The city of Cordova was hard hit by the series of tornadoes that tore through parts of Alabama in 2011. Among the latest efforts to revitalize the old mill town is the creation of a park on the 18-acre site of the former Indian Head Cotton Mills.
Kelly Landscape Architects in Birmingham has partnered with the city to create the Mill Site Park Master Plan. The plan calls for developing green space with pavilions and a bandstand created from the mill’s loading docks.
The proposed park will also provide a variety of recreational opportunities – fishing, walking trails with fitness stations, a ball field and a multi-use court. A special park for dogs is also planned, along with an amphitheater and an interactive fountain designed for play and splashing. A senior center is also part of the master plan.
“The town wanted to create a park that offers something for everybody,” notes Chuck Kelly, owner of Kelly Landscape Architects in Birmingham.
Because of its proximity to the central business district, the park will connect with the downtown through a tunnel under the historic spur rail line that runs adjacent to the park.
“This year the plan is to stabilize the site and grass it for regular mowing,” Kelly explains. “It’s a great historic site where the old mill sat. So why not create a park and celebrate what the mill meant to the town?”
-Article By Jessica Armstrong
-Image Courtesy of Kelly Landscape Architects and is an overview of the park master plan.
A Birmingham studio specializing in the art of letterpress printing combines centuries-old letterpress techniques with today’s digital technology. Letterpress operator Bradey Baxter and Brian Authement, creative director of the Birmingham graphic design and branding firm Odie and Partners, opened After Press last year in Birmingham’s Homewood section. Among the many customized items available are limited-edition art prints, invitations, note cards, logos, letterhead and posters. After Press also provides design services to help customers bring their own ideas to fruition.
–Photo Courtesy of Graham Yelton
Plans are under way to turn the historic Continental Eagle Corporation’s five cotton gin buildings in downtown Prattville into a 150-unit apartment complex called The Mill, designed by Chambliss King Architects of Montgomery. The collection of masonry buildings date from 1848 to 1899. In addition to apartments, the $20 million development will also include parking, public meeting space and a venue for special events. The project is under review for an historic tax credit by the National Park Service.
-Photos Courtesy of Chambliss King Architects
A master plan for Tuskegee University is being designed to address the overall organization of campus functions, create a more pedestrian-friendly and immersive collegiate environment and improve infrastructure. “We are reviewing the final draft of the plan, and the final plan document will be presented to the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees in March,” says Jason Fondren, principal planner with KPS Group in Birmingham. Underutilized historic buildings will be renovated. The plan also includes several concepts that are an extension of Tuskegee’s “learning by doing” approach established by Booker T. Washington. Proposals include a solar farm to supply power to campus and a farm program to provide fresh produce to campus dining facilities.
-Photo Courtesy of KPS Group, Inc.
It is virtually impossible to separate architecture from community. Architecture and the result of its application through design and construction are meant for the community. The community is the end-user of the works of architecture, so the needs and preferences of the community must be met.
In The Architecture of Community, Leon Krier identifies two kinds of architecture existing today. An international-style architect’s architecture that may be perceived as arrogant or provocative and architecture often based on regional models that attempts to blend naturally with the architecture of existing landscapes and cities.
Joel Blackstock, president of Williams Blackstock Architects in Birmingham, notes that people sometimes think of a building as simply siting on a site, but a building must fit into the fabric of the community.
He points to several examples of his firm’s projects that foster community, including the Birmingham News building constructed in a blighted area on the site of an unused parking lot. The design incorporated the building into its surroundings, such as the use of brick to harmonize with the masonry pallet of the nearby turn-of-the-century St. Paul’s Cathedral. In addition, a plaza on the corner created public space.
Renovation of the UAB Comprehensive Center provided cohesion and connection to its urban context. A new two-story glass lobby serves as the grand entrance and connects to the street level and to the second level adjacent medical center’s pedestrian concourse. Large third floor windows offer a look at research activities.
The business incubator Innovation Depot operates in a former abandoned Sears building once covered in graffiti. A town center was created inside the building, located in a struggling area of downtown Birmingham that Blackstock says has now “turned that area of town around.”
–Photos Courtesy of Williams Blackstock Architects
Two teams of University of Alabama mechanical engineering students spent their senior year designing prototypes for tools that NASA anticipates it will need for planned missions in the 2020s and beyond. The UA teams are participating with 22 schools nationwide in NASA’s Microgravity Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Team (Micro-g NExT) competition. These tool prototypes will be used to help collect samples from asteroids and move them closer to the moon’s orbit to be studied. The technology concepts developed by the university teams could someday be used to mine resources on asteroids as well as Mars, according to NASA.
An old cotton gin in Birmingham’s Avondale district is now the site of Cahaba Brewing Company’s new production facility and tasting room, which opened in January. Project architect Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham kept the brickwork intact, along with hand-made doors, an industrial elevator and other original details. New features harmonize with the old, including furniture made of reclaimed lumber from an old distillery in Kentucky. Cahaba is renting nearly half of a 51,000-square-foot building that is part of the Continental Gin Industrial Park.
Efforts to revitalize downtown Birmingham have sparked a boom in residential and commercial construction and renovations. The latest transformation is an abandoned rail bed that created an eyesore in the city center. The once blighted area is now Rotary Trail that runs along First Avenue South between 20th Street (the Birmingham Green) and 24th Street. Downtown Rotary of Birmingham took on the project and raised $3.5 million to complete the Trail – a half -mile linear park designed by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.
The Trail’s focal point is the Magic City sign, which pays homage to an iconic sign that once stood at Birmingham’s Terminal Station, notes Cheryl Morgan, co-chair of the project for the Rotary Club. The station and the sign were demolished in 1969, but nostalgia for the sign remained strong. At 60 feet, it serves as a gateway element in this urban context.
Morgan calls the sign “a great gesture to Birmingham history and a new icon in our downtown.” The sign was a gift from BL Harbert International. O’Neal Steel donated the materials and Fravert Services created the letters. The structure was fabricated by Daniel Iron, which can trace its origins to a company that built the original sign.
Birmingham-based Krebs Engineering was recently recognized for helping the city of Albertville develop a cost-effective, long-term solution to control solids hauling and disposal costs by using renewable biogas produced at its wastewater treatment facility. Biogas is called “the ultimate win-win energy source,” allowing farmers to produce their own electricity and reduce water contamination, odor pollution and global warming emissions caused by animal waste. Krebs Engineering received the American Council of Engineering Companies 2016 Grand Design Award for the design of its “Biosolids Improvement for Energy Recovery” project in Albertville. This is the only facility in Alabama to use renewable biogas to convert costly waste into a useful Class A biosolids product.
Alabama’s craft beer scene is booming and Good People Brewing Company near Railroad Park and Regions Field in Birmingham was recognized by Southern Living magazine as one of the best breweries in the state. The microbrewery’s taproom was recently renovated by Justin Brown and Matthew Finley of the Birmingham architecture firm BILT in Alabama and was designed to reflect both the industrial character of its surroundings and its natural setting. Repurposed and recycled materials were used throughout, including a new bar built of steel dunnage from the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance. BILT also manufactured the steel windows, doors and other distinctive detailing.