Reviving lost space below elevated freeways is becoming increasingly common as cities discover ways to use these structures for public leisure activities, not just massive transportation systems.
So, it’s no surprise that Birmingham – a city known for resourcefulness and ingenuity – would transform such neglected space into a multi-functional linear urban park. City Walk BHAM offers fun for everyone on 31 acres beneath Birmingham’s I-59/20 bridges that stretches 10 city blocks from 15th Street North to 25th Street North.
City Walk’s master plan was designed by Barge Design Solutions, a Nashville- based engineering and architecture firm with offices in Alabama. Barge recently won the Grand Award for the project from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Alabama at its annual Engineering Excellence Awards. The competition recognizes engineering firms whose projects demonstrate a high degree of originality, value and engineering innovation. The project was completed in July 2022 and was constructed by Brasfield and Gorrie.
The nearly mile long City Walk BHAM is home to amenities such as a 60,000-square-foot skate park, roller skating rink, playgrounds, pickleball court, a dog park cleverly called “The Barkery,” amphitheater, places to eat and plenty of areas to relax and socialize. City Walk also contains signage that tells the story of the civil rights era, giving visitors an introduction to Birmingham’s Civil Rights District located just a few blocks away.
City Walk is not merely a concrete expanse. In addition to the hard surface there’s a variety of carefully chosen plantings, and materials used in the landscape design represent the city’s steel industry. Predominant types of landforms found in each region of the state are represented in ADA-accessible Destination Playground – Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Alabama Ridge and Valley, Cumberland Plateau, and Highland Rim. Color-changing LED lighting throughout the space adds to the festive ambiance. The height of the bridge from the ground, which is illuminated at night, ranges from approximately 18 to 40 feet.
Barge’s master plan reconnects neighborhoods from both sides of the I-59/I-20 bridges, making many of the city’s landmarks and venues more accessible. In addition, the project has revived the surrounding areas and once vacant tenant spaces are now occupied.
The City Walk concept took root in 2014 when REV Birmingham conducted a study to see how to make this space useable. Alabama Department of Transportation led the ambitious, community-driven project. Barge’s master plan was the result of five years of collective, community-focused efforts. This included gathering local feedback through public outreach meetings, involvement opportunities, and online surveys.
“This is an exciting time for the Birmingham community,” said Barge President and CEO Bob Higgins. “Barge couldn’t be prouder to be part of the community’s collaborative effort to bring neighbors together through City Walk BHAM’s innovative design. This project is a true reflection of what community is all about, delivering a vision for positive growth in an extraordinary way that benefits everyone.”
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Barge Design Solutions