Meet Jane Reed Ross: the woman behind many of Birmingham’s most iconic green spaces

Jane Reed Ross
Jane Reed Ross. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Jane Reed Ross is the architect behind some of The Magic City’s most amazing public green spaces including Rotary Trail, The Sunrise Rotary Plaza and The Birmingham Zoo entrance and event lawn. Keep reading to learn more about Jane and her passion for creating a greener Birmingham, enhancing the city and building a stronger community.

Meet Jane

Jane Reed Ross
Jane with some of her design team, Reid Fincher PLA, ASLA, Patrick Ritchey ASLA and Matthew Tindal APA. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Jane Reed Ross is an Auburn grad who has been practicing landscape architecture for 40 years, with experience throughout the Southeast as well as in the Washington D.C. area and Queensland, Australia.

Jane now works with Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC), where she’s been for 14 years, as lead landscape architect on placemaking spaces. She has led projects in the direction of sustainable design in the following award-winning and iconic Birmingham spaces:

Her inspiration behind the work

Sunrise Rotary Plaza with Sign Meet Jane Reed Ross: the woman behind many of Birmingham's most iconic green spaces
A sunny afternoon at Sunrise Rotary Plaza. (Cayenne Creative)

Jane’s love for Birmingham’s public spaces and making the city a better place is clearly seen through her work.

“Parks, trails and streetscapes are where all people come together and meet. It is where memories are created, photos are shot to mark special occasions and people form relationships to build community.  Those activities inspire me to create beautiful spaces for people to engage and live healthy lifestyles. “

Jane Reed Ross, Lead Landscape Architect, GMC

She knew designing public spaces, where people gather and spend time together, was what she wanted to do from an early age.

“When I was studying at Auburn, I was entranced with the art of designing public spaces and what attracted people to use a space and interact with each other. I’m lucky to have known what I loved and wanted to do from the beginning.”

Jane Reed Ross, Lead Landscape Architect, GMC

The creative process

Sunrise Rotary Plaza / Rotary Club of Birmingham / Ghost Train M2
Sunrise Rotary Plaza (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

Jane gave us a rundown of what the creative process is like when she starts a project. Here are a few of the steps she takes when designing a public space:

  • Always try to pick up a historic theme of the place or culture and convey the story in the design.
  • Capture the essence of the area and its people through the design.
  • Communicate with everyone involved and learn their vision for the project.
  • Explore ways to best implement the vision.
  • Get to know the site and adjacent land uses and how it can be connected.

Designing Rotary Trail

Jane Reed Ross
My favorite of Jane’s work! (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

One of our favorite (obviously) spaces Jane has designed is the beautiful Rotary Trail. We talked with Jane about what it took to design this amazing spot and some of the thoughts behind it.

“We wanted to use something historic that would re-identify Birmingham as The Magic City. We wanted something you could see from Railroad Park that would invite you to come on down to Rotary Trail. That’s the key to designing a streetscape or trail, you want it to encourage people to keep walking to the next block.”

Jane Reed Ross, Lead Landscape Architect, GMC

All of the signs on the trail are intentionally made of steel, celebrating the “Steel City” that Birmingham is and harkening back to that historic time.

Impactful projects

Red Rock Trail System
Part of Red Rock Trail System. (Freshwater Land Trust / Facebook)

When looking back on all of her projects she’s led and been a part of, Red Rock Trail System has had the most impact on Jane’s career.

“Red Rock Trail is definitely one of the projects I’m most proud of. It pretty much identified 500 miles of trail for Jefferson County. It has been so amazing and rewarding to work on implementing a good amount of those trails so far.”

Jane Reed Ross, Lead Landscape Architect, GMC

Other projects that Jane is most proud of include The Birmingham Zoo, spaces she’s done at UAB and her work improving 18th Street in Downtown Homewood.

What’s in the works now?

There’s always a few incredible projects in the works for Jane. Here are a few things she’s got going on at the moment that we can’t wait to see come to life:

  • Restoring the Red Mountain Cut Trail (we’ll find out more very soon, stay tuned!)
  • Updating the BJCC courtyard: revamping the courtyard and connecting it with City Walk
  • Jefferson County Memorial Project to be located in Linn Park
  • Jackson County Greenway Masterplan (just like the Jefferson County Greenway Masterplan)
  • A mixed-use development, The Bray, at Liberty park

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Callie Puryear
Callie Puryear
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