Wanted: developer for the old Banks School site in South Eastlake and Roebuck Springs. What happens now? (PHOTOS)

The old Banks site in South Eastlake has been vacant for 12 years
Developing this site could be transformative for Roebuck Springs and South Eastlake. Photo via Jeff E. Newman

For over 10 years, the 23-acre Banks school property in South East Lake and next to Roebuck Springs has sat vacant; now the City of Birmingham is taking steps to change that.

On Friday, November 15, they issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). The City’s looking for a developer who can buy the space and transform it into an asset for the whole Eastern side of Birmingham.

1—Demolition is one option, but it’s not the first or only option for the old Banks site.

Video via Birmingham City Council

A while back, Councilor Hunter Williams of District 2 and Kelvin Datcher from the City of Birmingham Government Affairs office took a tour of the inside of the former school.

You can get a glimpse of what they saw in the video above, and see how having the right developer come in and create something positive in the space could help support renovation efforts that are happening all over South Eastlake and Roebuck Springs.

2—The RFP for the Banks site specifies “transformative redevelopment.”

Transforming the old Banks School would be a huge boon to South Eastlake and Roebuck Springs
Side view of part of the old Banks school. Photo via Jeff E. Newman

From the Request for Proposals:

“The City desires to identify a reputable and qualified entity with the financial capacity to acquire and redevelop the Property after considering all redevelopment options which take advantage of the existing economic and environmental benefits of the community.

Such redevelopment may include potential partial or complete demolition or adaptive reuse.

However, potential respondents should explore all options to save and adaptively reuse the existing structures on the Property and consider demolition as a last resort option.”

In plain English, the City’s looking for just the right developer who can buy the property as is and develop it into something fabulous.

The Auburn Urban Design Studio has already done a lot of work looking into possible options for the site, so it’s likely the ideal developer would consider those and other possible uses, then make a plan.

Ideally, the plan will involve “adaptive resuse” of existing structures. Demolition could be a last resort if they get in and determine that it’s just not salvageable in its current form.

A peek inside the old Banks school
View of a stairwell in the current building. Photo via Jeff E. Newman

3—The Northeast Area Framework Plan highlights the desire for something new at Banks.

Map from the North East Framework plan
The plan encompasses 13 neighborhoods in Northeast Birmingham. Graphic via the Northeast Area Framework Plan.

Back in June, 2017, Birmingham adopted the Northeast Area Framework Plan, which recommended redevelopment of the Banks site. The plan encompasses 13 neighborhoods in the following communities:

South Eastlake and Roebuck are the two communities that stand to benefit the most from a successful RFP. Check out the full plan.

4—After 12 years vacant, the old Banks School site could become vibrant.

Aerial view of the area surrounding the old Banks School site
The Banks site, marked in red, above, sits squarely in an entirely residential area close to Ruffner Mountain. Photo via the North Eastern Framework Plan.

“The 23-acre Banks High School site is owned by the City of Birmingham and has been abandoned since 2008.

The school is located on the border of the Roebuck Springs and South East Lake neighborhoods.

In addition to its considerable size, the site is also one of the few non-residential uses in its general area.

Thus, if site were to become active again, it would provide a huge boost to the adjacent neighborhoods.” 

From the North Eastern Framework Plan
Aerial map of the old Banks School site in South Eastlake
The Banks site is green. Yellow is residential. Grahic via The North East Framework Plan.

5—Although it’s the only non-residential land in the area, it’s close to fun.

While the Banks site is sandwiched between two residential areas, it’s also super-close to lots of other things, including:

6—Serious enquiries only, speculators need not apply.

View of the auditorium at the old Banks School site in South Eastlake
Auditorium in the old Banks school. Photo via Jeff E. Newman

“A Developer will be recommended to the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office by an RFP Selection Committee based on the overall quality of the proposed project.

The City of Birmingham does not sell land for speculative purposes; any such proposal to acquire and hold the land with construction to occur when and if it is successfully marketed will be rejected.

The evaluation of the Developer’s qualifications, experience and capacity will be based upon information in the proposal submitted by the Developer, interviews, investigation of projects completed by the Developer, assessment of performance in previous undertakings, and other pertinent factors.

The City of Birmingham will follow a Disposition Process, which includes significant design review and construction oversight. 

From the Banks site RFP

The current Request for Proposals lasts from November 15-December 30, 2019, 2PM. If you or someone you know would like to get on the Interested Bidder List, email Kelvin Datcher with City of Birmingham Government kelvin.datcher@birminghamal.gov 

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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