The Birmingham city council approved to speed the timeline of 3-year-old talks to demolish a dilapidated building formerly known as Banks High School in a Tuesday morning meeting in which the structure has raised residential complaints and social and environmental safety concerns to youth and other residents in the East Lake community.
“It is something that I think we as a team have been talking about for a long time, said Hunter Williams, a Birmingham city council member. It is something that the residents of the east side of Birmingham in Roebuck, in Eastlake–North and South,– Roebuck Springs have all been very concerned about. They don’t want their children growing up next door to a dilapidated building where people are firing semi-automatic weapons, day in and day out.”
The reintroduction of the proposal arose out of discussion to pass amendments to a warrant that would extend the date of a 2018 ordinance for a loan agreement that would continue the removal process with sights of completion by the end of the summer.
“We are at the end, and we are appreciative of this brand slash loan product, which is forgivable, said Kelvin Thatcher a team member part of Capital Projects. And so now we are moving with all due haste. The bid documents for demolition have been completed and have been submitted for their review. And so we’re at the point now with your approval we can move on this and Ms. Bell [team member of Capital Projects] does have a timeline for demolition to be completed in July of this year.
The move to pass the proposal was not without questions on why a large budget was needed despite no concrete plan, and why it has taken so long for the blighted structure to be removed amidst numerous residential complaints.
“I know, it’s been a point of contention for quite some time and I’m inclined to support it, said Steven W. Hoyte, a member of the Council. But I just thought that, you know, good planning also comes with a with a good plan. And I’ve yet to see the plan.”.
The building has raised many concerns over several years and has been a nuisance to the community. Councilor Williams said the school’s physical structure is an invitation for individuals to use the dilapidated building for alternative purposes that are potentially harmful to the nearby residents.
“Essentially what is going on is since Banks [High School] has very thick, concrete walls, it is sitting in East Lake and it is being use as a firing range for people to fire their weapons inside, Councilor Williams said. It is something that is dilapidated and is a nuisance to the East Lake community and it is something that the East Lake community has been asking for about 10 years to be torn down.”‘
The building has also raised environmental concerns holding hazardous environmental pollutants that Councilor Williams said is a reason for the past few years. The city has not been able to find a private entity that would redevelop or take over the structure.
[The building] does have asbestos and other nuisances that are hazardous to the neighborhoods, so I think a lot of times developers don’t want to get close to it,” Councilor Williams said.
In the unanimous vote to pass the amendments, Councilor Hoyt expressed urgency to the Council to complete this matter.
“I really do believe this is something that needs to be addressed, Councilor Hoyt said. We have children at Park place who have to walk past this every single day and its pathetic and it’s a health hazard. It’s just not fair that we would put efforts to clean up one community and then we let one just go down and this is in the city’s center. So as a council we should just zero in on that because it’s an issue.”
The timeline of completion for the removal process is set for July 2021. The next city council meeting is scheduled virtually for next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
The upcoming city council committee meetings are as followed:
- The Budget and Finance committee will hold a meeting March 22from 3-4 p.m.
- The utilities committee will hold a town hall meeting on March 16 at 6 p.m. to discuss rent and utilities’ assistance via Facebook Live
- The Education committee meeting will be hold a virtual meeting March 15 at noon