Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes at the Auburn Urban Studio 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 February 22, 2017.
The exterior renovation for the former Alagasco/future Fairfield Inn and Suites Building (1928 First Ave. N.) will include removing the exterior glass curtain wall and adding an EIFS (e-fuss) façade. The windows will be reconfigured on the former Toby’s building to align with the Fairfield windows. Many concerns were brought up when the sample of the EIFS was presented to the committee. EIFS is a mass-manufactured, cost-effective option in lieu of using a traditional stucco finish. The sample showed the EIFS being made into panels that resemble brick and mortar. Comments included that the EIFS had no textural appeal and would look like brick wallpaper, that a solid EIFS would be a better option than the fake brick look, and that a faux façade was not an option. After discussion and the presenter’s assurance that the EIFS brick panel could indeed be made to look like real brick with definitive mortar recesses, the committee requested an exact replica sample of what the panels would look like.
Representatives from Top Golf (11th and 12th Avenues and 24th and 26th Streets North) returned to the committee to present a change to the planned retailing wall. Once construction began it was determined that the wall needed to be taller due to site conditions and the slope between 11th and 12th Avenues. The retaining wall will be built along 26th Street and 11th Avenue. The concrete will have a decorative, rubbed finish. A fence will be installed on the top of the wall as a barrier for cars parking above street level. Street trees, evergreen hedges, and ivy and vines will be planted to help cover the wall.
Status: Approved, two recusals
A demolition is planned for a building (1312 First Ave. N.) currently in extreme disrepair. It has been condemned, the floor and roof have rotted away, and it is a danger to the public. The city plans to demolish the building to its slab foundation. The slab stretches from the sidewalk to the alley. The new owner, who owns an adjacent building, will build a new office building within two years.
Status: Approved, with the caveat that a construction plan will return to committee within two years.
The former site of the Rare Martini (2839 Seventh Ave. S.) is being renovated for Heat Pizza Bar. The restaurant presented plans for a black vinyl awning system to cover a patio seating area as well as the entrance. Concerns were expressed about the system covering the majority of the transom and obscuring too much of the historic character of the building. Alterations and options to the plan were discussed throughout the meeting and a compromise was reached. An audience member reminded the committee that this structure, the McCauley’s Building, is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The representatives were also told there needs to be a Master Signage Plan in place before any signage could be installed.
Status: Approved, as amended and without signage.
19th Street North
The Peerless Saloon (1900 Second Ave. N.) was demolished and replaced with a modern brick office building, previously unoccupied for many years. Fleetio will move into the building as the anchor tenant and the request is that a sign be installed above the storefront. Concerns were expressed about the placement of the signage with the architectural features.
The old Mary Ball Candy Store (2013 Fifth Ave. N.) is getting a new tenant. Representatives of Miami Fusion Café presented their signage plans for the new restaurant. They plan to retain the existing sign, reface it with the restaurant’s logo and replace the light bulbs. In addition, they will be sprucing up the exterior. A discussion ensued about the message board on the sign and, since it is an existing nonconforming sign, the message board could remain. However, if the sign ever needs to be removed, the replacement will lose the nonconforming status and a message board will not be allowed.
The Master Signage Plan for The Empire Hotel and Fairfield Inn (1928 First Ave. N.) was presented to the committee. The letters for Fairfield Inn and Suites will be mounted on the existing canopy and will appear white when lit. The blade sign will be polished aluminum and will align with the building details, and a 45-degree corner sign will center on the top of the transom of the Empire Hotel building. Vinyl letters on the Empire’s glass doors will recreate the historic painted gold leaf look. The Yard, the restaurant in the Annex Building, will feature an aluminum plate mounted flush to the building.
Plans for a mural installation on the 55th Place façade of City Meats and Vegetables (5535 First Ave. N.) were presented to the committee. The building has featured painted brick for many years and this new project is designed to not only complement the business, but engage Woodlawn High School students in the community.
Exterior modifications and an addition were presented for a residence (901 Essex Rd.). The neighborhood association approved the plans without amendments. The addition will front the Ninth Avenue South side of the property. All materials will match the home’s existing architecture. Casement windows will be installed, brick re-exposed, and ironwork returned to black. A metal canopy with wood brackets will be installed over the side entrance.
An addition to an existing sunroom (801 Conroy Rd.) was approved by the neighborhood association as presented. The addition above the sunroom will house a master bath and closet. The exterior of the addition will match the rest of the house, which is similar to three other previously completed projects on the street.
The neighborhood approved a residential (521 Ridge Rd.) deck and screened-in porch addition, sending it to the committee for final approval. The new structure will be to the rear of the house. The pressure treated wood will be left to age naturally. Charcoal screens and a roof that matches the home’s existing roof will also be installed.