Yesterday local media reported that the City-owned block directly east of Railroad Park (above) is poised to be sold to Alabama Power Company for almost $3 million. Currently surface parking, the lot was the subject of a well-publicized “ideas contest” in 2011, which resulted in a winner being awarded $50,000 by the Community Foundation. Many were excited by the high-profile nature of the contest, the professionalism of the process, and the engagement of the community–through crowdsourcing— to help determine the future of our built environment downtown. It was much more difficult to find anyone excited about the actual winning entry, which struck many as a confusing grab bag of odd components.
Perhaps even more perplexing was how the contest, and the winning entry, disappeared from public view almost instantly: after all the publicity and community engagement, the radio silence was quite a contrast. Very little has surfaced about the project since the Foundation announced this past March that they’d seek proposals to develop the site using the themes outlined in the winning entry. Now, Alabama Power steps in to purchase the property which lies across Powell Avenue from the historic steam plant the company already owns (and is on the verge of decommissioning).
The Foundation expressed its support for this latest development in a brief statement on their website. Since there are no details about the nature of the development, we can’t really comment except to hope that if this purchase does go through, that Alabama Power is able to put together something really exciting and community-oriented for both this lot and a renovated steam plant. The curious fate of this property now moves into an interesting next phase (the City Council should vote on the sale today). Stay tuned. And just for fun, below is part of our own entry into the contest.
[thanks to the Birmingham News for the aerial pic]
UPDATE: City Council approved the sale today, and the Community Foundation said they endorsed the sale due to pledges from APCO that the ideas generated by the contest would be incorporated into future plans.
This might be a great opportunity for the Community Foundation to consider an alternate project. My suggestion would be the redevelopment of the Lyric Theatre. The Lyric is a jewel that is much needed for the revilaliztion of downtown Birmingham and the Theater district.
I think your statement that the winning concept “struck many as a confusing grab bag of odd components,” is well-said. I wish that it could be attributed to actual people. Would you and your readers be willing to join me on the record as sharing that opinion?
Ha! Yes, consider me to be on the record with that opinion. Thanks.
Me too. I love the concept of Prize2theFuture, but I saw plenty of ideas in the library of entries that were far more compelling, useful, and workable than the winning plan–and at least half of the 10 finalists.
If I remember correctly, all I saw of the winning project was an exterior plot plan? Did I miss something?
My condolences that you didn’t win/place – your rendering is stunning. Downtown Birmingham could use some outdoor bling.
Jeremy, we actually talked about this at lunch today and my colleague expressed how Alabama Power purchasing the property will definitely help push the development along and change the dynamic of what the space can become. It was a very interesting lunch about what the space can now become.
David Sher, Abraham and I actually toured the lyric last week. It was our first time bring there and it was fantastic. Tom Cosby seems to be making a real push to get it back to operational order. We also toured the connecting office building and I can tell you that if they have a small space for a Landscape Architect then I would love to have my office there. I could catch a show right after work!
Absolutely, Ala. Power would have the ability to push things along, and make something significant happen. We just await details of what’s planned, and hope that plan both captures the best of what the contest generated, as well as new synergies with the surroundings.
Glad you got to see the Lyric–what an amazing asset, and we are all glad Cosby is on board to help the effort. Cheers.