Category Archives: Design Review Committee

Design Review Committee disapproves replacement “Sign”

03092016 2NorthTwentiethWednesday morning, the Birmingham Design Review Committee voted 7-0 to disapprove the installation of two static vinyl signs over the electronic sign atop Two North Twentieth. Committee chair Sam Frazier recused himself from the case and the vote. The sign had been a late addition to the committee’s March 9 agenda and held over to give them an opportunity to review the proposal.

Prior to this morning’s vote, the issue of what constituted an alteration to the message board originally installed in 1971 in honor of the city’s centennial appeared to be front and center.

Chervis Isom, representing the John Hand Condo Owners Association, suggested the vinyl signs advertising Pepsi placed over the structure more than two years ago was “a major alteration to the original, non-conforming sign.”

“What they did was radically change the character of the sign. They changed it from a message board to a billboard with a static sign,” said Isom.

“There were messages of public service all day long, and it didn’t operate at night. This thing has spotlights on it. That’s a major alteration as far as I’m concerned,” he continued.

Several committee members asked for clarification as to what constitutes an alteration. There was also a suggestion a plan be submitted outlining how and when the sign would be restored.

Richard Mauk, serving as committee chair for the case, asked Alton Parker of Spain & Gillion if exterior lights were added to the existing structure in order to accommodate the installation of the Pepsi signs. Parker said he could not say when they were added. Mauk later asked if there were any plans to restore the sign to its original usage (as was the understanding when the previous proposal was originally presented by its then owner, Harbert Realty). Parker and 84 Outdoor general counsel Cheri Bomar informed the committee there were no plans to restore the sign.

UAB has contracted to pay $300,000 to design and install a double-sided sign for a period of one year with the option to extend the lease period.

The motion for disapproval on the grounds a static billboard “is an inappropriate solution to a historic sign.” was made by committee member Don Cosper after a 15-minute executive session with Jim Stanley from the city’s legal department.

There is no word as to whether or not any additional legal action will take place. The cease and desist originally sent to 84 Outdoor is said to still be in effect.

A future for “The Sign” begins to take shape

03092016 2NorthTwentiethThis morning, the Birmingham Design Review Committee got its first look at a proposed replacement for what’s come to be known around the city as “The Pepsi Sign.” Representatives from 84 Outdoor and Cayenne Creative presented a working design to committee members at the end of the meeting.

City officials reached out to 84 Outdoor by letter (of the cease and desist variety) after learning about the plans to replace the existing vinyl signs covering the electric scrolling installation atop Two North Twentieth via a story published on March 2 by They met with them on Tuesday and subsequently added them to this morning’s agenda to give the committee a chance to offer input on its design.

It has been just over two years since the advertisement was first installed. (We have a recap of previous reports about appearances by “The Sign” on the Design Review agenda available on Dear Birmingham.) A follow-up report by’s Kelly Poe said UAB will be paying $300,000 for a one-year lease of the two-sided sign.

James Stanley, an attorney with the City of Birmingham, informed committee members the sign is considered a non-conforming billboard for zoning purposes. Based on this designation, the new owner does not have to seek approval of any replacement of the advertising on the sign so long as the sign is not expanded in size and there was no need to replace its structure. 84 Outdoor can choose (as it did) to bring those proposed designs to the committee to seek input and opinion as they are considered, but they do not need their approval for installation.

The design as presented this morning has several downtown destinations represented in simulated black and white photos, including the Alabama Theatre; the City Federal building; the Empire Building; Harbert Plaza; Railroad Park; Sloss Furnaces; Vulcan; and the soon to be lit Magic City sign along the Rotary Trail on Southside. A green UAB logo would sit in the middle of it. The design would be closer to what had been suggested by the committee while working with Harbert Realty on what they originally asked to be considered temporary signage more than two years ago.

The committee asked the applicants to come back for the next regularly scheduled meeting on March 23 to give them an opportunity to review the proposed design.

Unfortunately, the BhamPepsiSign Twitter account doesn’t exist anymore, so the sign could not be reached for comment.

Proposal for chain link fence around parking lot on 18th Street tabled at Design Review Committee meeting

ALcom parking lotThere was one additional item added to last week’s Design Review Committee meeting agenda (you can click here to view the preview post). Despite this, the committee still only heard three items as representatives for the first one did not appear. The path forward involving the item — a parking lot — will go a long way toward defining how a major entry point into the city’s central business district looking in the short term.

The property in question is owned by Robert Crook and currently leased by Alabama Media Group (AMG)/ It sits on the southeast corner of 18th Street and 1st Avenue North — sitting catty-corner from the soon-to-be demolished BJCTA Central Station and a short walk from both Alabama Power’s Powell Avenue steam plant and Railroad Park.

ProposedAL.comparking fencing-PageLift 625

The proposal presented called for a six-foot tall black chain link fence to be erected around the property, delineating the difference between the parking spaces contained within and a vacant lot directly to its east. Representatives for AMG told the committee the fence was needed to help deter people from cutting through the parking lot on their way to Railroad Park and the bus station. The current lack of a barrier along the 1st Avenue North and Morris Avenue edges of the lot had led to some vehicles being damaged. The fence would sit four feet inside of the property line and behind a Buford holly hedge already in existence along 18th Street and proposed to be extended along 1st Avenue North and Morris Avenue. The existing traffic pattern on the property would remain, with one way in off of 1st Avenue North and two exit gates along Morris Avenue.

Committee members had concerns about the height of the fence and the precedent it may set moving forward. They requested Crook and AMG consider whether a shorter fence, particularly one four-feet in height, would be more appropriate. They pointed out that 3′ of that fence would be blocked from view by the Buford holly hedges. They also asked if the applicant would consider the placement of trees along the property edge. The item was tabled pending conversations between the applicant, the tenant, and the architectural firm working on the project.

In other business, the committee approved the installation of a mural on the exterior wall of East 59; and they approved proposed changes to the exterior of the building that houses Unity of Birmingham in Highland Park.

Design Review Preview | August 27 ,2014

Design Review Preview | June 25, 2014

Design Review Preview | June 11, 2014

Please note the item currently listed as last on the preliminary agenda — an informal review of proposed murals being presented by REV Birmingham — was not included in the map.

STATIONMASTER’S NOTE: We’ll do our best to provide a downloadable version of the agenda in addition to this map in advance of the city’s Design Review Committee meeting whenever possible. Our map may not always go in the order of the agenda (and it is subject to last minute changes), but it should give you an idea of what’s happening. Looking forward  to hearing your thoughts via the comments below, Facebook, or Twitter!

New Alagasco operations center means demolition of historic freight station

ICRRterminalThe January 8 meeting of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee included a lengthy discussion about future plans for the significant portion of the former TCI Linn Iron Works property. Natural gas utility Alagasco is looking to redevelop the site, located just off the corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue North in the city’s burgeoning Entrepreneurial District, for a new operations center. It would be one of two such facilities being developed to handle increased demand in the metro area.

AlagascoBHAMDRCdocDemolition of the largest structure currently standing on the site – a freight terminal once used by the Illinois Central, Central of Georgia, and Birmingham Southern Railroad; and sitting at 14 14th St. N. – was approved as well as a conceptual layout of the new development and its resulting elevations. Alan Tichansky of Williams Blackstock Architects provided committee members with an outline of a report (PDF format) developed to determine whether the structure, most recently used as a mini self-storage facility, could be adapted for the site’s proposed new use. Reasons cited included a list of issues with the building’s current condition – most notably the reported removal of the one story shed’s truss structure bracing and the need for a complete renovation of both it and the two story building to which it’s attached. They also cite an issue with the building’s construction – wood with interior bearing walls – as being “incompatible” with the necessary space layout requirements.

The proposal’s approval was not unanimous and not without concern from committee members (as reported in The Birmingham News last week). It would be the last significant building directly associated with the dominance of rail service along the southern edge of Birmingham’s central business district – leading to the eventual grade separation project and the underpasses at 14th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Streets. Early reports have already motivated some to begin to plan an effort to save the building, most notably “I Believe in Birmingham.” It is not, however, the most significant transformation of property formerly used by Illinois Central.

A quick study of the lower left side of this historic photograph hosted on the website shows a terminal shed sitting along 1st Avenue North between 14th and 18th Streets. Those familiar with this part of town will now probably have a new found appreciation of the name Innovation Depot – housed in the former Sears Roebuck and Co. flagship store that now occupies the property.