Singing River Trail to Connect Three North Alabama Counties

Opportunities to enjoy the Alabama outdoors just keep getting better and better. Plans are under way to connect three north Alabama counties with the Singing River Trail, a 70-mile trail linking Huntsville, Madison, Decatur and Athens.

A master plan has been drafted which will determine the trail routing, and the trail could eventually wind through all of north Alabama. Public input is encouraged to identify locations to connect to the trail and visit www.singingrivertrail.com to take a survey. Once the master plan is complete, the design and construction will take place over several years.

A meeting was recently held to look at “low hanging fruit” – segments of the route that can be implemented easily and quickly without too much funding or engineering, says Shannon Keith, planning associate with the Durham, N.C.-based Alta Planning & Design. One example of this would be through the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge where there are current trails and roads that would just need an improved surface and signage, continues Keith, who adds that the municipalities along the trail are already helping fund the master plan.

With so much enthusiasm for the trail, it is hoped that the municipalities will remain committed to assisting with funding along the way, Keith points out, and fundraising will also continue through corporate and private donations.

“I think one way the municipalities can continue to support this is to keep the Singing River Trail in mind with their current road surfacing plans in order to facilitate bike lanes. If they can keep the routing in mind as the planners and engineers update their road, sidewalk and greenway plans, we can incorporate the SRT where it makes sense to do so.”

Alta has proposed a bike and pedestrian bridge that would connect the Space and Rocket Center segment with the Redstone Gateway.
“Designing a bridge for that span over Rideout Road could potentially be something a designer could have some fun with. Since this trail runs through rural and urban areas and could change surfaces based off location and use, there is quite a few places where someone could get creative,” observes Keith.

“Greenways are full of stops along the way to include splash pads, farmers markets, eateries, coffee shops, parks, outdoor art displays, historical interpretation locations and anything else that would add to the experience of living and learning in the outdoors would need to be taken into consideration as developers plan and design spaces along the trail route.”

This Native American heritage trail was given the name used by a Yuchi Indian tribe who lived along the Tennessee River and called it the “Singing River” because they believed a woman lived in the river and sang to them.

 

Image 1: Biker riders and hikers will enjoy the greenways along the 70-mile trail that cuts through three counties and four municipalities in north Alabama.

Image 2: A master plan has been drafted which will determine the trail routing of Singing River Trail, which could eventually wind through all of north Alabama. Once the master plan is complete, the design and construction of the trail will take place over several-year period.

Image 3: Input is encouraged in order to identify locations that the public would like connected to the trail. Citizens are also urged to visit www.singingrivertrail.com to take a survey.

Image 4: This Native American heritage trail was given the name used by a Yuchi Indian tribe who lived along the Tennessee River, which they called “Singing River” because they believed a woman lived in the river and sang to them.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Alta Planning  & Design

 

Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center to Locate in Historic Birmingham Building

For the past 20 years, Sidewalk Film Festival has brought new independent movies to downtown Birmingham and MovieMaker magazine named it one of the nation’s coolest film festivals. Now the nonprofit Sidewalk is getting a permanent home in Birmingham’s historic theater district.

The new 11,400-square-foot center will be in the basement of the 1920s Pizitz building and includes two 100-seat theaters, lounges, a bar, concession stand, classroom and offices. The $5 million project has been funded through capital campaigns and other fundraising efforts. Davis Architects designed the new cinema and film center and project architect Kurt Funderburg expects it to be completed by the end of July.

“The sight lines are paramount to a theater experience so we excavated a pit, due to the existing floor above, to provide the largest screen possible,” Funderburg explains. “We are isolating the vibration between spaces with a double acoustic partition, which is the elliptical wall around both theaters.”

Funderburg says the excavation of all the material out of the basement has been an obstacle that had to be overcome. All material was hauled out with motorized wheelbarrows through the freight elevator. And the concrete for the theater will be pumped in through the courtyard area. “This is truly a basement,” he adds. “We have exposed the ceiling in the gallery which shows the underside of the food hall above.”

Stewart Perry Company is the general contractor on the project and project manager David Harrison says that ceiling height restrictions in the basement presented challenges. So, it was decided that the best approach to achieve the line-of-sight in the theaters was to excavate down 4 feet into bedrock and then pour back steps leading up to the existing finished floor level, essentially creating a “bowl” in the basement.

“Issues that arose from this plan that had to be designed and constructed around were the removal of such a large quantity of bed rock using only an elevator to get up to street level, in addition to working around existing underground ducts that carry natural spring and storm water through the excavated areas.”

Once complete, the Sidewalk Cinema will complement the rest of the Pizitz Building, providing an entertainment venue along with the existing residential spaces and food hall vendors upstairs, Harrison says. The Pizitz Building offers one- and two-bedroom apartments, along with a rooftop pool, fitness center and event space. Its food hall contains 12 stalls and two full-service restaurants.

 

 

Image 1: This Sidewalk Cinema axon provides a three-dimensional, detailed view of the project, which includes two 100-seat screening rooms.

Image 2: The Sidewalk Cinema bar is an inviting, modern space for refreshments and socializing that offers a pleasant accompaniment to movie watching.

Image 3: The new 11,400-square-foot Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center will make its permanent home in the basement of the Pizitz building in downtown Birmingham. The project includes two 100-seat theaters, lounges, a bar, classroom, offices and a concession counter seen here.

Image 4: Designed by Davis Architects, the plan for the new Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center includes excavating the basement of a circa 1923 building located in Birmingham’s theater district.

Image 5: A look at the renovation work taking place in the basement of the historic Pizitz building. The eight-story 225,000 square-foot building was designed by Harry B. Wheelock and completed in 1923. Bargains were sold in the basement of the former department store.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Davis Architects and Stewart Perry

Design200 About to Launch

For 200 years, Alabama’s design arts have masterfully blended utility, place and craft. To showcase this rich history, the Design200 project commemorates great design in Alabama going back to its early statehood days. No better time to recognize 200 examples of great design in Alabama than in 2019 – the state’s bicentennial year.

Design200 includes a photo and short article about each of the 200 selections chosen from various design disciplines – architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, industrial design and handcrafters, along with engineering and organizations devoted to design.

Beginning in March, Design200 will be available on the DesignAlabama website, https://www.designalabama.org/, with a link to the project.
The idea originated with Cathy Gerachis, board member emeritus of DesignAlabama, which is sponsoring Design200 with its partners. The format, she notes, is similar to the Wall Street Journal’s “50 Best” that appears in the newspaper’s lifestyle section.

“I hope the 200 featured people, places and things – historical or contemporary – will see a surge in interest. If it is a site, I hope folks will go visit. If it is a product, I hope they sell more. If it is a designer, I hope they get hired. Yes, there is a commercial aspect to this list. But above all, it is time to celebrate good design in Alabama and by Alabamians.”

Also involved with the project is Alabama Center for Architecture (ACFA) whose mission is to advance the enjoyment of architecture and design through engagement, education and collaboration. Partnering with DesignAlabama was a natural fit since architecture is a major component of Design200 and the ACFA could share its resources and help identify notable architectural design work in the state, explains architect Joel Blackstock, board member and past president of Alabama Center for Architecture.

“We were working on a vision to publish “100 Buildings in Alabama to See Before You Die,” a promotional piece to celebrate old and new significant works of architecture throughout Alabama. Many of these buildings are already documented and featured in our two books that the ACFA published, Alabama Architecture and Community in Alabama.”

By being exposed to examples of good architectural design in their state, Blackstock hopes Alabamians will gain an understanding of how design enhances quality of life and enriches communities. The ACFA plans to use the architectural component of Design200 in print and digital newsletters to share with its members.

Good design also boosts tourism and the economy. So, another “natural fit” to partner with Design200 is the Alabama Tourism Department.
Design200 offers a look at the progression of design and how it has evolved throughout the state’s history, notes Jo Jo Terry, Alabama Tourism Department’s digital marketing strategist and Gulf Coast regional director. It also serves to educate the public on the beauty of Alabama, not just in nature but its built environment as well, she adds.

The Alabama Tourism Department will post Design200 on https://alabama.travel/ and its social media platforms. If a print version of Design200 is available, Terry says it will be sold in the Alabama Governor’s Mansion gift shop and other gift shops throughout Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 1: The logo for Design200, an ambitious project that showcases 200 examples of the finest work in Alabama in architecture and other design disciplines. The project coincides with Alabama’s bicentennial this year.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Image Courtesy of DesignAlabama and Copperwing Design

Mulberry Street Crosswalk Enhancement – A Creative Place Making Project

Whose to say a city crosswalk can’t be both fun and functional? That’s the premise behind the Mulberry Street Crosswalk Enhancement project, a partnership of the Public Art Commission and Long-Range Planning Department of the city of Montgomery and the AARP.

Birmingham graphic designer Chris Hardy created the winning design, which depicts adorable troll-like faces peering out from under floorboards. The Public Art Commission awarded Hardy $750 for his imaginative design.

“We had about 30 designs submitted, many from school children, and all of them were delightful but the Hardy design made the whole selection committee smile,” says Lynda Wool, senior planner in charge of long-range planning for the city of Montgomery. “The graphic enhanced the crosswalk and we also placed pedestrian activated, solar-powered crosswalk signals on both sides of the street adjacent to the crosswalk.”

Completed in early December, the project was paid for by AARP and was a winner of their 2018 Community Challenge grant. The selection committee, made up of city employees and Mulberry district business owners, looked at color usage and what designs could best be executed as part of a street crosswalk.

“With so many wonderful designs, we had to consider what would translate well to being painted on asphalt on a much larger scale,” notes Adena Kramer of the Public Art Commission.

A primary goal was to increase driver awareness of the existing busy crosswalk on Mulberry Street at the Fifth Street intersection. At the same time creating an amusing, attention-getting design to brighten the day of all pedestrians and bicyclists who cross its path.

Mixed-use neighborhoods that bustle with residences, mom-and-pop businesses and a school are along Mulberry Street, which cuts through a “steady, unrelenting stream of traffic,” observes Wool, so safety was a top priority. And because of the school’s proximity, many children use this crosswalk, she notes. The need for safer pedestrian access at street crossings has been voiced frequently by Montgomery citizens at public meetings.

The Mulberry Street Crosswalk Enhancement will be used as a prototype to see how pedestrians and motorists respond to such projects that are designed to encourage walking and create a safe environment for pedestrians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 1- Pedestrians will find it hard not to smile when crossing Mulberry Street. Delightful creatures gaze up at them as part of the newly completed Mulberry Street Crosswalk Enhancement project, a partnership of the city of Montgomery and the AARP.

Image 2 -In addition to the whimsical, award-winning design painted on the pavement, the Mulberry Street crosswalk is now safer thanks to the installation of two solar-powered pedestrian crossing signals. Thermoplastic may be applied to make the design more durable.

Image 3- Shelton Thornton, far left and Don Howell, far right, are traffic engineers who chalked lines to keep the design straight and rolled the yellow paint on the “boards.” Initial prep work and chalking the lines took about eight hours to complete. Artist Chris Hardy is second from the left. Also seen helping with the project is senior planner Lynda Wool.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of the City of Montgomery

 

DesignAlabama unveils DesignPlace Report to City of Troy

Brainstorming ideas and generating solutions is what DesignPlace is all about. DesignPlace, DesignAlabama’s local design and planning initiative, released its findings on how the city of Troy can become an even better place to live, work and visit.

Reimagining Troy, a DesignPlace Report was created by a team of planners, architects, marketing professionals and historians. It is not a plan to be adopted by the city, but is instead a comprehensive guide based on team observations and community input.

In 2017, Troy Mayor Jason Reeves participated in the 11th Annual Philip A. Morris Mayors Design Summit and expressed a desire to promote adaptive reuse of the historic Academy Street School. Though the school became the focus of Troy DesignPlace, the team also addressed other sites and various design issues. Ideas for Academy Street School include a new two-story glass entry space to connect the existing gymnasium and academic buildings. Also convert an agricultural building into a restaurant/café.

The team also looked at making Troy more bike friendly and increase safety and connectivity. Principles of Complete Streets were applied to provide safe access to all users. The city has opened bids for a multiuse path on Park Street, says Melissa Sanders, Troy’s planning and zoning administrator.

Ideas for well-planned growth are also in the report such as Conservation Subdivisions, a way to combat sprawl by preserving green space while increasing density in areas slated for development. Branding was also addressed in the report including the adoption of a new city seal.
Implementing Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper was also recommended, an approach to revitalization that supports the belief that projects do not have to be expensive and labor intensive to be effective. The report also identifies tools needed to implement ideas such as programs, tax credits and grants. Because Troy’s DesignPlace report consists of many projects and recommendations, the team advises a timeline for each stage in the process to make the vision a reality.

“DesignPlace brought some very talented design professionals,” says Sanders, “and the team gave us projects to benefit the city as a whole and an overall vision that can inspire us.”

Image 1 -Community input was vital to the Troy DesignPlace Report, created by a team of planners, architects, marketing professionals and historians. Troy Mayor Jason Reeves participated in the 11th annual Mayors Design Summit, a DesignAlabama program that communities participate in prior to DesignPlace.

Image 2 – Presentation drawings were created by the team to illustrate a variety of ideas for reimagining the city of Troy. The report includes ways to enhance the city, from readapting the historic Academy Street School to improving street safety.

Image 3 – This colorful site plan sketch is one of many ways in which the DesignPlace team presented ideas to the city of Troy in its report.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of DesignAlabama and the City of Troy

Greek Streets Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative

One of the first neighborhoods in Birmingham where African Americans were allowed to own property is getting a new lease on life. The Greek Streets Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is designed to make significant improvements to the historically rich community of North Titusville.

On the project’s development team are Design Initiative, Navigate Affordable Housing and Titusville Development Corporation, founded in 1984 to maintain, revitalize and develop Titusville. Greek Streets is named for a series of streets within the development footprint, Kappa, Omega, Iota and Theta, says architect Marshall Anderson, owner of Design Initiative in Birmingham. Adjacent streets – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta – are also named after letters in the Greek alphabet.

The project includes several different lot sizes and street conditions, each with their own ‘fabric’ and a series of prototypes have been developed that address the specific conditions and context, Anderson explains. These prototypes include courtyard cottages that orient toward a shared amenity, narrow lot cottages reminiscent of the shotgun house, and one and two-story homes with and without garages for larger lots. The goal is to not only fit appropriately into the neighborhood fabric, but also provide housing choice, he adds.

“We are currently in the process of securing the land for the development, and that may affect project timeline and phasing. Initially, our intent was to build the entire 50-house development within a 24-month time frame. Depending on property acquisition, we are considering building out the development in smaller phases, roughly 16 homes each.”

The revitalization initiative is based on three concepts – housing choice, street improvements and community-centered development. Houses are designed to meet a range of income levels and assistance will be given to new residents who need funding for house repair. The initiative also includes repairing infrastructure such as streets, utilities, open space, pedestrian paths and parks.

Social infrastructure is another important component and enabling all members of the community to participate in the revitalization process. The Titusville Empowerment Community Center will implement the Holistic Community Revitalization program. All of these endeavors are supported by the Titusville Development Corporation. The Greek Streets Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is indeed a collaborative effort.

Images 1-3:  The revitalization initiative is based on three concepts –housing choice, street improvements and community-centered development. Houses are designed to meet a range of income levels. Housing prototypes include courtyard cottages that orient toward a shared amenity, narrow lot cottages reminiscent of the shotgunhouse, and one and two-story homes with and without garages for larger
lots.

Image 4: The proposed site plan for the revitalization initiative. The development team is in the process of securing the land for the development, which is planned for 50 houses that may be built out in phases at about 16 homes each.

*Article By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Design Initiative 

Lakeview Green to Open on Site of Historic School

Property buyers and renters are increasingly attracted to downtown living with its proximity to work and access to amenities. Lakeview Green, a large mixed-used development in downtown Birmingham, will offer both the convenience of urban living along with the beauty and tranquility of a park-like setting.

Designed by CCR Architecture & Interiors in Birmingham, the complex will include a public green space with a pet-friendly park featuring a large koi river and pond crossed by bridges and surrounded with paths lined with benches and shade trees. In addition, a bocce court, fire pits, herb garden, along with a pool and roof terrace for residential tenants only.

Exterior cladding will mirror both the green, blue and wood tones of the site and waterway, along with the more industrial materials prominent in the Lakeview area.

Construction is expected to start at the end of 2018 and take about 17 months to complete. The project is at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and 29th Street South on the site of the historic W.C. Davis School, a two-story brick school built in 1949 for African-American students.

Retail is planned for the first floor with condominiums and apartment on the above four floors. The 38,000 square feet of retail space will be occupied by upscale restaurants and retailers.

The mix-used development is within walking distance of major businesses, hospitals and a number of entertainment venues including Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, the Rotary Trail, Pepper Place Farmer’s Market and several breweries. The project received more than $2.5 million in incentives from the city of Birmingham, which includes a $1.5 million economic development loan.

The placement of the main building along 4th Avenue South was intended to continue the spur of development started by Iron City Lofts. In addition, the vertical orientation allows for a larger green space on the site which can be shared by the public and residents. The common green space provides a place for play, relaxation and interaction with nature within the Lakeview district, similar to Railroad Park but on a smaller scale.

Image 1 –  Lakeview Green, a large residential and retail complex in downtown Birmingham, is set to begin construction in December. Designed by CCR Architecture & Interiors, the project is at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and 29th Street South on the site of the historic W.C. Davis School.

Image 2 – The complex will include a public green space with a pet-friendly park featuring a large koi river and pond with bridges and surrounded by paths lined with benches and shade trees. The common green space will provide a place for play, relaxation and interaction with nature within the Lakeview district.

Image 3 -The mixed-use retail and multi-family development will contain shops, restaurants and other retailers on the first floor with condominiums and apartments on the upper four floors. The main building will consist of roughly 125,000 square feet.

Image 4 – The hope is that the Lakeview Green development will create a bridge between Pepper Place and the main activity center of Lakeview near 29th Street South and Seventh Avenue South.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of CCR Architecture & Interiors

Brookwood Forest Elementary Opens Ranger Park

President Theodore Roosevelt once said that play is a fundamental need, so much so that playgrounds should be provided for every child, just as schools are. And “all work and no play,” it has been noted, is not the approach schools should be taking.

The American Pediatric Association has recommended that children get 60 minutes of open-ended play daily. So, it stands to reason that play should be a vital part of the daily school routine. Thanks to its new interactive playground that opened this year, children at Brookwood Forest Elementary might be reluctant to leave when the bell rings.

Play helps children develop emotionally, physically, socially and cognitively, and spaces created for the purpose of play contribute to a child’s well-being. Students at Birmingham’s Brookwood Forest Elementary are fortunate that these goals are being achieved through Ranger Park, described as “a place to play, learn and grow together.”

Covering 15,000 square feet, Ranger Park was built on the footprint of the grade school’s former playground. It features enlarged courts for various sports, a rain garden, a climbing dome and other climbing structures, a multipurpose pavilion, a large rubber-surface play area, along with music play and sensory play.

The $350,000 park installation was designed by Birmingham-based Macknally Land Design and brought to fruition by Blackjack Horticulture, also based in Birmingham. The Parent Teacher Organization of Brookwood Forest Elementary came up with the idea to redesign the school’s playground two years ago. Landscape architect Lea Ann Macknally joined the project and and Blackjack Horticulture was brought in to administer it.

An added touch to the park is the work of local mural and multi-media artist Merrilee Challliss, who painted energizing designs in vibrant colors on the asphalt areas for hopscotch, four square and long jump.

“After 11 weeks, there was nothing more rewarding than seeing the kids’ joy and excitement as they ran across the playground,” says Blackjack Horticulture President Bryan Word. “It was a tremendous honor to bring Brookwood Forest’s vision to life and give back to our community in this way.”

 

 

Image 1 – The $350,000 park installation was designed by Birmingham-based Macknally Land Design and brought to fruition by Blackjack Horticulture. Landscape architect Lea Ann Macknally joined the project and then Blackjack Horticulture was brought in to administer it.

Image 2 – Ranger Park features the work of local mural and multi-media artist Merrilee Challliss, who painted bold designs in vibrant colors on the asphalt areas for such games as hopscotch, four square and long jump.

Image 3 – Ranger Park was built on the footprint of the grade school’s former playground and includes enlarged courts for a variety of sports, a rain garden, a climbing dome and other climbing structures.

Image 4 – Also in the new park are a multipurpose pavilion, a large rubber-surface play area, along with opportunities for music and sensory play.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of MackNally Land Design and Blackjack Horticulture.

 

New Headquarters for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama

It’s fitting that Alabama’s only statewide private economic development organization relocated its headquarters to the center of downtown Birmingham, an area that has been described as “ground zero of Birmingham’s modern renaissance.”

Designed by Birmingham’s KPS Group, the new EDPA new headquarters is in Baker’s Row, an office complex in the former 1930s Merita bread factory at the corner of First Avenue and 14th Street. Bakers Row has kept its industrial feel with concrete floors, exposed ductwork and beams, and expansive industrial windows, making it an ideal creative workspace.

The architecture and interiors for this new 13,200 square foot office space were custom-designed as part of the Bakers Row adaptive re-use development adjacent to Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham.

According to KPS Group, the articulation and massing of the building exterior was re-constructed to provide expansive windows and a prominent dedicated entry on the street side. The industrial vibe of this contemporary space was achieved by letting its architecture be the focal point.

In addition, a feeling of openness was created with glazed modular architectural walls “dropped” into the high bay interior. Individual work areas supported by multiple types of conference and interactive spaces encourage collaboration and offer employees several ways to work. A panorama of Alabama success stories plays continuously on a 34-foot-long digital video wall that is visible from the street.

CEO Steve Spencer of the EDPA has said that the move downtown was “as much about image as it is about anything” in this part of Birmingham that serves as a hub of activity. “One of our biggest challenges was to design for program elements that are unpredictable and continuously evolving from week to week,” observes Donna Dowling, IIDA, Senior Vice President and Director of Interior Design at KPS.

“In the end, we allowed for a significant amount of open space – essentially a blank canvas with multimedia capabilities that comes to life when it’s in use for one of EDPA’s numerous programs, from hosting a small trade delegation to being the epicenter of their annual “imerge” festival celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship in Alabama.”

 

Image 1 – The new headquarters for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama is in Baker’s Row, an office complex in the former 1930s Merita bread factory at the corner of First Avenue and 14th Street in downtown Birmingham. Designed by KPS Group, the articulation and massing of the building’s exterior was reconstructed to provide expansive windows and a prominent dedicated entry on the street side.

Image 2 – Individual work areas supported by multiple types of conference and interactive spaces encourage collaboration and offer employees several ways to work. A panorama of Alabama economic and development success stories plays continuously on a 34-foot-long digital video wall that is visible from the street.

Image 3 – Interiors for this new 13,200 square foot office space were custom-designed as part of the Bakers Row adaptive re-use development adjacent to Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. The industrial feeling of this contemporary space was achieved by letting the architecture be the dominant feature.

Image 4 – Many elements were incorporated in the design to encourage collaboration. In addition, a feeling of openness was created with glazed modular architectural walls “dropped” into the high bay interior.

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of KPS Group, Inc.

 

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