Progress, with caveats

Very, very conceptual still

At this morning’s Design Review Committee, perhaps the biggest news was what didn’t happen–a representative of the new Regions Field project appeared, but did not present any elevations or other design details of the new structure. Instead, he requested the Committee approve the remainder of demolition work necessary to prepare the four-square block area directly south of Railroad Park. After hearing that the two renderings shown at last week’s groundbreaking (above, and the other shown in previous post) were simply conceptual suggestions, done merely for the sake of the ceremony, the Committee approved the remainder of the demolition required. At the same time, the Committee asked developers to return as soon as possible with schematic design of the project. That could happen within a few weeks–stay tuned.

Better, but...

Also approved was a revised design for the proposed Family Dollar store in West End at the corner of Tuscaloosa Avenue, SW and 13th Street (site plan above). Since we last discussed this in January, the developer has moved the building to the corner, and pushed the parking to the rear of the site. Good. However, it is disappointing to see two massive curb cuts occuring at either street, when ironically a service alley exists already behind the store. It was equally disappointing to see the entrance will be on the side, accessed from the parking lot–and not on the street frontage.  This helps contribute to a dead elevation along Tuscaloosa which is almost completely mute in its blankness:

Not exactly an engaging composition

It’s wonderful that this neighborhood, so bereft of retail options, is getting a major investment. It’s a shame the design couldn’t have been pushed further to incorporate a few more basic urban design principles.

And Lakeview gets another option

Finally, FIVE restaurant was granted approval for facade and signage improvements at the historic building on 29th Street between 7th Avenue South and University Blvd in the Lakeview district. The former Golden Rule Bar-B-Q is getting a new row of French doors (under construction, above), among other improvements. Yet another sign of this neighborhood continuing to draw investment and energy–we wish them well and can’t wait to see the menu.

[Thanks to HKS and City of Birmingham for the Regions Field rendering; Boos Development Group for the Family Dollar drawings; and the FIVE team for the pic]

19 responses to “Progress, with caveats

  1. Good report. Modest ‘footprint’ victory on Family Dollar but without the open corner of Clairmont Walgreen’s design. Great to see that facade of French doors at the entrance to Lakeview. The previous storefront was dark and off-putting, if I remember right.

    • We have too few restaurants in this city with multiple openings like that, which can be so pleasant in nice weather–realizing there tends to be a very narrow window for that here until air conditioning starts up…Thanks.

  2. Do you know when the “wrecking ball” is going to raze the four block area? I see they have already fenced up the site, but there has not been any structures being taken down yet. I just don’t see how the city is going to build the stadium in 14 months or less. I hope it is ready by next April. Not only do I want to see the Barons play there but also my beloved Blazers. #FreeUAB

    • Given the true “fast-track” nature of the process–where earlier phases are underway before later phases are completely designed–the development team has been reluctant to hand out dates publicly, since there are so many moving parts in such compressed time periods. Demolition has indeed begun–just with some initial infrastructure elements around the building (under the streets), complicated utility cut-offs and coordination, other items not so visible to the naked eye. I get the sense that every effort will be made to get the Barons open on time; while time is very short, it is possible. Expect to see crews working evenings and weekends.

      • Indeed. I was pleased to know that Autozone Park in Memphis, which has almost twice the amount of seating capacity this stadium will have, opened in about 11 months. It can be done.

      • Great point–encouraging. Any guess as to why the Memphis park would have such a large capacity, given the fact their metro is roughly our size?

      • The Redbirds are AAA, which is probably a factor, in that there are, I think, stadium size requirements for different levels of MiLB. Much like Div I-A requires a football stadium of a certain size.

      • Interesting. Thank you for sharing that; I’d assumed all “minor league” teams had the same requirements. Shows you how much I know about baseball.

  3. Has there been any discussion on possible year-round rental space along the outside of the stadium? I am beyond excited about the Barons coming home, but it seems a shame to dedicate such a large swath of parkfront property to a building only occupied for half the year. If restaurant or storefront space were offered along 1st Ave S, it seems it would help maintain urban bustle throughout the year while integrating the stadium a little more firmly into the flow of the urban landscape.

    • This has been my concern from the moment they announced the ball park would be right up to the edge of park frontage, and is one of the main reasons I’m anxious to see a detailed plan illustrating whether there is indeed year-round retail/food service space at the edge. Your logic is spot on; fingers crossed the developers share our concern. Thank you.

  4. I can understand some of the decisions Family Dollar made. Putting the entrance away from the parking lot provides less visibility for customers and invites more crime. And extra windows along the front means more opportunities for breakins, or else more metal bars that are hardly pleasing to the eye. Design has to take into account the realities of a dangerous neighborhood.

  5. I see they have already razed an entire block already. When do you think the actual foundational work will begin on the stadium? And will B&A Warehouse change its exterior? Their building looks like a random grey blob in a sea of red brick buildings. I hope B&A will change its exterior so it can fit in with the stadium and the surrounding area.

    • There has been no review of the actual building design, and therefore no permit issued for foundation work. If I had to guess, probably not until May given all the demo, site prep, utility work, etc. that needs to be done first. I’ve argued on this blog that B&A needs to renovate their faade to make it compatible with the park and other new developments, preferably with a daily public-use component like a caf with outdoor seating. Thanks.

  6. Do you think the Barons or the city will install a live webcam so fans and other citizens can keep track of the stadium’s progress? I know that the Barclays Center (Brooklyn) and Marlins Ballpark (Miami) have such webcams. Could you find out if this is in the works?

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