“A pivotal moment for the city of Birmingham.” Something BIG is coming to Parkside

Parkside West will be an urban commons designed to bring people together. Renderings via Orchestra Partners

Something huge is brewing in downtown Birmingham. Next September marks the 10 year anniversary of Railroad Park’s opening, and over the past decade, the area surrounding the park has taken on a life of its own. Some big players in Birmingham have teamed up on a master plan for Parkside—keep reading to find out what’s coming.

First Things First—The Project at a Glance

What do you get when you combine College GameDay on the big screen, Birmingham food trucks, and Good People brews? The perfect Saturday. Renderings via Orchestra Partners

The Parkside master plan is designed to enhance walkability and connect the Parkside District to surrounding neighborhoods. The project includes preservation and redevelopment plans for Powell Avenue Steam Plant and several historic warehouses surrounding Good People Brewing.

Think of it as “phase 2” of the Railroad Park project that will continue to breathe life back into downtown Birmingham. There are two sides to the plan—Parkside East and Parkside West.

  • Parkside West will be an urban commons taking up two city blocks and will offer around 100,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant, and commercial space.
  • Parkside East will be an entertainment hub as well as an urban trailhead.

Connecting the Community in More Ways than One

Railroad Park and the Parkside district is a major urban trailhead for the Jones Valley Trail Corridor. Renderings via Orchestra Partners

As Birmingham continues to gain national recognition, the city needs to be prepared for more and more visitors coming to experience all our Magic City has to offer.

Think about all the great cities you’ve ever visited—most have walkable downtowns. Parkside is the ideal place to get out and experience Birmingham on foot.

“Trails are vital to a community.

Not only do they improve walkability and promote healthy living… Most importantly, they attract business and residents to our city.”

Rusha Smith, Executive Director of the Freshwater Land Trust
Yak Shak

The Players

Parkside will soon be your go-to 7 days a week! Renderings via Orchestra Partners

A project this big takes some big names to bring to life. Orchestra Partners is heading up the project, and they’ve partnered with Tom Leader, the original architect of Railroad Park.

Here are some other key community partners:

The Announcement was Held in the Powell Avenue Steam Plant—Why?

For more than a century, Powell Steam Plant played a pivotal role in shaping Birmingham’s growth. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

All the moving parts of this project came together to host a standing-room-only announcement in the heart of their vision: the Powell Avenue Steam Plant.

Here’s what it was:

Powell Steam Plant in 1907. Photo via Parkside Bham

The Powell Avenue Steam Plant was built in 1895. It provided steam and electricity for downtown businesses and has stood as a staple in the Birmingham landscape for decades. Read more about its history.


Here’s what it will be:

Powell Ave. will be closed to cars, and the street will provide a place for food trucks, impromptu performances, art shows, and other public gatherings. Renderings via Orchestra Partners

So, why does this matter to the new Parkside master plan? Just as the plant provided power to the city of Birmingham for over a century, developers are aiming to use it to energize this whole redevelopment.

The steam plant will be renovated to become an exciting entertainment venue designed for movies, music, events, retail, restaurants, and more.

On the other side of Powell Avenue, the plan calls for a monumental structure with contemporary details. This multi-use building moves from open public spaces up into Birmingham’s finest hotel rooms to its most exclusive apartment residences.

Here’s why:

Preservation is a priority for this project, in addition to the growth it hopes to bring. The Steam Plant is a major piece of Birmingham’s history that is getting a new lease on life as the critical western anchor point for Parkside.

“Now this historic structure will become a symbol of modern urbanization and economic development, connecting our communities to celebrate the future of Birmingham.”

Tony Smoke, vice president of Birmingham Division for Alabama Power
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

This Sounds Big—What’s the Timeline?

If you’re a visual person like me, this map shows the true scope of this undertaking. Renderings via Orchestra Partners

This was my question, too.

According to Orchestra Partners Principal Hunter Renfroe, construction will be in full swing by the end of next year. The project is estimated to be completed within the next 2.5-3 years.

Birmingham continues to boom—and we love to see it! Be sure to follow @BhamNow to stay updated on all the magic happening every day in our Magic City.

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Beth Cunningham
A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.
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