Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes to consider 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 first DRC meeting of the year January 8, 2014.
The first meeting of 2014 for the Design Review Committee included a variety of projects, including the demolition of one of the city’s older buildings near Railroad Park.
Alagasco has sold its 10th Avenue South property to UAB. The departments housed at that location will be divided among two new sites, one downtown and one in the suburbs. The company’s property near Railroad Park (14 14th Street North) will serve as a site for an administration building, garage and offsite parking for employees working at the Midtown location. On the site stands an historic building that once served as a train station. Architects representing Alagasco and the project circulated a list of issues they believed keep them from reusing the building, including service vehicles requiring access at grade rather than an elevated platform, and that a two-story building is not considered conducive to the Alagasco workplace environment.
The new buildings will have minimal public access, and the property will be enclosed with a brick and wrought iron fence. The committee expressed concerns that the new buildings will not fit within the immediate area’s two-story scale and requested the new structures’ designs be updated to reflect this. The firm was also instructed to check with the city on current proposals for pedestrian and bike lanes in the area. The project concept and demolition were approved with the requirement that the building be documented and photographed for historic purposes.
Status: Approved with one opposed.
Five Points South
Rakeesh Patel returned to the committee to present the final exterior plans for the new Homewood Suites hotel on Birmingham’s Southside (1016 20th Street South). The site, located at the former Five Points Music Hall or the Piggly Wiggly (depending on your generation), will be gutted and most everything removed except for the façade. Patel and his Atlanta-based architects have worked with the committee since 2012 and have finally settled on the exterior scheme. The main tower and entrance to the hotel will be set back from the street. The structure will be clad in EIFS (pronounced e-fuss), which provides an extra layer of insulation while serving as a less expensive substitute for traditional stucco.
The updated designs reflect the area’s Art Deco architectural style. The historic façade will remain as an element to separate the hotel entrance and public pedestrian areas. A driveway section will be cut into the existing sidewalk to allow automobile access for loading and unloading guests. Patel will need to bring the signage and decorative element plans to the committee at a later date. Committee approval is contingent upon submission of documentation specifying materials, as well as elevation drawings.
An automated ice machine business is setting up a station in a parking lot off of Oporto Madrid Boulevard (18 Oporto Madrid). The presentation at the Dec. 2013 meeting was lacking a few key elements, and the committee requested the item be carried over to the Jan. 8 meeting. This structure provides ice and water for purchase and will be located in the lot next to the old East Lake Masonic Lodge. The changes from the previous design include additional landscaping, cleaning debris from the property, and a change in the color scheme. The new colors now include a natural colored brick and forest green awning. The bollards protecting the structure from errant automobiles will also be painted to match the awning.
Five Points West
The same company will be installing another automated ice machine structure in the parking lot that currently serves the Cash Advance business on Warrior Road (2142 Warrior Road). The site has existing landscaping and lighting. After discussion regarding the building’s orientation and implementing the same color scheme as the East Lake location, the committee also requested the temporary signage advertising the Cash Advance business be removed.
The aluminum-clad building that was formerly the home to Clutch & Brake Specialty Company (3012 6th Avenue South) is currently undergoing renovation. The construction began before the new owners realized the project needed to be presented to the DRC. The items already completed include new windows and doors, the removal of garage doors and the infrastructure construction for the two entrances. The building will house companies specializing in plumbing and upholstery. Exterior details include a tan façade, galvanized steel awning, aluminum windows and brick salvaged from the buildings demolished during the construction of the nearby ballpark. The signage package including site plan, landscaping and parking, will return to the committee at a later date.
The DRC approved the façade renovation of Edwards Chevrolet (1400 3rd Avenue North) in September 2013 with the understanding the signage component would return to the committee at a later date. The look of the dealership is changing based on the corporate Chevrolet branding campaign, and the company presented the new signage package. The dealership and the sign company also developed a plan that would retain both the historic script and the pole signs. The pole sign will remain on the corner and the script letters will be installed along the west façade facing traffic traveling on Third Avenue North. The approval includes retention of the old signage.
Signage for the new Taco Bell (2128 7th Avenue South) was carried over from the December meeting. The new sign company presented the standard Taco Bell signage package. However, he was unaware of the modifications requested by the committee at the previous meeting. Representatives from Tacala LLC, the franchise owners, were not present at this meeting. Committee members briefly expressed the need to differentiate this urban location from other suburban iterations. Tacala and the sign company need to address the December comments and return with a new design.
One of Wells Fargo’s corporate missions is to honor the history of the communities they serve, often highlighting historic events in mural form both inside and on the exterior of local branch offices. In light of Civil Rights Movement-oriented events over the next few years, the company has selected three cities to commemorate the Movement: Birmingham, Montgomery and Memphis. In conjunction with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, company designers developed a mural to be installed on the exterior of its Midtown branch (316 18th Street South). The artwork will be baked into an anti-graffiti laminate product and framed with an anodized black trim. The proposal included an LED lighting system that was later debated by the committee. Approval is contingent upon an updated lighting proposal, section drawings and an elevation to be voted on via email.