Hope rising from devastation
The April 27 tornado ravaged the Birmingham neighborhood of Pratt City (pictured above) and emptied out this historic, working-class community that was originally tied to mining and steel production in the area. Today and over the weekend, a national team of design, economic development, and planning consultants joins up with residents, local professionals, and Auburn architecture students, in an intensive “charrette” process to formulate initial recommendations for the rebuilding of the neighborhood. The American Institute of Architects Communities by Design program is sponsoring the event. I will be participating and hope to share some results next week.
Holistic planning in downtown Montgomery yields dividends
Another exciting event on the urban planning front, this time in Montogmery: their local Hampstead Institute is sponsoring the Congress for the New Urbanism’s annual Council meeting next week. Montgomery has aggressively implemented “new urbanist” principles recommended in their recent downtown master plan with some encouraging results (Alley Station is pictured above).
Having national and international designers in Birmingham and Montgomery engaged with local citizens and professionals bodes well for our future. We need to be more accepting of fresh, outside ideas which, when meshed with local expertise, can provide the best collaborative solutions we need to move our cities forward.
[thanks to alabamaema for the Pratt City pic; euby1 for the Alley Station pic]
The Birmingham News ran a story yesterday which pinpoints the proposed location of the new Barons Ballpark (see News graphic above). The facility itself would be entered from 14th Street or a 15th Street Plaza, with stands arranged on the SW corner of the site facing the downtown skyline. The outfield faces Railroad Park from across First Avenue South. Ancillary structures (assumedly patron and team amenities/facilities) and a Negro League Museum flank the ballpark along First Avenue; “future developments”, i.e. related private investments, are shown on property to the south.
It is rare to see a ballpark facing another public park like this. The reason is that typically a City will use a park like Railroad Park to encourage private investments in the immediate area; that same City will use a baseball park in a similar way. By putting the outfield right up against First Avenue, the City in effect gives up the ability to market each public frontage to private development.
From serving loading docks to serving urban consumers
Knowing how hard it’s been to assemble property (and two owners are still holding out at either corner of First Avenue), this siting may not have had much flexibility. If indeed the ballpark ends up as shown in the graphic, it’s essential that the design handles the outfield edge creatively, so that it animates that frontage even when the ballpark is dark and empty. Additionally, it would be wonderful if some of the old warehouses and alleyways in the adjacent “Parkside” district could be retained and rejuvenated (the Alley off Tallapoosa Street in downtown Montgomery, pictured above, is a direct result of private investment around their riverfront ballpark). A combination of historic restoration and new construction would be a great mix for the new district (which we also hope will have sharp, creative district branding–see our previous post on this).
It worked in Memphis
The downtown ballpark built in Memphis 8 years ago (above) has rejuvenated an 8-block area; once desolate and boarded up, it now sports restaurants, bars, and apartments. As this project develops in Birmingham, we’ll continue to advocate for the best possible architectural and urban design. Because we want this project not just to compete with Montgomery or Memphis. We want it to be better. And to exude that quirky, undefinable quality that is the Magic City.
[thanks to the News for the graphic; larry miller for the Alley pic; dragonmistral for the Autozone pic]