A request by the property owner to eliminate the historic designation on 361 E. Maple Road, currently known as Birmingham Investments, in order to demolish it and build a new five-story building, was denied by the Birmingham City Commission at their meeting on Monday, September 17, consistent with the recommendation with the city Historic District Study Commission (HDSC) and the State Historic Preservation Office.
The request from the property owner, Simon Group Holdings, first came to the city commission in July 2017, and they referred it to the HDSC, which after a great deal of study and determination, recommended that the delisting be denied based on if the historic district would lose physical characteristics that enabled the established the district, as the building, next to the Christian Science Reading Room, known as the Hawthorne Building, “remains virtually unchanged from the condition it was in when designated in 1983. This is demonstrated by historic and contemporary photographs. It is decorated with a sign band that is defined by patterned brick and limestone. The parapet has a small pediment and limestone urns at the party walls. It is believed that the pressed metal store front is original.”
Birmingham planner Matt Baka explained the commission said it is “a good example of buildings of that period.”
The delisting request was sent to the State Historic Preservation Office, which felt there “was a strong legal basis for protecting historically significant resources...They found the building to be a good representative example of a small commercial building from the period.”
“It defines a period that is long gone. The only way we can remember a time long gone is to preserve it,” said mayor pro tem Patty Bordman.
“Since the facade is the issue, creative architects can design ways to make this work,” said commissioner Stuart Sherman to William Finnicum, architect for the project, who said the building should be knocked down. “Delisting is not.”
“I am concerned if this building is delisted and the historical significance we have been trying to preserve will be lost,” mayor Andy Harris concurred.
Commissioners voted 6-0 to deny delisting the property, with Mark Nickita absent.