The Thomas Jefferson Hotel (pictured above, corner of 17th Street North and 2nd Avenue) has yet another chance for salvation due to the formation of a non-profit dedicated to stabilizing and restoring the 1929 structure to its former glory.Thomas Jefferson Tower, Inc. plans to acquire the building, stabilize it–and then work hard to put a viable restoration plan together.
This hotel opened within months of the Great Depression, and is a symbol of the last days of heady 1920’s optimism that had engulfed Birmingham real estate. It’s height and adornment testify to the belief that the City’s growth would extend inexorably westward; the Depression put a stop to such growth, and the hotel suffered somewhat from its relative isolation (in comparison to the Tutwiler Hotel, for instance).
The mix of larger main levels (with retail, restaurant, and ballrooms) and smaller upper floor plates means a mixed-use development with hotel, meeting, living, and retail/restaurant spaces could work well. The location is much more desirable than even a few years ago: the Phoenix Building lofts is across the street, Innovation Depot a block away, Railroad Park a few blocks south, and planning for bike lanes/revitalized Civil Rights district/bike-pedestrian bridge all within a few minutes’ walk. This building is also very prominent on the near skyline from the new Baron’s baseball park under construction. Yes, it will be a lot of work (George Wallace Suite, above)—but a lot of other cities would kill to have such a fine piece of architecture to restore. They don’t build them like this anymore.