Game of checkers

Will the net effect be…

This morning the Birmingham Business Journal reported that Cadence Bank will move its headquarters from the historic John Hand Building (corner of First Avenue North and 20th Street downtown) a few blocks north to the Concord Center (Third Avenue North and Richard Arrington Blvd, above). The bank plans to lease about 55,000 SF of space which is being vacated by the law firm Adams and Reese–which in turn is renting space in the Regions Harbert Plaza another few blocks north. No word yet on what happens to the empty space in the John Hand; one can only assume the actual retail bank facility will stay on the ground floor there, although this was unconfirmed.

…greater than zero?

Part of the story here is what happens in any soft real estate market–landlords are offering great deals, and businesses are taking advantage by swapping spaces. But the rest of the story is all-too-familiar downtown: existing local businesses exchanging each other’s spaces, without enough new businesses moving into the mix. It sometimes feels like a static checker board with a fixed set of pieces to play with. We need more than that for a growing, truly vibrant city center (John Hand Building, above).


The Pizitz Building redevelopment (rendering, above) was recently poised to go forward with a lead commercial tenant, the Baker Donelson law firm. The deal became stalled, and then unravelled for complex reasons; but the point is that if Baker had moved, they would have left a large gap at the Wells Fargo Tower a few blocks away–with no obvious replacement. Most other proposed Pizitz tenants were also already in the city center.

This is not to say moving, and “swapping places” within a neighborhood is bad. It will always happen. We’ve just got to do a better job of growing the field–so that one building’s gain isn’t another building’s loss.

[thanks to Bayer Properties for the rendering]



8 responses to “Game of checkers

  1. Speaking of Pizitz, I keep hearing that it’s progressing… just without the fanfare (false-start jitters?).

    • Always a tough call for developers to announce projects with fanfare once you’re 95% confident, vs. holding back. I believe that Pizitz is indeed progressing—but you are right, this time without the fanfare until they feel they really nail it down. I hope so at least!

  2. I’ve always figured this was a big reason the city/suburbs competition is so contentious in Birmingham. Very few outside businesses are locating in the metro, so the city center’s best hope for office growth is to entice businesses in the suburbs (and vice versa). Same goes for residents, to a lesser extent.

    • Exactly. It makes for sour relationships between metro municipalities; we’re all “fighting” for pieces of the same, local pie–rather than collectively enticing new businesses/residents that would benefit us all. Thanks.

  3. birmingham, the STILL city

  4. Pingback: Viva downtown | Bhamarchitect's Blog

  5. It’s so easy to only move in a drivethrough on the way home and obtain “dinner” on your family.

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