of support this ball park will have. Like you, I’d never really consider going out to Regions Park. But this new one will turn me into a baseball fan with season tickets!

  20. Here’s an updated artist’s rendition of what Regions Field will look like:

  21. I hear Mayor Bell and Don Logan talk about an entertainment district around the new Regions Field. But where would it be placed at? Would it be to the west of University House? Would it be east or south of the stadium? With UAB’s master plan showing expansion of the campus going north and the Children’s Hospital expansion, I don’t see where it would go. Do you know anything about this planned district or when it will come before the DRC?

    • I’m hoping this district is more organic–planned, for sure, but using a lot of existing infrastructure and incentives to private developers. I don’t think what we want is a “built-from-scratch” entertainment district similar to what’s underway at the BJCC right now. Some of this may become more clear when a presentation is made to the DRC, but the Ball Park does not seem to be on this week’s agenda.

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