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5-story retail, residential project planned near historic Birmingham post office building

Big plans are in store for a historic building on the west side of downtown Birmingham.

A mixed-use development is planned for the parking lot adjacent to the old post office at 320 Martin St. The planned five-story building would include retail space on the bottom floor, with space on upper floors dedicated to both office and residential.

The new building would go up in the parking lot to the north of the post office building and would be considered an addition to the property.

The building has not changed in more than a decade since the last renovations were done, said Kevin Biddison, a Birmingham architect working on the project.

“Nothing has changed on the site since 2010 when the addition was done, so the phase I was done after that,” he said. “So everything that was reviewed and looked at in 2013 had been there since 2010 and there have not been any additions or changes to the site since then.”

The 52,000-square-foot addition would also have a unique parking system for those who use the building: it would have a computerized valet-type system that would move unoccupied vehicles into a storage space in the underneath of the building. There, vehicles would be stored until needed in a secure but unoccupied area. When someone needs to summon their vehicle, they can do so via an app or other means and have the system bring the vehicle back up to the surface. It will also have sensors to prevent vehicles from changing statuses in the case of something being left out, including a grocery bag or a purse.

“There is no operater required. It is fully autonomous We monitor every system 24/7,” said Shawn Adams, vice president with Dasher Lawless Automation. “Should anything happen, the vast majority of cases, we can reconfigure the system or take remote control of the system.”

A similar system was installed in the former Detroit Free Press building in downtown Detroit, Adams said.

Part of the development would also make the area more accessible to the community, especially given the historic nature of the building: the post office building — which contains offices, including Biddison Architecture — was built in the 1930s.

Biddison said the work would include the addition of a thread park, a space the public can venture through. He said it would also have plaques detailing some of the history on the site for those who may not know about it.

“We wanted to bring the public through, open up the west side of the building nobody’s hardly ever seen since 1930,” he said.

The planning board recommended approval of both the community impact study and preliminary site plan during a May 25 meeting.

Number of residential units questioned

While the board was overall OK with the plans, some questions were poised, including one about the number of residential units on the site.

Planning board member J. Bryan Williams said it seemed more units could fit on site if the developer wanted, especially with the high-tech parking system. Plans call for six units total.

“These are large residential units. Based on the parking system you’ve developed, you could put a lot more residential units in there. and they would be a lot smaller and we would have more moderately sized units,” Williams said. “Would you address why you think six is the right number?”

Biddison said the developers were comfortable with that figure, though said if conditions change and they want to increase that number, they would return to seek city approval.

“Given the upscale nature of the building, we feel that, as of now, that we’re not trying to rent 20 or 30 units. We’re really only trying to rent six,” he said. “If we get to that point where we want to increase the size of the units, we would obviously have to come back.”


Posted By: Hometown Life on June 2, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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