Birmingham planners and developers have long understood that parks improve the quality of inner-city life. As a result, the city has transformed swaths of derelict and underused land into vibrant urban parks and among the latest is the Parkside district.
A primary objective for this new public space is interconnectedness, reflected in Parkside’s master plan created by Tom Leader, principal of Berkeley, Calif.-based TLS Landscape Architecture who also created the master plan for nearby Railroad Park. Birmingham’s Orchestra Partners commissioned Leader to design a master plan that enhances walkability and connects Parkside to surrounding neighborhoods.
Parkside becomes accessible to the city by linking green spaces and neighborhoods from east to west and north to south. The project includes historic preservation and mixed-use redevelopment plans for Powell Avenue Steam Plant and several historic warehouse buildings west of Railroad Park surrounding Good People Brewing. Parkside and Railroad Park create a major urban trail head for the Jones Valley Trail Corridor.
“The mission is to capture the essence of Birmingham by creating a district which stitches back connections from east to west and north to south,” Leader explains. “Crafting a place that brings people together in an environment that pays tribute to the region’s rich industrial past, yet is also fresh, vibrant and new.”
“The plan calls for development in both the east and west sides of Parkside that will create one place for all Birmingham to come together. We do this by creating two new unique, yet complementary destinations within the district.”
At the west end of Parkside are single-story nondescript warehouses. The master plan transforms a two-block area – from 12th Street South to 14th Street South between 1st and 2nd Avenues South – into an urban-commons. Lively street life is created with such features as pedestrian-friendly streets and alley ways, public plazas, rooftop gardens and other amenities.
Buildings will be revitalized into retail, restaurant and mixed-use spaces. Fitness centers, healthy restaurant concepts and trendy fashion retailers will mix with open areas, study spots and dynamic architecture designed to encourage social interaction. The plan also includes the use of weathered steel, corrugated galvanized steel, reclaimed timber and other materials that honor Birmingham’s industrial heritage.
To the east where Parkside engages with 20th Street South is the Steam Plant site and adjacent parking lot. Once renovated, Steam Plant will be used as an entertainment venue for movies, music, retail, restaurants and other functions set in an historic yet modern building. A communal center on the adjacent lot will be used for hospitality events and the arts. In addition, the vacated Powell Avenue will provide a place for food trucks, impromptu performances, art shows and other public gatherings.
Image 1- The new master plan for Birmingham’s Parkside district is designed with interconnectivity in mind. This was achieved by creating a district that “stitches back connections from east to west and north to south,” observes Tom Leader, principal of Berkeley, Calif.-based TLS Landscape Architecture who designed the Parkside master plan and also the master plan for nearby Railroad Park.
Image 2- Creating a place that brings people together in an environment that pays tribute to the region’s rich industrial past, yet is also fresh, vibrant and new is a key component of the Parkside master plan.
Image 3 – The plan calls for development in both the east and west sides of Parkside that will create one place for all Birmingham to come together. This was accomplished by creating two new distinct yet complementary destinations within the district.
Image 4: Buildings will be revitalized into retail, restaurant and mixed-use spaces. Fitness centers, restaurants and retailers will mix with open areas, study spots and dynamic architecture designed to encourage social interaction.
*Article By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of TLS Landscape Architecture