BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -The area around Railroad Park has seen a lot of growth recently and it’s about to see some more. The idea is to connect the surrounding neighborhoods that have been divided by way of pedestrian trails and common areas to be used by all residents.
A master plan was presented to improve walkability and connect the Parkside district to surrounding neighborhoods.
“This is the hub of connectivity for our city. This is a great place to start telling a story, not only about the past of Birmingham but also about its future,” says Orchestra Partners Founder Hunter Renfroe.
The plan includes retail, residential space and dining. It will use the Powell Avenue steam plant as an entertainment venue and turn Powell Avenue into a closed street with room for food trucks and public entertainment space.
“The Powell steam plant has really become an icon for the city. Its stacks are literally the obelisk for the city of Birmingham. It’s a point of reference,” says Birmingham City Council Member Darrell O’Quinn.
The plan uses pedestrian pathways to connect the area with surrounding neighborhoods, meant to bring everyone together in one central space. Tom Lead is part of the project, the man behind the design and plan for Railroad Park, for which Birmingham has gained national recognition.
“The standard method of development I often see is you find a piece of land, numbers seem to work, then figure out how to connect later. This is doing just the opposite. This is looking first at—what are the connections that exist, where the connections can be made,” says Lead.
The project also focuses on preserving historic mid-century warehouse buildings around Regions Field, turning them into retail and restaurant space. Several organizations are involved in the planning process including the City of Birmingham, Alabama Power, Urban Impact, REV Birmingham, Freshwater Land Trust and others. Organizers are still hammering out details of the design and a timeline for construction to begin.