Ramsay-McCormack developer says they’re fighting through delays to deliver for Ensley neighborhood

Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 4:25 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - In late 2019, when the city of Birmingham chose Ensley District Developers to redevelop the Ramsay-McCormack building, there was hope that within a couple of years, a 10-story symbol of blight could be transformed into a catalyst for change in the Ensley community.

In 2020, the company brought down the building. Then, according to Irvin Henderson, came the pandemic.

“Steel is very high,” says Henderson, Managing Partner for Ensley District Developers, describing the after effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. “Glass is 80% higher. At one point in time, roofing materials couldn’t even be gotten at any price.”

Henderson says inflation, the difficulty in finding workers, and having to stop water from coming into the site have also slowed down the project.

“We did not know that we’d have as many engineering below grade problems as we have had,” said Henderson.

Some who have followed the process closely are understanding, up to a point.

“Other projects...in other main parts of the city of Birmingham have continued without interruption despite those same issues,” says Antonio Spurling. “I mean, those are plausible excuses, but it’s not anything that we perceive should relieve them of an obligation to fulfill their commitment.”

Spurling grew up in Ensley, owns property there, and is General Counsel for the Ensley Revitalization committee, which sued 10 years ago to force the city of Birmingham initially to demolish and eventually redevelop the building.

Regardless of who the developer is, Spurling says he is focused on making sure the city fulfills its responsibility.

“We are speaking in terms of a court order,” says Spurling. “Because the city is ultimately responsible, it’s not the developer that is tied to that. We obviously applaud them [the developer] to the extent that the building has been taken down...we’re waiting to see what the completion is. We’re not gonna judge the project until it’s done.”

Henderson says, meanwhile, that he has worked to stay engaged in the community by, among other things, donating to a community Christmas drive. And when construction does start, which Henderson hints could be first quarter of 2023, they’ll be working with community organizations to put people who have been incarcerated and/or are in recovery, to work.

And he wants the community to know he wants the same thing they want. “We wanted the delivery for the people in Ensley to be as quick as possible. There’s no question about that,” says Henderson. “But it is more difficult to develop a national landmark site. It is more difficult when you have a difficult demolition. It is more difficult when you’re dealing with below grade issues that you did not know existed. The rising interest rate environment, all those things have impacted the speed with which we can get the project done. But it has not impacted our desire to serve the people of Ensley.”

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