A rezoning plan that seeks to bring affordable and multifamily housing, retail space, and other developments to Southside was approved by the Birmingham City Council Tuesday. One of the plan’s developers said it aims to boost the city provide greater convenience for its residents financially.
“Redevelopment of the site has been discussed for years and it is considered a key economic development opportunity for the city of Birmingham, but more importantly it benefits residents,” said Beck Carpenter, the development project manager for Corporate Realty Development, one of the developers for the project.
The mixed used model, proposed by Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD), will offer housing for current HABD residents as part of its first phase of redevelopment scheduled for the fall of this year , according to Carpenter. Affordable housing will also be offered with 220 units available for family and senior residents.
Carpenter said subsequent development would focus on including office, hotel, and retail buildings reaching a maximum of 225 feet, parking, and green space in addition to bike lanes and sidewalks. This model will combine housing and city development that will bring Southtown to optimal use.
“This is a uniquely visited site in Birmingham, it lends itself to more dense, urban development, Carpenter said. That’s part of why we are requesting a mixed-use downtown zoning.”
However, Rob Burton, a Southside community officer, said the council should hold off on voting for the mixed model until the project guarantees that current residents in the community are not displaced.
“Since 2018, the residents of the community have been requesting a community benefits agreement to try and help with making sure anybody who lives there does not get displaced, and to help provide good housing for folks,” Burton said in the council meeting which was open to the public.
In response to possible qualms of the model, Carol Clarke, general manager of Southside Development company which is a development partner to HABD, said the project has been regulated by HUD and is following guidelines that combat resident displacement and provides protection.
Others, such as Councilwoman Valerie Abbott, said the redevelopment should initially include buildings of no more than 100 feet in an effort to reduce sight nuisance to residents immediately nearby.
“No one in a residence wants to look out their window and see this tower sticking up, we already have those problems on Highland Avenue and have experienced those complaints.”
Alyssa Sanfilippo, president of the Highland Park neighborhood Association and proponent of the 100-foot height maximum, said that redevelopment structures should be initially built to the 100-foot maximum and offer a second request if they wish to exceed that height.
“If a hotel or something wants to go higher [afterwards], then they could come back and request that variance.” Sanfilippo said. But [the project is] in the immediate area, and abuts a residential area- there is nothing in the immediate area that is 225 feet.”
Councilman Hoyt said the reduced height maximum does not make sense for a future career site. Hoyt also said the placement of the structure serves as a natural buffer. The building will not be offsetting to residents, who are not too immediate to the redevelopment structures.
At the discussion’s end, the council officially voted for the mix-used model with a 225-foot building height maximum.
The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. via the council’s Facebook Live.