City of Birmingham working to save historic Powell School

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 6:18 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The City of Birmingham is working to save one of its oldest buildings. The Powell School on 6th avenue North has been left burnt and crumbling for the last decade, but city leaders are working on a plan to save it.

The building is 55 percent burnt from an old fire and has sat run-down for more than ten years. City Councilors voted to end their 11-year-long contract with the Alabama Historic Preservation Trust, so that new developers can come in and try to preserve and redevelop the historic site.

Councilor Hunter Williams said the trust could not get the building re-developed because of it’s severe damage, but now three new developers will come in and work to save it.

“The cost to renovate that structure is so significant that it is not feasible to renovate that property to be bought or redeveloped,” Williams said. “I think it is time the city looks at different avenues to keep the historical significance, but maybe not a full restoration of the school as a whole.”

Williams said it needs expensive structural work, but developers will pay for the cost of the renovation fully. The city’s agreement states that they aren’t even allowed to ask the city for funding or tax incentives for the re-development.

“They cant seek any funding from the city of Birmingham in terms of tax incentives or any other incentives for that site,” Williams said. “Unlike a lot of our other sites where the city is actually paying for redevelopment costs or incentives for businesses to move into the city of Birmingham, the developer is going to take that cost on 100 percent.”

Williams said the site has struggled for years with homelessness and fires, but the city is excited for it to become a part of the community again.

“We are trying to take things that have long been off the tax roll, trying to make sure that we can get it across the finish line from a blighted property to something that is productive for Birmingham, but also the community as a whole,” he said. “We are making a lot of progress in turning what has been blighted sites, into something that is productive for the city.”

Williams said the developers have been struggling to find a proposed tenant for the site, because of it’s current condition. He said they hope to have one finalized soon. Williams said right now it’s unclear what exactly they are going to be able to do with the building, but the plan is to restore some historical significance.

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