Twice a month, the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee convenes at the Auburn Urban Studio 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 October 14, 2015.
Fancy’s on Fifth (4038 Fifth Avenue South) received initial approval from the committee in January. Representatives for the restaurant returned to the committee with the plans for parking, a dumpster enclosure, landscaping, signage, and the cooler enclosure. Landscaping includes adding crepe myrtles along 41st Street, large shade trees, and holly as screening. An audience member commented regarding the use of a plant considered an invasive species. The existing curb cuts on 41st Street will be used. The signage includes an oval projecting sign with neon and lights installed on the existing sign post and a mural painted and artificially weathered to look historic. To the rear of the building will be a dumpster enclosure and a walk-in storage cooler. Concerns were expressed about the visibility of a storage container as well. The motion to approve included replacing the invasive species with other landscaping and is subject to approval from zoning for the shipping container.
The committee had previously approved the façade demolition at JMCRE Commercial Real Estate (208 20th Street North). The plans include restoring the façade to its 1918-era look. Tar residue was discovered on the brick and the concrete block used to seal the window spaces. The block will be removed and replaced with windows. There will be attempts to restore the brick after removing the tar. The restored storefront will have a band of metal panels for signage. A sign for Reynolds Haberdashery had been painted on the side and an artist will replicate the historic sign. The color scheme for the storefront will be cream and brown with either a red or green accent.
Fourth Avenue North
The Brock Corners Assembly Space (312-A 18th Street North) returned to the committee after the project plans were carried over for consideration of the mullions. The new plans addressed the committee’s concerns about the arrangement of the windows above the doors. Plans for signage will return at a later date.
Representatives from Marx Brothers, Inc. (3100 Second Avenue North) returned to the committee to address the concerns for the truck entrance. Scoring patterns on the sidewalk, signage, and fencing were all addressed to the committee’s satisfaction. An employee courtyard will also be landscaped in the alley and screened with holly and hydrangea. Oaks will be added to the alley as well. A berm will also be planted with magnolias to help screen the shipping operations.
21st Street North
The signage package for Lewis Communications (2030 First Avenue North) was presented to the committee. Lewis Communications will be the sole tenant in the building. The plans include a vertical sign with aluminum letters and wayfinding signage at the entrance to the courtyard. The courtyard signage will be a dark gray panel sign denoting the entry from Richard Arrington, Jr. Blvd. There is also an existing flag pole on the roof, which will have a flag with the Lewis logo.
Status: Approved, one opposed
The Fast Signs/AccuPrint (2023 First Avenue North) signage proposal returned to committee after being carried over from the previous meeting. The plans were revisited and have been moved to a location on the façade that is centered and the two business names will be stacked.
The Arlington Business Center (1526 Fifth Avenue South) presented plans for updating the signage for the multitenant property. The master signage plan will require all signs to be the same style and shape and no externally lit signs will be allowed. Until the signage is complete for a new tenant, permission for a 30-day temporary banner was requested.
Prior to appearing before the committee, the neighborhood association approved an addition to the front of an existing house (1025 43rd Place South). The approval was given subject to a revision in the site plan to change items in the landscaping plan and the trim color on the addition. This residence was a Simplicity House built shortly after the end of World War I. The addition to the bungalow will be enclosed but the plans include making changes to the entryway and porch as well. The 18-foot addition is subject to receiving approval for a variance for the set back and parking.
Simplicity Houses were starter homes built after World War I in some of Birmingham’s more fashionable neighborhoods. Built by the Birmingham Realty Company, these houses were expected to be turned into garages or other outbuildings once the owners outgrew the need for a small home and “graduated” to owning a larger residence.