Corporate Realty, LIV Development plan $5M mixed-use project at Merita site

LIV Development and Corporate Realty have joined forces in the Parkside district once again, this time for a project that could bring office tenants, restaurants and even a bowling alley to the city center.

The developers are teaming up on an adaptive-reuse project that will turn the former Merita Bakery building into a mixed-use development that could bring a large corporate lease, as well as a 24/7 restaurant.

Brian Wolfe, director of development at Corporate Realty said his company will move its headquarters into the building, taking up 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, leaving 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of office space available.

The approximate $5 million investment will turn the 29,000-square-foot building at First Avenue South and 14 th Street into a 365-day-a-year venue, serving baseball fans as well as year-round visitors to Railroad Park. The building has long been a coveted site for potential development, due to its location across from the park.

Originally thought to be a prime multifamily location, LIV Development began to rethink that plan after getting the building under contract. The building initially came on the market after the bankruptcy of Hostess.

“Honestly, we hadn't originally thought that site would work out for adaptive re-use,” Wolfe said.

LIV Development is currently developing LIV Parkside, one of the three major apartment complexes that have been announced for the Parkside district since the arrival of Regions Field.

As the owners and engineers looked at the building closer, Wolfe said they “found out it had some good old bones to it.”

Wolfe said its unique architectural features lend itself to the type of development the group envisions.

“We are looking for the types of people who want to be in the area and understand what's going on in the Parkside district,” Wolfe said. “There doesn't seem to be any shortage of those folks.”

Wolfe said the developers have been very selective so far on the office and the restaurant end.

“Our inspiration (for the restaurant) is Pinewood Social up in Nashville,” Wolfe said. “We really like that concept.”

Pinewood Social is a 24/7 restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has about six lanes of bowling inside the building.

Wolfe said he would like to replicate the concept, including the small bowling alley.

“It sets up quite well for it, quite honestly,” Wolfe said. “It would work out very well. I would love to see it.”

Wolfe said that hinges upon finding a restaurant that will gravitate toward the Pinewood concept.

“We believe it will do really well here,” he said.

As for the office space, Wolfe said there's a lot of interest from a number of Corporate Realty clients who want to be in the Parkside district. Downtown has received a surge of new corporate headquarters in recent month s.

“It's certainly piqued a lot of people's interest,” Wolfe said.

This announcement comes nearly one week after Alabama Power's announcement that the nearby Powell Avenue steam plant will be redeveloped into an arts and entertainment venue.

Wolfe said both developments have been in the planning stages for some time, and Alabama Power's announcement did not impact the unveiling of the Merita Bakery plan.

“Parkside is kind of coming into its own,” Wolfe said. “You have choices in entertainment in Birmingham...You have places to go.”

- By Birmingham Business Journal