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New building with roof pool gets go ahead

By Kevin Elliott


Plans for a four-story, mixed-use building at 294 E. Brown Street, across a courtyard from the future RH development, were forwarded by the Birmingham Planning Board to the city commission on Wednesday, April 27, for final consideration.


The planning board recommended the city commission approve the plans, which include two floors of residential units, first floor retail shops, space for second-story offices, and a public courtyard connecting to the future RH site. The plans call for 34 residential units topped with a rooftop courtyard and plans for an infinity edge pool. Site plans also call for an underground parking garage for residents and office workers.


Architect Victor Saroki said the goal is to have construction of the shell of the building done while the RH development project is finishing. Additionally, construction would include an improved pedestrian crosswalk to the E. Brown and Pierce parking structure.


“It has always been our intention that this would fit very comfortably in this city and on this block with the buildings around it, as it relates to scale. The massing, and certainly the materials, are meant to be very timeless so that it has the longevity we really want for our city,” Saroki said.


The planning board and staff review of the plans were slightly modified since receiving preliminary approval from the board in March. Board members voted to allow the development to use some variations of synthetic plantings that don’t directly comply with city landscaping requirements, instead allowing for an “innovative plantings” waiver. Revised plans also reduced the number of residential units from 36 to 34.


Birmingham Planning Director Nicholas Dupuis said the plans generally meet city requirements, with the exception to a planned rooftop swimming pool, which doesn’t meet the five-foot setback requirement for rooftop amenities as prescribed by city ordinance.


“Really, the only issue is the swimming pool, which is an infinity edge swimming pool that goes right up to the eye line, where the horizontal wall meets the vertical wall,” he said. “I think the spirit of the ordinance was to keep things away from the outside of the building, and there is no flexibility we have in the ordinance. If they want to pursue this, they are going to have to acquire a variance (from the zoning board of appeals).”


Saroki said the nature of the edgeless pool essentially requires it to be at the edge of the roof for its visual effect. Moving the pool, he said, would likely result in a different pool style. Rather, he said, the developers would pursue approval from the zoning board of appeals.


Planning board members voted unanimously to recommend approval of final site plans by the city commission, with board chair Scott Clein recused and member Stuart Jeffares absent. The recommendation included several conditions, including requiring the pool plans to be amended by the developer or receive approval by the zoning board of appeals and the granting of an innovative plantings waiver.

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