Tag Archives: Concord Center

Deactivating storefronts

Retail clothing becomes retail banking

This morning at Design Review Committee, approval was given for new awnings and signage at the historic Massey Building (corner Third Avenue North and Richard Arrington Blvd., ab0ve) for a new bank branch for Iberia Bank. While filling a vacant corner storefront is generally good, a bank branch is a lesser replacement for Remon’s, the longtime upscale men’s clothier. After decades downtown, Remon’s expanded to the suburban Summit shopping center a couple years ago and then quietly closed the downtown location shortly thereafter. The bank is lesser because the clothing store had regularly changing, high quality shop window displays. Lesser because good retail is few and far between downtown, while bank branches are ubiquitous. Lesser because, despite the decent new awnings and signage, this intersection loses a local business that made it feel special.

The gates are now closed

A similar situation has occurred across 3rd Avenue at the historic Title Building (above): a longtime coffee shop closed, and was replaced by a short-lived O’Carr’s restaurant franchise. When the restaurant closed, the place was converted into ordinary office space, signage was removed, blinds were drawn, and another hub of activity was eliminated from the intersection.

…and another bank branch

Speaking of ubiquitous, on the SE corner of the intersection we already have another bank:  First Commercial Bank‘s branch (above). The remaining corner is taken up by a large entrance lobby for the Concord Center which–while housing some of the best “lobby art” visible from a downtown street–is still an office building lobby. With the architectural prominence of the buildings on this intersection, and their massing which helps define the north-south corridor of Richard Arrington, it’s sad there are now no ground floor uses which engage the public in a more meaningful way. We have recently discussed how Mobile has a program to encourage retailers to come downtown; the state of this intersection illustrates how much our city needs one too.

Perhaps a new lease on life, yet again

Finally, now that the old “Ready in 2012” signage has come down from the much-anticipated, much-delayed Pizitz Building development, a smaller “Now Leasing” sign has appeared (above). We suspect this heralds a serious new effort by the developer to make this project happen, albeit perhaps in a different form than previously announced. Definitely stay tuned.

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]