BREAKING: Southern Research to bring down Quinlan Castle, replaced by biotech hub

Quinlan Castle
Quinlan Castle in May 2020. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Southern Research received unanimous approval from the city of Birmingham’s Design Review Committee this morning to bring down Quinlan Castle to make way for a new facility that will house 100 new scientists. 

According to a Southern Research news release, the company  announced plans for a new facility on its Birmingham campus that will help it add more than 100 new scientists and become a hub for pandemic preparedness.

Meanwhile, the new building will be located on the site of Quinlan Castle, one of Birmingham’s most recognizable historic buildings.  

Costly, Unsuitable for Modern Lab

Castle
Quinlan Castle in May 2020. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

The long-vacant 1920s apartment building has been deemed unsafe, too costly to repair, and unsuitable for modern lab space.

The decision by the design review committee will allow Southern Research to build a state-of-the-art facility that will double its Biosafety Level 3 lab space for research on infectious diseases and expand commercial wet lab space by 60,000 square feet.

“Southern Research has made significant contributions in the fight against COVID, with key accomplishments in testing, treatments and vaccine development,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., the president and CEO of Southern Research. “By investing in a new center for pandemic resilience, we can magnify our work to combat this virus and better prepare for the next threat that might endanger our family and friends.” 

Double Economic Impact

Earlier this year, Bham Now reported on Southern Research’s strategic decision earlier this year to sell a lab facility in Maryland and re-direct almost $20 million and 50 jobs to Birmingham. Funds from the sale of that lab enabled Southern Research to carry out the expansion.

The new jobs and investment from the planned expansion will allow Southern Research to nearly double its annual economic impact to Jefferson County, to approximately $300 million. 

Independent Architects and Structural Engineers

Southern Research
Inside Quinlan Castle. Photo via Southern Research

Because of the expansion, Southern Research enlisted independent architects and structural engineers to evaluate their existing building. The group found the castle posed serious safety hazards that would be cost-prohibitive to address and expressed serious doubts that the old structure could be retrofitted at any price to support infrastructure required for a modern lab.

“After careful study and consideration of our options, we firmly believe that the best use of this site and our resources is to build a facility that allows us to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow and invest in the future of Birmingham,” said Allen Bolton, executive vice president for strategy and finance at Southern Research.

Open House

Southern Research just got $3.9 million in grants for neurological research. Photo courtesy of Southern Research
Southern Research is adding 50 jobs. Photo courtesy of Southern Research

Southern Research will host an open house on Nov. 23 to provide an opportunity for the community to review plans for the site and provide input. 

The company is open to suggestions from the community about ways to preserve and use some elements of the castle for other purposes.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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