Today’s guest columnist is Gordon G. Martin.
I love Birmingham!
But I feel we sometimes focus on our failures and forget to celebrate our victories.
How many of you have had an opportunity to visit Charlotte, North Carolina?
Charlotte’s downtown will impress you with its shiny new buildings.
But where are the historically rich buildings they replaced?
They appear to be mostly gone.
We in Birmingham have done a much better job of saving our robust inventory of historical buildings and venues and that should make us proud.
We saved our Alabama and Lyric Theatres—unreplaceable gems. They both came within inches of falling to the wrecker’s ball.
Instead these two theatres are adding to the momentum of our downtown’s revival.
How about Sloss Furnaces?
Not only has Sloss been preserved, but now the water tower, boilers and smokestacks are being lit, transforming them into permanent nighttime features for our city.
Most cities had the misfortune of tearing down their old baseball parks. Not us—we had the vision to save our historic ballfield.
Our Rickwood Field is recognized as “The oldest professional baseball park in the United States.”
Most of our historically rich buildings downtown are still standing–including the Woodward Building (1902), Brown Marx Building (1906), Empire Building (1909), and American Trust and Savings Bank Building (1912) that were once celebrated world-wide as the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.”
And let’s not forget Vulcan and Vulcan Park.
Our next big save
The Powell Avenue Steam Plant, a former coal-burning steam plant is one of our oldest buildings downtown.
“It was constructed in 1895 by the Consolidated Electric Light & Power Company which was folded into the Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Company in 1898. The plant provided steam and electrical power to businesses and downtown streetcars.”
In recent years, the Parkside District has been completely transformed, beginning with the development of Railroad Park and the Regions Field Ballpark. Urban Supply, the area just west of Railroad Park, is being designed as a connector to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The once industrial area is now a bustling neighborhood with more than 2,000 condos, 500 student-housing beds, and 200 hotel rooms. And it’s only going to get better.
The Steam Plant is a huge property.
The two-story building occupies an entire city block between 18th and 19th streets.
It would have been easy to disregard the history of this building, but we understand the historical significance of this real estate. We aren’t going to make the same mistake that was made with our one-of-a-kind Terminal Train Station.
The newly transformed Powell Steam Plant will become a nationally renowned entertainment hub – a core of retail, restaurants and events that will welcome locals and visitors alike to the city’s center.
With Alamo Drafthouse Cinema anchoring the project, we expect a multitude of exciting tenants to follow.
Orchestra Partners is working on creating detailed designs for Alamo and continuing to lease. On the first floor, we’re planning a variety of great restaurants and retail spaces with leasing for office spaces on the mezzanine level.
By connecting Urban Supply to the Powell Steam Plant, and thus connecting both to Rotary Trail and beyond, we’re building a place where people will want to live, shop, eat and play.
In December, Conde Nast Traveler highlighted Urban Supply and recognized Birmingham as one of the 22 best places to go in 2022.
Keep watching those lists because the Powell Steam Plant will soon be garnering similar accolades.
Gordon G. Martin, senior vice president of Alabama Power, is a native Birminghamian who has been actively engaged in the community, including as chairman of the board of Leadership Alabama, the A+ Education Partnership, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the American Village, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and the Blackburn Institute at the University of Alabama.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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