Birmingham City Commissioners directed staff to come up with a framework on how to reassess the public property on N. Old Woodward adjacent to the N. Old Woodward parking structure, at their meeting on Monday, July 13, to potentially lead to a new request for proposal (RFP) process.
The parcel of land, approximately four acres in the city’s central business district, consists of the current N. Old Woodward parking garage, an adjacent parking lot and adjacent parcels.
At the commission meeting on June 22, during commissioner comments, commissioners Clinton Baller and Brad Host had requested to reopen a discussion on the property, which had previously gone through a several years-long review process by city committees, request for qualifications (RFQ) and an open RFP which led the previous commission to select Woodward Bates Partners LLC to redevelop the site. That project would have consisted of a new parking structure, to provide more parking spaces to ease the parking crunch in downtown Birmingham; constructing a five-story building in front of the structure facing N. Old Woodward, where RH was planned to go; an extension of Bates Street that would have intersected the development and connect Willits Street to N. Old Woodward; retail stores to line the parking structure, called building three on the plans; a public plaza with a bridge to Booth Park; a four-story mixed use building in the rear of the property, called building four; and a four-story mixed use building facing Willits Street, called building five, on the current surface lot.
A parking structure bond proposal in the amount of $57.4 million to guarantee the construction costs of the parking structure, failed in August 2019, and the entire project was scrapped. Baller and Host, prior to their election as commissioners, had advocated against the parking structure bond, stating the process was not transparent, along with other objections.,
On Monday, July 13, city planning director Jana Ecker said, “I know all of you are familiar with this project. It's been going for several years. It's basically to start all over again, to revisit all the studies, plans and solicit public input to reach a consensus of what the public wants from the site, to solicit proposals for this site, to create a strategic vision document for parking, retail, mixed uses, residential and the missing middle of any civic connections. This is for a draft RFP – reviewing everything and determining where we go from here.”
“This is an important topic. There's more discussion, objections to be met – is there a joint meeting, a workshop or a committee to be formed – before we entertain a motion,” said mayor Pierre Boutros.
Commissioner Mark Nickita noted the previous RFP was driven by the parking crisis in downtown, and currently, with the coronavirus pandemic, parking is in flux in Birmingham with many offices temporarily shut down and less people shopping. It's currently unknown if it is temporary or a new normal, he said.
Ecker said she would want more clarification from the commission before going forward. “There are policy directions we would need...This is a little more open process, which I think we would like, considering what happened last time with the voters,” she said.
“I think it makes sense to take a step back, assess the current environment,” city manager Joe Valentine said. “We can come up with a framework for you to assess on how you want to go forward.”