Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes to discuss plans to make alterations to structures that fall within one of the city’s many historic and commercial revitalization districts. This column summarizes recent DRC activity, with projects grouped by type and location. This edition of Design Review recaps the DRC meeting from Jan. 14, 2015.
The site of the new oyster bar (4038 Fifth Avenue South) will include a two-story addition to the rear of the building. The brick selected for the exterior will complement the existing brick on the 19th century building. There will be balconies over the patio. The upstairs occupancy is currently unknown, but the renovations will accommodate a variety of options. The upstairs will also have a separate entrance as well as separate exterior stairs. Signage, landscape and dumpster site will return to the committee.
Status: Approved, building only.
Another new development in the area is for Saturn and Satellite (200 41st Street South), a coffee shop and bar plus an event space in the site formerly occupied by Freshfully. The two-story building will house the bar and coffee shop, while the adjacent one-story building will be used for event space. New storefront glass will be installed, plus awnings, doors and signage. The event space will not have a storefront, but will have small windows. Wall sconces will light the exterior. The signage for the project will return to the committee at a later date. The committee expressed concerns that the plans did not address the pedestrian nature of 41st Street and demonstrated too much introversion.
Status: Approved the Saturn two-story project and carried over the Satellite one-story project.
Alabama Power Company is constructing a generator enclosure downtown (606 17th Street North) at the site of the old refueling station. The concrete structure will be poured in place with metal grating for a roof. The exterior will have a textured coating applied and louvers will be installed over any openings. The existing fence and roll-up gate will remain.
Forest Park / South Avondale
The former site of an apartment complex (3420 Clairmont Avenue) will get a new life as a new complex. The plans include 271 units in the five-story building. No commercial use was included in the conceptual plans. A parking structure will be accessible from the rear of the building and the façade will include brick, stucco and siding. However the committee felt this could be a good opportunity to return street parking to this section of Clairmont Avenue and requested the developer discuss this prospect with the city and the traffic engineers.
Status: Approved conceptual designs.
Brian’s Flooring & Design (2928 Sixth Avenue South) is undergoing exterior renovations. An entry canopy will be added as well as awnings over the windows. An exit door will be added and the wall treatment will be extended. The signage will appear on the edge of the entry canopy. The committee requested the signage return to the committee, with an email approval.
Status: Approved building renovations.
The Sky Castle Restaurant & Bar (2808 Seventh Avenue South) will be moving into the 29/7 Building. The patio will have a trellis above, similar to neighboring Babalu, that will replace the canopies. Planter boxes will be added, but no additional lighting will be installed. The committee expressed concerns about how it will look in context with the other tenants, wayfinding, and the post alignment. They also requested more information on the elevations, future sign expectations and handrail changes.
Status: Carried over to the next meeting.
The Avon Theatre (2829 Seventh Avenue South) plans to remove the existing side parking lot and replace it with a new entrance and crushed-stone patio. No landscaping will be changed, but they will return to the committee for approval of new directional signage.
Post-demolition plans for a Sloss Real Estate building in Lakeview (700 28th Street South) returned to the committee. Bollards will be added to the landscaped site to discourage parking. The original spacing of the bollards was set at seven feet, but the committee requested the bollards be moved closer together so drivers will not attempt to park in the empty lot.
Glory Bound Gyro is moving into the area (101 20th Street South). The renovations to the building include installing new glass along the First Avenue South side of the building. The signage is addressed in the building’s Master Signage Plan and did not need to come before the committee.
Status: Approved, one recusal.
Proposed amendments to the Master Signage Plan for the Financial Center (505 20th Street North) were presented to the committee. The language was changed to include the option for a restaurant tenant and a projecting sign at street level.
Plans to replace the existing signage for a new tenant (7600 First Avenue North) were presented to the committee. The sign package also requested signs on the side of the building, as well as vinyl lettering on the windows. The total signage package exceeds the building’s allotted amount.
Status: Approved, corner and door signage only.
The Lakeview Tire Engineers (320 Sixth Avenue South) is the last of the local stores in the Birmingham area to be remodeled. The plans include painting the building gray with a bright blue band, reducing the signage, adding metal awnings and removing the commercial signs. The size of the pole sign is being reduced in area.
Status: Approved, one opposed.
The signage at the WorkPlay parking lot (500 23rd Street South) was presented to the committee. The electronic message board will be added to the existing signage structure. The committee, however, felt the plans showed the sign as an afterthought rather than a cohesive design and also requested site plans and photographs of the site.
Status: Carried over to the next meeting.
The vinyl siding installation (1301 32nd Street North) project was carried over from the previous meeting in December. The neighborhood committee had requested additional time for review. The property is an investment, not the owner’s residence, and damage from a fire is being repaired. The owner repairs began more than three years ago. However, the siding was not on the original permit, which caused the city inspector to issue a citation to cease construction. The neighborhood committee denied the proposal. The committee members were reminded that a two-thirds majority was needed to overturn a neighborhood committee decision.
The owners of a Redmont Park property (2531 Lanark Road) are adding a screen porch, updating the wood siding and installing new windows. The original siding was discovered underneath the current vinyl and the home will be painted a cream color. The shutters will be removed and not replaced when the new windows are installed. An existing addition will be extended. All of the brick will be painted to match the structure, with the exception of the stairs. The neighborhood committee has approved the plans.
The low-sitting house (3195 Argyle Road), only a few decades old, will receive an update with the removal of a wood deck. The site of the deck structure will become an extension of the master bedroom and will be covered in materials to match the existing house. The addition is barely visible from the road. The neighborhood committee has approved the plans.
Plans for new construction (2945 Berwick Road) were presented to the committee. The builders requested a variance for the setback of the house based on the slope of the lot. The façade of the building will include a cedar garage door and stucco exterior with stacked limestone accents. A bridge will be built to cross the steep slope to both the garage and the front door.
Status: Approved, with the request to wrap the limestone accents around the façade and for the terra cotta pots on the chimney to remain unpainted.
The item on a fencing project (402 Balcourt Drive) was carried over from the December meeting. The owner appeared before the committee, fulfilling an order from the judge on her court case. A permit was not obtained thus the city issued a summons. The guidelines note that fences need to be “consistent with the age and style of the house.” The owner used repurposed materials, but the amount of materials did not extend to the gate, which is chain link. The committee requested the owner add a wooden element to the opposite side of the gate for balance.
Status: Approved, with the addition of the wooden element.