Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes to discuss plans to make alterations to structures that fall within one of the city’s many historic and commercial revitalization districts. This column summarizes recent DRC activity, with projects grouped by type and location. This edition of Design Review recaps the DRC meeting from March 12, 2014.
After deciding to carry over the minutes to approve the next meeting, Chair Sam Frazier explained that the staff and the committee members have been informed by the city’s legal department to refrain from commenting on the issues surrounding Harbert Realty and the recently installed Pepsi sign atop the Two North Twentieth building. Frazier also disclosed that his former law firm is involved in the case as well. Following the regular meeting, the committee adjourned to Executive Session.
CORRECTION: The city’s legal department instructed the staff not to speak on the subject of the Harbert Realty/Pepsi sign issue, not the committee as was previously reported. The city’s legal department does not have that level of oversight on this committee.
Chairman Frazier’s former law firm represents Harbert in the Pepsi matter. Accordingly, he will not address the merits of this particular sign. In his position as Chairman, it is Frazier’s duty to address matters regarding the Committee’s jurisdiction.
Pittsburgh Paints (2805 3rd Avenue South) returned to the committee to present their updated plans incorporating the changes requested at the previous meeting. The rear addition will be replaced, the paint scheme will match the existing building, and the overall look of the building will be more visually appealing to the neighborhood.
A new Hardee’s will be built at the corner of Parkway East and Red Lane Road (9400 Parkway East). The property is a former service station and the gas tanks have already been removed. The remaining structure will be demolished and a new building erected in its place. The committee expressed concerns about landscaping and traffic flow. The project has received preliminary approval from ALDOT and the city’s traffic department. The current streetscape will remain.
Status: Approved, with final staff review of the menu board.
Retail & Theatre District
Architectural firm KPS Group originally presented Bayer Properties’ plans for the Pizitz Building (1821 2nd Avenue North) in 2010. Those concepts included converting the building to office space and adding retail space along the ground floor. Not long after the committee approved those plans, the project was put on hold. Bayer has reconsidered the project and now will convert the building to apartments while retaining the retail component. In addition, the three-story building between it and the New Ideal building will be demolished and a temporary grassy courtyard will be installed. The landscaping along 19th Street North will be replaced to provide continuity with the McWane Science Center block.
Status: Approved, with one recusal and one opposed.
The next phase of the Lyric Theatre (1817 3rd Avenue North) project was presented to the committee. Storefronts are scheduled to be replaced along Third Avenue and the historic egress doors along 18th Street will be restored. A new fire escape will be installed in the alley and the old mechanical system removed.
The former Bayou Deli – and McDonald’s and a host of other short-lived restaurants – will get a new tenant and facelift. A presentation was made for exterior painting for the new Jimmy John’s (323 20th Street North). The franchise owner proposed painting the existing band on the façade black, with red accent stripes above and below, and the remainder of the exterior a smoke gray. He also plans to replace the current window coverings with new awnings.
Status: Carried over for architectural drawings and elevations that demonstrate the new colors.
Disability Rights & Resources (1418 6th Avenue North) is presenting The Power of Hope & Freedom exhibition through May 9. For this event, they requested temporary signage to be installed on their building until May 9.
The signage package for Al.com/The Birmingham News (1731 First Avenue North) was carried over from the last meeting. The feedback and recommendations of the committee – including signage moves, a blade sign, window signage, and building address numbers – were incorporated into the new presentation. In addition, the committee requested the signage line up with the natural lines of the building.
The 29 Seven building in Lakeview (2808 7th Avenue South) is getting a new ground floor restaurant tenant. Babalu will open its third location in Birmingham (the other two are in Jackson, Miss., and Memphis). The taco and tapas restaurant presented exterior plans to the committee. Part of the storefront will be removed and replaced with a roll-up door and knee wall. The signage will include acrylic orange internally lit letters and flat awnings with neon accents. The committee expressed concerns about the neon and whether the building owner was agreeable to amending the master signage plan. The owner was present and agreed to the amendment.
The signage package for Cantina Laredo (2301 Richard Arrington, Jr. Blvd.) was presented to the committee. The individual letters will be internally lit and accompanied by the restaurant’s logo sunbursts. The sign cabinets will blend with the brick for a seamless look. All signage is in compliance with the existing master signage plan for the development.