The Power of Public Art in Placemaking: The Alabama Mural Trail

Alabama is getting more colorful these days, thanks to efforts to create murals that enliven communities and contribute to their singular identity. The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED) is on a mission to harness the ability of murals to attract more visitors to Alabama towns.

“Our goal is to have at least one mural in all 67 counties in the state,” says UACED’s Tourism & Community Development Director Candace Johnson-Beers. So far, UACED has received 664 mural submissions that are being vetted as part of the Alabama Mural Trail.

The murals will be curated using the Public Art Archive database to highlight local art, culture and visual storytelling throughout Alabama. Because new murals are being created every month, a digital presence is an effective way to convey the latest information.

“It is a work in progress, but theoretically people will look at the mural listings online on the Public Art Archive and travel to that mural, snap a photo in front of it with their phone and post to social media, Instagram most likely, using -#SweetHomeMurals to check off that county and “stamp” their passport,” Johnson-Beers explains.

“We will most likely have an image to go along with this that they can screen shot and save on their device and fill in each county as they travel to it with their photos, but this is just creative thinking at this point.  We are deep into vetting submissions for the Public Art Archive, making sure we have all the correct and needed information to direct people to the murals.”

A mural is an achievable type of public art that can involve the entire community. Murals are indeed popular. UACED would often learn about new murals being created throughout Alabama, as well as mural art walks and public art workshops. So, the idea to create a statewide mural trail was a natural next step to present a community in a new way.

UACED’s first step was to inventory and curate all of the existing murals in the state and gather information about the muralists who created them, who were then asked if they’d like to create more.  The final step will be to determine where the murals will be placed. Counties without murals will receive them first.

Enjoying works of art outdoors makes even more sense during these Covid-19 pandemic times. Murals as a form of placemaking can be “exhibited” on a variety of outdoor spaces – from water towers and fire hydrant to bridges, exposed piping and crosswalks. A safer way to connect with art than inside a museum and a way to express the distinctive personality of a town.

Creative placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential. With the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Murals also attract people to areas within a community that are off the beaten path. Using public art to add pride of place to a community increases foot traffic, economic impact and provides a level of safety in an otherwise forgotten area of a community.  For more information on the Alabama Mural Trail, visit: www.uaced.ua.edu/mural


Butterflies adorn the side of a building at 501 Fairhope Ave. in Fairhope. The mural is part of the new Alabama Mural Trail initiated by the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development.

Almost every drugstore had a soda fountain by the early 1920s. This mural depicts the soda fountain that was in Riley’s Drugstore at Court Square and Coffee Street in Andalusia.

This mural located at 212 First Avenue E. in Oneonta, the seat of Blount County, has a bit of fun with its name by declaring, “Oneonta, a Great Place, No Matter How You Pronounce It!”

A mural that celebrates Alabama’s peanut industry can be seen at 251 Main St. in Dothan. The goal of the Alabama Mural Trail is to have at least one mural in all 67 Alabama counties.
  • Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development.

New Pavilion at Alabama’s Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Expands Education Options

Just a 20-minute drive north of Birmingham is an oasis far removed from the urban landscape. A place that’s home to some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the region. Here are seven protected plants and animals, along with three endangered species of fish, including one that lives nowhere else in the world.

The 466-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson was established by Alabama’s Forever Wild Program and the Freshwater Land Trust and is co-managed by the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, which opened an educational center at the preserve in 2009. Offering educational programs that benefit students throughout the region.

Educational opportunities are about to expand will the opening of a new pavilion designed by Birmingham-based ArchitectureWorks. A little over 3,000 square feet under roof, the pavilion is a heavy timber structure with pressure-treated columns and beams, exposed trusses and wood decking, and an exterior skin of stained cypress.

“The building is tall with a nice volume, so it doesn’t feel compressed,” explains ArchitectureWorks partner Bruce Lanier. The multipurpose pavilion contains bathrooms, a kitchenette and a dressing room to use for weddings and other events. The pavilion can seat about 100 people and will be available for rent to help offset the preserve’s operating costs.

Despite the simplicity of the pavilion structure, notes Lanier, its location along a protected waterway required the coordination of a complex set of stakeholders. These include Jefferson County Environmental Services, the city of Pinson, the Freshwater Land Trust, along with corporate supporters including Dunn Construction, who contributed gravel, air conditioning courtesy of Alabama Power and plumbing services by Latta Plumbing. The pavilion is expected to be completed by early 2021, he says.

The pavilion sits on a two-acre site that is part of nine acres that were cleared of invasive, non-native trees and shrubs. This allows the pavilion to provide a panoramic view with its long site line. Lanier says the pavilion design borrows from some of the area’s agricultural structures, but in a more refined language.

The new pavilion is just part of a larger project that began several years ago and included streambank stabilization and forest clearing. A bioswale was created about five years ago and another is planned to produce a natural filtration system and slow down the villosity of water.

A permeable parking area has been built that allows precipitation to naturally drain through to the subsurface. In addition, a 1,400-gallon cistern will be installed to collect runoff from the roof. Collected rain water will be used to irrigate the preserve’s ecosystem.

The fact that Turkey Creek Preserve even exists today is miraculous. This rare environment managed to avoid the impact of development and its crystal-clear, spring-fed waters provide an ideal habitat for protected and endangered species.

“This is a hot spot for habitat and the purpose was not just to build a structure [the new pavilion], but to improve the land around it and provide more educational opportunities for children in the state,” says Turkey Creek Preserve Manager Charles Yeager. “It’s one of the last refuges for protecting these creatures.”


The pavilion sits on a two-acre site that is part of the nine acres that were cleared of invasive, non-native species

The 466-acre Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson will soon have a new pavilion that will expand the preserve’s educational opportunities. The pavilion is expected to be completed by early 2021.

A little over 3,000 square feet under roof, the pavilion is a heavy timber structure with pressure-treated columns and beams, exposed trusses and wood decking. Designed by ArchitectureWorks, the multipurpose pavilion will seat about 100 people.

The new pavilion is part of a larger project that began several years ago and includes streambank stabilization. A bioswale was created and another is planned to produce a natural filtration system and slow down the velocity of water. 

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of ArchitectureWorks

Helen Restaurant in Birmingham

Converting an older building into a restaurant can make dining out more memorable. According to Food Fanatics magazine, “Nothing makes a first impression like an historic building.”

A great example is Helen Restaurant, housed in what was originally the Meelheim Building constructed in 1920 at 2013 Second Avenue N. in downtown Birmingham. Hendon + Huckestein Architects and HatcherSchuster Interiors, both in Birmingham, found the right balance between a modern and a vintage aesthetic.

Transforming the two-story, shotgun-style space, says Project Architect Erik Hendon, required a “complete interior gut renovation with all new utilities and an exterior façade upgrade. And “there were code-related issues with a two-story restaurant combining kitchen functionality with public access and use.”

Materials include wood, historic metal framed glass walls, as well as the 1920s exposed historic brick and plaster. The front façade was a 1970s-era design that had deteriorated and had to be upgraded. It now offers a distinctive look with signage and light fixtures that suggest the building’s original 1920s style.

Owned by Chef Rob McDaniel and his wife Emily McDaniel, the restaurant is described as “a refreshed take on classic dining that pays homage to Rob’s memories cooking over the hardwood coals and smoke of his grandmother’s indoor grill.” Rob was executive chef at SpringHouse on Lake Martin and is a five-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef.

The interior reflects the couple’s love of the outdoors and their Alabama roots, as well as the history of downtown Birmingham. To further bring the 7,000-squre-foot space to life, they partnered with friends and local artisans, including iron workers, wood workers and other artists to create an inviting atmosphere while honoring the art and design of the South.

“The building created a beautiful industrial backdrop to layer in both new and old with fine antiques, locally curated art and a warm finish palette,” says interior designer Ivy Schuster. “The setting makes you feel right at home and embraces you from the moment you walk in.”

Steel and glass work were created by local Madwind Studios that specializes in furniture and installations. A brass art rail creates a gallery of interesting objects and art with an open kitchen that allows diners to “see all the action.” The restrooms provide an element of surprise with different wallcoverings and a nod to the vintage nature of the building.

Each floor expresses its own characteristic vibe, yet at the same time there’s cohesion between the two. The upstairs, where the bar is located, has a more playful and eclectic feel. On display is artwork by local musician and artist Browan Lollar, whose work is displayed alongside a deer mount from Rob’s personal collection.

In contrast, the first floor has a lighter palette and a more refined interior. Overall, says Schuster, the interiors – both upstairs and down – speak to Rob’s love for cooking, community and family.

 


The front façade was a 1970s-era design that had deteriorated and had to be upgraded. New signage and light fixtures harken back to the building’s original 1920s style, but with a modern approach.

Transforming the two-story, shotgun-style space involved a complete interior gut renovation with all new utilities and an exterior façade upgrade.

Helen Restaurant occupies what was originally the Meelheim Building, constructed in 1920 at 2013 Second Avenue N. in downtown Birmingham.

The bar is located on the second floor, which has a playful feel. Across the bar is artwork by local artist and musician Browan Lollar, whose album art for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s first two records has been featured in more than 30 magazines.

The first floor features a light palette and a refined, sophisticated interior.
  • Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Cary Norton

Brand Identity for River Region Trails

Trails have long been part of America’s landscape and no longer limited to forests, mountains and prairies. Montgomery joins the many municipalities discovering the benefits of having trails close to home.

A new project under way in the Capital City is River Region Trails – a network of recreational trails winding throughout Montgomery that provide safe and enjoyable opportunities to walk, jog and bike.

River Region Trails, Inc. is developing a network of pedestrian greenways, parks and other outdoor resources in the River Region. Phase 1 involves planning a 30-mile connected loop to link downtown to east Montgomery, including the neighborhoods in between.

This beginning planning stage is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. A construction date depends on such factors as funding. The new trail system will also tie into existing trails.

Trails follow existing and abandoned rail lines, creek beds, streets and sidewalks and are designed with the needs of the neighborhoods in mind. The project also includes a new trail system, nature center and boardwalk through the 260-acre Cypress Nature Preserve located near downtown Montgomery.

The Montgomery-based comprehensive branding and marketing firm, Copperwing has developed a brand identity for the new trail system. The brand was first introduced through the River Region Trails, Inc. website, which was developed by Copperwing.

Copperwing created a striking and distinctive primary mark for River Region Trails. The design consists of a bold footprint in varying shades of green that evokes trail paths and a representation of leaves.

“The client River Region Trails, Inc suggested foot prints as an icon so we bounced off that idea,” explains Copperwing Partner and Creative Director Angela Stiff. “We felt it was important to incorporate the diverse terrain of the trails that included both natural landscapes and city settings. So, we incorporated an overview of the layout of a city and added leaves to represent green spaces.”

The mark gives audiences an initial understanding that this organization represents city planning and development, nature and human movement. The distinctive mark also draws like-minded people to the project. As Stiff points out, as with any identity, it should invite and encourage people to want to know more.

“We used the new mark, in part, as a graphic asset in the site design,” she adds. “The pattern makes for very eye-catching imagery, especially when paired with photography. We produced a short-motion graphic that was used on social media that also helped to promote the site and our client’s mission to extend pedestrian greenways.”

River Region Trails is part of Envision 2040, the city of Montgomery’s comprehensive plan, its first long-range strategic plan in more than 50 years.

River Region Trails is currently fundraising for their Vision Plan, the first step in a larger overall master plan for Cypress Nature Park and the Greenways network.

The master plan is a 14 to 18-month process that will help fully digest previous planning efforts, such as the Envision 2040 Plan. It will also help to evaluate the current needs of citizens and stakeholders, and the environmental and physical constraints that will guide the design of the park and trails. The master plan will serve as the guide book to begin development and construction of these projects.


Also, part of the project is a new trail system, nature center and boardwalk through the 260-acre Cypress Nature Preserve located near downtown Montgomery

The distinctive identity mark for River Region Trails, Inc. is a stylized footprint in shades of green that depicts the trail system and leaves. It is on the organization’s website and social media, and Copperwing has created mockups to show the many ways in which the image can be used.

In the first phase planning stage, River Region Trails in the Capital City will be a network of recreational trails that wind throughout Montgomery, providing safe and enjoyable opportunities to walk, jog and bike.

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of Copperwing Design

A Grand Reveal: The Renovation of Springhill Medical Center Heart Center Lobby

An interior space can be dramatic with bold lines and oversized graphics, or tranquil and soothing with a neutral color scheme, open space and natural light. And sometimes it’s both, as with the new Heart Center lobby for Cardiology Associates, a tenant of Springhill Medical Center in Mobile.

“The goal of this renovation was to create an exciting, updated entry space with strong visual appeal to represent the innovative, quality, and detail-oriented care that the Heart Center and its tenants provide,” says Principal Architect and Interior Designer Abby Davis of Walcott Adams Verneuille Architecture | Interiors in Fairhope.

“We amplified the volume of the double-height space to visually connect patients to the second floor.  We achieved this with the design of several large-scale graphics that draw the eye upward.  The graphics are all visually similar and somewhat abstract.”

The striking graphics can be interpreted as tree branches, waterways, or roadways, says Davis but the viewer could also see arteries and veins – specifically heart arteries, which are the main focus of the Heart Center.

“We kept the materials and color palette neutral and timeless to allow the graphics to stand out and to represent long lasting quality. The palette is a mix of cool and warm greys, so we chose to warm up the space by incorporating wood panels that worked with the new stain on the grand stair.  These wood elements ground the space while letting the graphics soar.  The use of metal trim details gives the finished look a contemporary feel along with frameless glass entry doors, glass railings, and sleek glass signage.”

Both Cardiology Associates and Springhill Medical Center wanted the Heart Center’s front door, lobby and common spaces to look welcoming, polished and distinctive, so WAV updated the building’s aesthetic and redesigned public space which hadn’t been updated in 20 years.

Walcott Adams Verneuille (WAV) renovated the first and second floors of the Heart Center to increase its footprint from 21,000 to 35,000 square feet. Because the hospital and Cardiology Associates remained fully operating, the project was completed in eight separate phases. WAV provided the architectural design and all interior design, including the selection of furniture, artwork signage and graphics.

Visitors are greeted with large-scale murals that bring the view upward to capture the details of the two-story lobby. Tile, glass railings and wood paneling accented with graphic signage and wayfinding create a modern hospital and corporate lobby aesthetic.

Cardiology Associates wanted a warm, inviting and corporate presence for their patients, clients and staff. Patients enter through frameless glass doors and are greeted at the reception area framed with rich wood paneling and elegant, tone-on-tone wall covering.

The reception area is anchored by a strong tile accent wall behind the quartz desk. Signage enhances this focal point along with contemporary brass lighting and circular architectural trim detail on the ceiling. WAV notes that the “serene, updated space is meant to instill confidence in patients and also hint at the innovation and exciting work that is taking place beyond the lobby.”


Patients enter through frameless glass doors and are greeted at a reception area that is framed with rich wood paneling and tone-on-tone wall covering. The reception space is anchored by a strong tile accent wall behind a quartz desk.

Visitors are greeted with large scale vein murals that pull the visitor’s eyes up to capture the details of the two-story lobby. Tile, glass railings and wood paneling accented with graphic signage and wayfinding create both the modern hospital and corporate lobby aesthetic.

Walcott Adams Verneuille renovated the first and second floors of the Heart Center, which, along with the lobby, included new clinical space, housing an imaging suite and new corporate offices for Cardiology Associates, and new cardiac rehabilitation space for Springhill Medical Center.

Walcott Adams Verneuille amplified the volume of the double height space to visually connect patients to the second floor.  This was achieved with the design of several large-scale graphics that draw the eye upward.

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of Walcott Adams Verneuille Architecture | Interiors

Park(ing) Day in Birmingham

“The vast majority of outdoor urban space is dedicated to the private vehicle, while only a fraction of that land is allocated to open space for people.”

Among the most innovative ways to turn hardscape into green space originated in 2005 at Rebar, a San Francisco design studio that addressed San Francisco’s lack of public green space by turning a single metered parking space into a temporary public park downtown.

Feeding the meter for the two-hour slot, Rebar installed a patch of grass, a park bench, a tree and signs directing people to come sit and relax. Rebar created a manual on how to create pocket parks out of existing urban-use space. The concept became Park(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event that inspires municipalities to participate.

In Birmingham, Park(ing) Day is held on the third Friday in September. This year marked a permanent installation on a quarter-block of 20th Street North. The installation includes reclaimed pedestrian space, multi-modal street design, flexible use seating and new landscaping.

The installation serves as a test site for what can be done along the rest of 20th Street North to help the street function as an asset to local businesses, as well as people who work, live and dine downtown, explains landscape architect Paige Ishmael of Dix.Hite + Partners.

Temporary paint was used to create a bike lane and a flex loading zone in the streetscape.  Former parking spaces were brought up to grade to create an expanded patio space complete with new planters and furnishings.

Plant beds and planters have been updated with native, low-maintenance species consistent with plant types at other downtown public spaces. New bistro chairs and tables increase seating and provide more comfort and flexibility than concrete benches.

The sidewalk’s former loading zone now offers additional public space for people to move about. The space has been filled with crushed limestone to increase sidewalk width and allow for drainage.

The right lane of 20th Street has been temporarily designated as a flex loading zone, allowing it to be adapted to different uses such as a loading zone, valet parking or food truck parking. Between the flex loading lane and the car travel lane, a new bike/scooter lane provides additional ways to enjoy the newly designed 20th Street. The flex loading zone and multimodal lane separate pedestrians further from traffic.

This year’s installation was made possible by the Alabama Chapter of ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), partnering with REV Birmingham and the city of Birmingham.  Vulcan Materials and Hunter Trees donated supplies and plant material, and Shelby Construction donated time and labor.

ASLA spearheads Park(ing) Day nationwide through its local state chapters.  Alabama’s installations are usually in Auburn, Birmingham and Huntsville.  Though anyone is welcome to participate in the event, landscape architects have the skillset to help cities reimagine streetscapes through design.

“The essence of Park(ing) Day is to reimagine streetscapes which prioritize vehicles, and reclaim them as a park or public space,” Ishmael says. “Almost every city in America, including Birmingham, could benefit from more bike lanes, better pedestrian connectivity, and more public outdoor spaces for the health of its citizens and businesses. The recent pandemic has really shown us the importance of outdoor space on so many different levels.”

Park(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event that inspires municipalities to create pocket parks out of existing urban-use space, more specifically private vehicle parking spaces. In Birmingham, Park(ing) Day is held the third Friday in September.
Plant beds and planters have been updated with native, low-maintenance species consistent with plant types at other downtown public spaces. New bistro chairs and tables increase seating and provide more comfort and flexibility than concrete benches.
The installation serves as a test site for what can be done along the rest of 20th Street North to help the street function as an asset to local businesses, as well as people who work, live and dine downtown
This year’s event in Birmingham involved a permanent installation on a quarter-block of 20th Street North. The installation includes reclaimed pedestrian space, multi-modal street design, flexible use seating and new landscaping. 

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong & Images courtesy of Dix.Hite + Partners

Camp Winnataska Gets New Cabins and Bath House

Camp Winnataska – a nonprofit, faith-based summer camp east of Birmingham in St. Clair County – has been providing boys and girls with memorable experiences since 1918. Today’s campers and future generations are sure to enjoy the new cabins designed by Birmingham-based Blackmon Rogers Architects.

Four new cabins and a bath house are replacing older ones.  The new cabins are for the youngest campers during the summer camp season. The cabins are also available for use by other groups during the off-season and are scheduled to be completed by the end of August.

Macknally Land Design led the master planning effort for the camp’s Chico Hill area. Blackmon Rogers Architects worked with Macknally Land Design to create the composition of two cabin buildings that share a bath house, which are arranged along the hillside to define a common green.

“Our design goal was to create a fun and exciting mini-campus for the younger kids and their leaders,” David Blackmon explains. “The buildings have to be durable and low maintenance. They are heavily used throughout the summer with new groups rotating weekly, but during the remaining eight to nine months they see little use.”

Cabins are arranged in pairs with a shared, central bath house. These clusters of three buildings are sited along the hillside to define a central green space where children can hang out and play, Blackmon continues.

Design inspiration came from the original Chico cabins and traditional southern vernacular buildings like Waverley Mansion in West Point, Mississippi that features an oversized octagonal- shaped cupola. Blackmon points out that the cabins are designed to utilize natural convection to cool the occupants.

“While the large roof provides shade, its steep slope and pyramidal form encourage warm air to rise and exit through the cupola,” he explains. “This draws cooler air in through the screened windows creating a cooling breeze. We added a large powered fan in the cupola to enhance this affect and provide additional control.”

Designing for a client like Camp Winnataska presents specific considerations. Blackmon Rogers Architects has designed several buildings for the camp during the past several years, and this enduring relationship has provided a good understanding of what is valued by the board, the staff and the campers, says Blackmon.

Birmingham Boy Scout Commissioner Elwyn Ballard and his wife Florence discovered the site in 1914 and were captivated by the waterfalls and Kelly Creek that are central to the camp today. Winnataska means “Land of the Laughing Water” in native Creek.

“Like all of our clients, the board has to be good stewards of their resources,” Blackmon notes. “We’ve worked hard to listen to the client’s needs and desires and design buildings that offer real value in the quality of the design, initial cost and long-term maintenance cost. We hope these new cabins are loved by the campers and staff for the next 100 years.”

Image 1- The cabins utilize natural convection to cool the occupants. The roof provides shade, and its steep slope and pyramidal form encourages the warm air to exit through the cupola. A large fan in the cupola enhances this affect.

Image 2- The original cabins on the property provided design inspiration, along with traditional southern vernacular buildings such as the circa 1838 Waverley mansion in West Point, Mississippi.

Image 3- The cabins are arranged in pairs with a shared, central bath house. The cabins are designed to be durable and low maintenance for use year-round.

Image 4- Macknally Land Design led the master planning effort for Camp Winnataska’s Chico Hill area. The plan includes an amphitheater, play areas, a rope course and other amenities.

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of Blackmon Rogers Architects

 

Montgomery’s Rotary Park Upgrades

Transforming a derelict piece of land into a place that everyone can enjoy is what good urban planning is all about. That’s what’s happened to Rotary Park in downtown Montgomery that gets better with each new phase.

Work began on the park in 2017 by adding dog park areas and a mural by Montgomery artist Sunny Paulk. In early 2019, agility equipment for dogs was donated and installed, which is ideal for a smaller urban park. Now dogs can do more than run in circles such as jump through hoops.

This final phase started in late 2019 and was recently completed. City crews did much of the work during the Covid-19 shutdown while fewer people were downtown, says Senior Development Manager Lois Cortell of the city of Montgomery’s Department of Economic & Community Development.

“These improvements really increase the usability, the shade, and seek to diversify the appeal of the park for residents, workers and tourists,” Cortell says.

New picnic tables with umbrellas, including one that’s handicap-accessible, were installed during this latest phase. Streetscape and landscape improvements, along with permanent food truck parking were also added to turn Rotary Park into a go-to destination.

A hybrid landscape approach was taken to make Rotary Park as multipurpose as possible and take advantage of its prime location. The park is small but well situated.  Located at the corner of Coosa and Bibb streets, it’s adjacent to City Hall, Legacy Museum and several hotels including some that allow pets so guests can take advantage of the dog park features.

Space for food trucks is a popular component of Rotary Park. Fifty-amp power outlets were installed, making it unnecessary for food trucks to be equipped with generators that can be noisy and costly to operate. Restaurants have been hard-hit by the pandemic and this offers a way to expand their business.  The city kicked off “Food Truck Fridays” at Rotary Park which continues through fall.

Green space was increased by removing the cut-through traffic lane and planting 10 new trees including sycamore, Nuttall oak, black gum and bald cypress. Bald cypress was planted in tree wells that extend into the street to create new designated spaces for the food trucks, notes the city’s Urban Design Planner Jocelyn Zanzot. The tree wells are over-sized and back-filled with river rock and gravel to filter stormwater.

Rather than travel between parked cars and the roadway, a new bike lane was added adjacent the sidewalk. This safer approach will be implemented throughout the city. Also added are two accessible parking spots close to the food truck and picnic areas, along with an accessible spot near the new picnic tables with fixed umbrellas that provide shade and shelter.

The finishing detail to be installed this fall is sculpture by June Corley, an Alabama artist who works with typography in an assemblage process to create surreal metal sculptures. The sculpture’s base is designed as an additional perch on the corner from which to enjoy the park fountain or views of the historic warehouse district and nearby Legacy Museum.

“In the spirit of creative place-making and given new Covid-19 safety precautions, this centrally located downtown park is designed to serve residents, downtown workers and visitors alike with a mix of options,” adds Zanzo who cites eminent landscape architect Walter Hood who defines hybrid landscapes as “not one thing all of the time, but many things most of the time.”

Image 1- The city celebrates its downtown residents and employees by kicking off the first “Food Truck Fridays” at Rotary Park. The event will continue every Friday through fall 2020.

Image 2- Ten new trees were planted at Rotary Park, three new picnic tables with shade umbrellas were installed and the historic cobbles were repaired. The city will be adding a new sculpture to the park in the fall.

Image 3-(Before, view from above):Rotary Park has been dramatically transformed, thanks to a round of renovations kicked off in late 2019 with the elimination of the traffic “slip” lane that cut through the green space. The 2020 renovations include three new designated spots for food trucks with 50 amps of provided power at each spot.

Image 4- Renovation of Rotary Park began in 2017 with the creation of a dog park along the eastern edge of the park and a mural by artist Sunny Paulk in honor of the Rotary Club, which partnered with the city to fund the park improvements.

Image 5- In 2019, dog agility equipment was donated and added by Pet and Playground, making the park an ideal spot for dogs and their owners. The idea is to enhance Rotary Park as a vibrant downtown public open space for residents, downtown workers and visitors.

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of City of Montgomery Department of Economic & Community Development

Historic Columbiana Building Under Renovation

One of Columbiana’s earliest buildings is being repurposed into something new – for use as a restaurant, bar and event space. Constructed in the early 1800s, the two-story downtown building was originally used as a mercantile business on the street level with apartments on the upper level.

Developed by Rob McLeroy and David Oakes, the McOakes Development project is conceived as a future bar and entertainment destination with areas on the lower level for pool tables and other games, says Architect Kris Nikolich of Birmingham-based Design Initiative. Eagle Framing in Columbiana is the contractor on the project.

Exterior work and new floors are expected to be completed by October. Once a long-term tenant or buyer is found, work will begin on the interior finishing.

The shell of the original building was left intact and a new steel structure created inside it. A large glass garage door opening on the alley façade will open during temperate days and nights to access food trucks. A new grand stair leads to upper level lounge and seating areas.

The existing building is 24-feet wide and 90-feet deep, with its front east façade facing South Main Street and its west façade abutting the alley to the rear. Construction of the exterior bearing walls is 12-feet-thick masonry with wood-framed floors and roof.

As a result of the building’s long disuse, the roof and floors deteriorated and were removed at the start of the renovation work, Nikolich says. The front façade featured large glass openings at the sidewalk level and tall decorative masonry openings at the upper floor level.

Scaled window openings exist on the long sides of the building and at the rear, though many have been filled in for fire protection, he says. Two cast iron columns that flank the original front door will remain and add character to the building. A new wood-framed balcony will be installed at the front over the sidewalk with a new set of exterior stairs in the adjacent areaway.

“To stabilize the existing masonry walls and support the new floor levels, we are adding a series of columns just inside of the exterior walls,” explains Nikolich. “These columns will rest on new cast-in-place concrete foundations and extend vertically to support the new floors and sloped roof assembly. Since the developer’s construction business builds with state-of-the-art wood structural systems, wood joists, trusses and laminated members are expressed on the interior.”

A steel column approach was chosen to allow the original brick surfaces on the interior to remain exposed, Nikolich continues. The vertical element or “core” contains bathrooms and mechanical areas inside the masonry envelope. The grand stair connects the floor levels that wrap around this element as people move vertically through the building. Nikolich says the culmination of the spatial sequence is the balcony at the front façade that overlooks South Main Street.

 

 

Image 1 -A building in downtown Columbiana dating back to the early 1800s is finding a new purpose after years of abandonment. The two-story masonry building is being transformed into space for a restaurant, bar and special events.

Image 2 – The shell of the original building remains and a new steel structure has been created inside it. A large glass garage door opening on the alley façade will open to allow access to food trucks.

Image 3- Two cast iron columns that flank the original front door of the early 1800s building will be restored.

Image 4- The shell of the original masonry building was left intact and a new steel structure is being created within it.

 

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Design Initiative, LLC

 

Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater Set to Open This Summer

Parks have long been recognized as a primary contributor to the quality of life in a community. From tiny pocket parks that offer respite in the bustle of an urban setting to large, multifunctional sports and entertainment complexes.

The city of Albertville has long been united by a common goal to create a world-class park and this ambitious vision is about to be realized. Slated to open in August in Albertville is Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater – a sports, leisure, wellness and performing venue. Designed by Montgomery-based Chambless King Architects, the project has been envisioned by the community for over 20 years.

“Since 2017, our design team and the city of Albertville have been striving to understand how the design of Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater should reflect this special place and its special people in an extraordinary 135-acre park,” says John Chambless.

Dix.Hite + Partners was a key collaborator on the master plan. The landscape architecture firm provided full landscape architectural services for Sand Mountain Park that included hardscape design, landscape design and playground design for a variety of play experiences at the site. Dix.Hite also provided these services for the park’s outdoor amphitheater and the outdoor aquatics center, along with its splash pad, lazy river and waterslides.

Sand Mountain Park is designed for all ages, skill levels and capabilities. It also had to be designed to be economically viable and able to support the sports tourism industry while serving the community as its primary function.

With that in mind, there are 14 separate synthetic sports fields for recreation league and tournament play. The sports field parks will open their concourses to allow for playgrounds and activities for all ages while the fields are in use. Miracle Field will be used by players at any level of ability.

The aquatics program, with its indoor and outdoor facilities, will accommodate the smallest swimmer in the splash pad and lazy river to competitive swimmers in the spectator-friendly, eight-lane indoor competition pool. In addition, four contiguous indoor basketball courts – which include an elevated running track – will provide an arena that seats 2,000 people.

Along with the 12 hard courts for regional tournament play, four new clay courts have been added for tennis and pickleball players of all ages and skill levels. Space for disk golf will weave between the sports fields. The park also contains an RV park, dog parks and over four miles of hiking and riding trails.

Playgrounds are also part of the park, along with picnic areas. There’s plenty of parking on the site with 1,600 spaces. And music lovers have a place to gather to enjoy performances and all genres music.

“The 8,000-seat amphitheater includes a stage designed to not only host national touring acts, but also support the 300-member high school band that is a regular at the Rose Bowl Parade,” explains Chambless. “It seems music has a long history in Sand Mountain and is a vital part of the soul of this community.”

Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater is accepting memberships and is also registering tournaments for competitive play later this year. Venues within the park are too many to list, but the theme remains the same, Chambless notes.

“The focus is on the quality of life for the citizens of the Sand Mountain region and the mandate that every member of this unique community will be able to enjoy this park in any weather condition at any time of the year.”

Image 1: Slated to open in August in Albertville is the 135-acre Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater, a sports, leisure, wellness and entertainment venue that has been envisioned by the community for over 20 years.

Image 2: Each sports complex has nearby playgrounds designed for all-inclusive and age appropriate play so that the whole family has something to do.

Image 3: The park’s 100,000-square foot community recreation center will include hardwood courts, a two-story fitness center, full-service kitchen, dining area, concessions, locker rooms and space for conferences and parties.

Image 4: The park will serve the community and support the sports tourism industry with its many sports facilities, which include 14 separate synthetic sports fields for both recreation and tournament use.

*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of Chambless King Architects

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