Steam Plant Makeovers Advance Parkside District Momentum

Orchestra Partners and landscape architect Tom Leader hope to transform the Parkside District, in Birmingham, with a mixed-use redevelopment plan for Powell Avenue Steam Plant and several historic warehouse buildings west of Railroad Park.

“Connectivity and walkability are core principles of our mission to build a better Birmingham,” said Hunter Renfroe, founder and principal of Orchestra Partners.

The Parkside District will utilize the Red Rock Trail System, currently a system of 120 miles of trails laid out by the Freshwater Land Trust, with another 600 or so miles planned through the Jones Valley, to connect the many neighborhoods that form Birmingham. The Parkside District is the first step in what developers hope will be the rebirth of downtown Birmingham. It is within easy walking distance of the historic Central Business District, the Loft District, UAB and Five Points South.

Groups partnered on the Parkside District project are the City of Birmingham, Alabama Power, Freshwater Land Trust, REV Birmingham and Urban Impact.

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Orchestra Partners’ Renfroe noted the key role played by Tom Leader, founder and principal of California-based TLS Landscape Architecture — the lead planner and designer behind the development of Railroad Park from 2005-2010.

“Partnering with Tom Leader will help us rebuild connections between Birmingham’s central business district and its surrounding neighborhoods by leveraging Railroad Park and the Red Rock Trail System as pathways of connection,” said Renfroe.

Leader’s comprehensive plan for Parkside features pedestrian pathways enhanced with retail and entertainment amenities with public spaces anchoring both ends of Parkside District — the blocks surrounding Powell Avenue Steam Plant to the east and the Birmingham Wholesale Warehouse Loop District to the west — to create an entertainment experience.

Renfroe added that the Powell Avenue Steam Plant project and adjacent redevelopments will allow Orchestra Partners to preserve a group of mid-century warehouse buildings on the west end of Railroad Park. Orchestra Partners has acquired Duffy’s Garage, 112 14th Street South, 1227 1st Avenue South, 113 13th Street South and 230 2nd Avenue South to include in the Parkside master plan.

“Revitalizing these buildings through adaptive reuse will help us preserve a major piece of Birmingham’s history while transforming this district into a critical western anchor point for Parkside,” Renfroe said.

On the east side of the redevelopment is Alabama Power’s Powell Avenue Steam Plant, built in 1895 by Consolidated Electric Light & Power Co. It was acquired by Alabama Power in 1952. The plant provided steam and electricity for downtown Birmingham and its streetcar system for 120 years.

“For more than a century, Powell Steam Plant played a pivotal role in shaping Birmingham’s growth,” said Tony Smoke, vice president of Birmingham Division for Alabama Power. “Now this historic structure will become a symbol of modern urbanization and economic development, connecting our communities to celebrate the future of Birmingham.”

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