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highlandtodd

Height Restrictions on Downtown Birmingham

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Dear Forum:

I understand the FAA has a height restriction of 454 ft. for buildings in downtown Birmingham, due to the (wonderful in my opinion) very close proximity of the airport.

My question to you all is this: Are there any areas of the city, or the county, like Bessemer, Wildwood, Hoover or Liberty Park, where a very tall building could be constructed without height restrictions?

Mobile's RSA Battle House Tower was formally dedicated May 12th, just hours after ThyssenKrupp announced its decision to locate its first North American Steel plant there. These two developments are awesome for Alabama, and great portents for Mobile. Mobile's 750ft. tall building bears directly upon my height restriction question for Birmingham, as it would be good for Birmingham to reclaim "Alabama's Tallest Building" title. If, for the sake of arguement, Compass chose to build a new skyscraper, and wanted it to be in Birmingham AND the state's tallest, could they?

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no idea - some cities have managed to get exemptions for a particular project, so i suppose it's not impossible. i don't even know for sure what the regs are in birmingham.

whatever the height limit is, the restriction may not extend beyond downtown proper, so there may be free space in the southern part of town for such a venture - however much sense it would make to have a tower there. i am not nearly as informed about this sort of thing as some others on this forum, so i could be off on where the boundary lies.

FWIW, i could give a rat's phat thang whether bham has the state's tallest. i would much rather bham beckon the pedestrian than the freeway gawker. that means quality of amenities at street level, not at 1,000 feet. i realize i'm in the minority on that, though. height and street life can coexist, i know, but they rarely do in the u.s.

that said, i'm glad mobile has a nice tower - it is a handsome building and looks impressive at a distance. it's certainly a positive for mobile.

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I feel pretty certain the height restrictions dont carry into Southside... that would probably be the best bet for a highrise above the specified restrictions. Also west of I-65 or north of I-20/59, but those areas aren't established yet as part of the downtown area... maybe some day though. I also think that the restrictions even for the central business district (ie, the north side) have been loosened somewhat. Not enough probably to get a 1,000ft building there, but maybe 500-700ft if it's in the right place.

I'm kind of like convulso in that I'm not so hung up on skyscrapers. Skyscrapers, moreso than actually making your economy boom, is more a symbol of your city's vibrancy. In and of itself though, it really means very little. Having said that, I'd love to have some more 20+ and 30+ story buildings. As far as reclaiming the state's tallest building, I think that will happen some day. Maybe not soon, but it will. There are many good things happening downtown... things that I wouldn't trade for just one tall building. I'm quite excited about Birmingham's future. Alot of people are far too pessimistic about it in general.

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...things that I wouldn't trade for just one tall building. I'm quite excited about Birmingham's future.

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. . . . . .

btw, does anyone know the name of the currrently-under-construction apartment (maybe they're condos; not sure) building just up the hill from highland avenue? i think it can be reached by taking niazuma, but i'm not sure. it looks to be maybe 12-14 stories or so - at least, it seems that way since the site is perched near the top of the hill.

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I agree with you both. I think downtown is going to be great again at night. All the city have to do is lure some nighttime entertainments along 20th Street or in that vicinity...stretching from Midtown to Downtown. Downtown should get some things like a Hard Rock Cafe, Lucky Strike bowling alley or Jillians or Dave and Buster, Hooters or Coyote Ugly, TGI Fridays, a movie theatre, along with more hotels. I don't want downtown Birmingham to be like other places with these venues, but it is just what works for nighttime entertainment. Nightclubs should be left at 5 Points South and Lakeview, and all-nighters should be able to ride The Dart from downtown to those places in order to change up plans for the night. Some may want to go out to eat at Hooters during the earlier part of the night, walk around to Lucky Strike for bowling after that, then walk around to a bar for a drink and some live music, and then catch The Dart to Club 1120 or Banana Joe's in 5 Points South before riding The Dart to Hyatt Place in midtown/downtown to get some sleep. That surely sounds like a fun night for me. In contrast, some families may be staying at the new Renaissance by Marriott hotel on Birmingham's Southside on 20th St. South, then walk to Starbucks for a coffee before riding The Dart to downtown for dinner at TGI Friday's. After dinner, mom and dad could go and watch a play at The Alabama Theatre, while the kids go and watch a movie at the cinema. Forget an entertainment center at BJCC, enhance downtown along 20th St and allow The Dart to drive around all night. CAP's downtown should be ready and alert incase something may happen in our safe downtown.

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it's definitely the capri.

thanks for posting those links - i've been staring at the capri for weeks now without knowing what it is. now i do. funny...no mention of price ranges on their web site.

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I agree with you both. I think downtown is going to be great again at night. All the city have to do is lure some nighttime entertainments along 20th Street or in that vicinity...stretching from Midtown to Downtown. Downtown should get some things like a Hard Rock Cafe, Lucky Strike bowling alley or Jillians or Dave and Buster, Hooters or Coyote Ugly, TGI Fridays, a movie theatre, along with more hotels. I don't want downtown Birmingham to be like other places with these venues, but it is just what works for nighttime entertainment. Nightclubs should be left at 5 Points South and Lakeview, and all-nighters should be able to ride The Dart from downtown to those places in order to change up plans for the night. Some may want to go out to eat at Hooters during the earlier part of the night, walk around to Lucky Strike for bowling after that, then walk around to a bar for a drink and some live music, and then catch The Dart to Club 1120 or Banana Joe's in 5 Points South before riding The Dart to Hyatt Place in midtown/downtown to get some sleep. That surely sounds like a fun night for me. In contrast, some families may be staying at the new Renaissance by Marriott hotel on Birmingham's Southside on 20th St. South, then walk to Starbucks for a coffee before riding The Dart to downtown for dinner at TGI Friday's. After dinner, mom and dad could go and watch a play at The Alabama Theatre, while the kids go and watch a movie at the cinema. Forget an entertainment center at BJCC, enhance downtown along 20th St and allow The Dart to drive around all night. CAP's downtown should be ready and alert incase something may happen in our safe downtown.

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On the topic itself, we need to have a major overhaul of the current leadership issues before we should make the bold step of trying to build another skyscraper. Yes, I do agree with you guys Blazer85 and Convulso about more infill, but the problem with the major construction, via the # of cranes and low percentage of annual population growth, does hint to the our inability to "doing things right". That within in itself is a Catch-22, we should be as construction heavy as any of our neighbors as it a sign of vibrancy, but we shouldn't try to immulate them by destroying our urban fabric (look at Charlotte). The current administration has made recruiting of business a very difficult thing for the city as whole, not just the City Center. Once this is resolved and we have a somebody at the helm of leadership that actually makes progressive decisions that make Birmingham more 'business-friendly' then we will see more major announcements for projects such as a building 500 feet+ in height. I do believe we are just another decade at the least from that happening, but once it starts everybody (even our neighbors in other states) will know and realize this.

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I don't believe the height restrictions apply in Midtown either, or at least not all of it. There was a proposal for a midtown skyscraper back in the 80's or 90's (Shepherd Center?) that would still be the state's tallest.

Downtown Birmingham could have an incredibly bright future because there is so much good building stock and an existing urban grid available for renovation and in-fill projects of all kinds -- high rises, mid-rises, low rises. As Leonard23 mentioned, the city needs competent leadership to stitch that urban fabric back together and eventually expand it beyond what it was half a century ago.

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I don't believe the height restrictions apply in Midtown either, or at least not all of it. There was a proposal for a midtown skyscraper back in the 80's or 90's (Shepherd Center?) that would still be the state's tallest.

Downtown Birmingham could have an incredibly bright future because there is so much good building stock and an existing urban grid available for renovation and in-fill projects of all kinds -- high rises, mid-rises, low rises. As Leonard23 mentioned, the city needs competent leadership to stitch that urban fabric back together and eventually expand it beyond what it was half a century ago.

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The focus was primarily office-related. It was proposed by Everret Shephred, Jr. Sherpherd Center I was planned to be 72-stories tall-- one of the nation's tallest buildings and, at the time, one of the world's tallest buildings. Shepherd Center II was to be 44-stories tall-- would be Birmingham's second-tallest and the state's second-tallest below Shepherd Center one. I believe Everret Shepherd Jr. was very religious and, in fact, the upper floors of the 72-story tower were to be lit up at night in the shape of a cross. I think it was also discussed that possibly the global Catholic channel EWTN (which is still based in Birmingham) would be one of the primary tenants.

Based on information I've found, the proposal's failure had nothing to do with height restrictions and everything to do with financing. This was proposed to be south of the railroad tracks around 1st Avenue South so we can pretty well assume that there's pretty much no (or at least very little) height restrictions south of the railroad tracks anyway.

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I don't think we have to worry at all about Birmingham getting any tall towers. If you look at most other large cities, and then look at Birmingham. You notice something that's very different with Birmingham. Uhhhh, Birmingham has a lot of natural barriers that border downtown. As you can probably figure, it wouldn't be that easy to expand downtown up sheer cliffs, and wooded areas. So, eventually, there's going to be less room in downtown, and people are just going to have to build up. Which isn't a problem that most larger cities have to deal with.

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What I'm waiting on is a local company or developer with pride in the area such that they WANT to build a landmark tower. So far, that hasn't happened. I've said it before in other threads, but Birmingham folks really have to take control of their own destiny. Be proud. Be positive. Be involved. Don't just sit back and let the corruption and racial baiting continue. Birmingham has incredible potential and I'm optimistic it will some day be realized. Maybe the recent development with the steel plant in Mobile will make folks wake up. The ThyssenKrupp plant is really good for the whole state, but it will be incredibly good for Mobile in particular. Birmingham's leaders need to wake up. Put aside the politics, put forth incentives, work hard to recruit up-and-coming corporations, etc. Just, basically, don't be satisfied with being a city less than what Birmingham once was... and a city Birmingham can once again be.

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What I'm waiting on is a local company or developer with pride in the area such that they WANT to build a landmark tower. So far, that hasn't happened. I've said it before in other threads, but Birmingham folks really have to take control of their own destiny. Be proud. Be positive. Be involved. Don't just sit back and let the corruption and racial baiting continue. Birmingham has incredible potential and I'm optimistic it will some day be realized. Maybe the recent development with the steel plant in Mobile will make folks wake up. The ThyssenKrupp plant is really good for the whole state, but it will be incredibly good for Mobile in particular. Birmingham's leaders need to wake up. Put aside the politics, put forth incentives, work hard to recruit up-and-coming corporations, etc. Just, basically, don't be satisfied with being a city less than what Birmingham once was... and a city Birmingham can once again be.

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Don't get too bogged down or bothered by those al.com folks. I tend to think they don't represent the majority of the metro area's opinion. Maybe a large segment, but not probably the majority. And certainly I think there's an increasing effort by the corporate community in Birmingham to rally behind the city. They all understand that their fate is directly tied to that of Birmingham. I think a LOT of our suburbs understand this as well... they just don't feel inclined to really interact with the local government right now. Which again, comes back to us, the citizens. We've GOT to get the majority of these incumbents OUT of office.

In short, Leonard, I understand your pessimism at times, but I don't think now is the time to be pessimistic. I really see alot more going on now than has been in a long time... and that's in spite of poor leadership. Just imagine if we can get some REAL leaders in office. I think it's easy to get depressed or feeling down when you see the type of stuff going on in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville, but they didnt get to that point over night. They started, at some point, where we are today. There are probably over $1-billion in projects planned or under construction downtown. That's pretty significant. I think many of these developments that are on the verge of starting (the BJCC District/Expansion and the Railroad Park come to mind)... these type of developments have the ability to absolutely transform downtown and encourage incredible amounts of growth (both commercial and residential). I can't help but be optimistic. I think we've done quite well given our pathetic leadership.

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no idea - some cities have managed to get exemptions for a particular project, so i suppose it's not impossible. i don't even know for sure what the regs are in birmingham.

whatever the height limit is, the restriction may not extend beyond downtown proper, so there may be free space in the southern part of town for such a venture - however much sense it would make to have a tower there. i am not nearly as informed about this sort of thing as some others on this forum, so i could be off on where the boundary lies.

FWIW, i could give a rat's phat thang whether bham has the state's tallest. i would much rather bham beckon the pedestrian than the freeway gawker. that means quality of amenities at street level, not at 1,000 feet. i realize i'm in the minority on that, though. height and street life can coexist, i know, but they rarely do in the u.s.

that said, i'm glad mobile has a nice tower - it is a handsome building and looks impressive at a distance. it's certainly a positive for mobile.

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Yeah... the Shepherd Center would have transformed Birmingham. It was actually a 2-highrise complex. The first of the buildings was to be about 44-stories tall. The second was to be not just the tallest in Alabama, but the tallest in the South at around 70 or 72-stories. I think in terms of the FAA, the proposal was valid... but it never occurred for other reasons relating to the potential tenants.

Certainly, other 30+ story buildings are within reason... and maybe even a 40+ story building or two. I just dont see a need right now for a 70+ story tower. It certainly would be a major symbol for the symbol, but it would probably look a bit silly without building up the surrounding skyline. A single 70+ story tower amidst a sea of 20-30 story towers makes those 20-30 story buildings look small. I'd prefer to work our way up (ie, more 20-story buildings, then more 30-story buildings, and so on... not just jumping up to like double the height of any of our current building).

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no idea - some cities have managed to get exemptions for a particular project, so i suppose it's not impossible. i don't even know for sure what the regs are in birmingham.

whatever the height limit is, the restriction may not extend beyond downtown proper, so there may be free space in the southern part of town for such a venture - however much sense it would make to have a tower there. i am not nearly as informed about this sort of thing as some others on this forum, so i could be off on where the boundary lies.

FWIW, i could give a rat's phat thang whether bham has the state's tallest. i would much rather bham beckon the pedestrian than the freeway gawker. that means quality of amenities at street level, not at 1,000 feet. i realize i'm in the minority on that, though. height and street life can coexist, i know, but they rarely do in the u.s.

that said, i'm glad mobile has a nice tower - it is a handsome building and looks impressive at a distance. it's certainly a positive for mobile.

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I'd just say that it's more important to be dense than it is to be tall anywhere in this city. The idea is to make people feel more comfortable when moving around. One of the reasons that some of us outsiders tend to look at Birmingham is because you get just enough of a big city feel with the chance to be near nature whenever you want to be.

The height restriction is a great thing for downtown as it allows you to enjoy things like the view down to Vulcan or the Red Mountain ridge. It's what makes Birmingham what it is and what it can be. The best thing is to encourage any and everyone to take a look at what we have and how we can build on that. I'm a native New Yorker and enjoy seeing those tall buildings when I go home. It's a little upsetting though when you hear what the occupancy is in them. I'd rather fill the buildings we've got already and then worry about building a new symbol for the city. Not that we need one with the big guy standing atop Red Mountain and the current skyline downtown anyway.

It's late and I'm rambling.

Cheers.

Dre's Ramblings

http://www.dresramblings.com

The Terminal - Get on board!

http://bhamterminal.com

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Yeah, I'd rather see City Federal, the Cabana, the John Hand, the 1974-era First Alabama/Regions building 100% occupied before we start adding tall buildings.

Besides, if Birmingham were to add a supertall structure to its skyline, some rival city would build one taller. It's a losing proposition.

Red Mountain, Vulcan & the WBRC sign are tall enough for me. A denser downtown would be so sweet, though...with a lot more trees. Downtown needs more trees.

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Yeah, I'd rather see City Federal, the Cabana, the John Hand, the 1974-era First Alabama/Regions building 100% occupied before we start adding tall buildings.

Besides, if Birmingham were to add a supertall structure to its skyline, some rival city would build one taller. It's a losing proposition.

Red Mountain, Vulcan & the WBRC sign are tall enough for me. A denser downtown would be so sweet, though...with a lot more trees. Downtown needs more trees.

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