How Southtown could reshape Southside

The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District on Jan. 17 approved Southside Development Co. as its partner on the redevelopment of the 28-acre Southtown public housing property at the corner of University Boulevard and Red Mountain Expressway – a coveted location that has heightened interest in the project.

Southside Development Co. is a partnership between several major Birmingham real estate firms. Corporate Realty, Bayer Properties, SPM, BREC, Brasfield & Gorrie and A.G. Gaston as well as Atlanta-based Benoit Group comprise the company.

“We recognize that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the face of housing in our community while furthering economic development and growth. This will become a thriving area of Birmingham and the region,” said Robert Simon, CEO and president of Corporate Realty, on behalf of Southside Development Co.

HABD President and CEO Michael Lundy has said the organization plans to apply for a federal grant to help fund the project, and that a master development agreement would be unveiled soon that would further outline the project.

The Southtown redevelopment project is a part of a broader plan by HABD to redevelop its public housing properties and at the same time create more avenues for its residents to eventually move out of public housing.

“SDC will embark on an innovative, locally designed strategy to promote resident employment and self-sufficiency, increase housing choice for low-income families and better address community needs,” Simon said.

HABD has said Southtown would be similar to the Park Place and Tuxedo Terrace redevelopments, in that the housing units are less densified. A similar redevelopment is already underway at HABD’s Loveman Village in north Titusville.

Current Southtown residents would be able to rent one of the new units as a part of a five-year path to self-sufficiency.

Other units at the development would be offered at market rate.

Local brokers say they have high hopes for SDC and its selection as the developer partner for the Southtown project.

“It would be transformational. It looks to be a really strong team who will do a great job,” said Shannon Waltchack Partner Tim Blair.

“It will be exciting to see the redevelopment energy that has been evident near Railroad Park district and CBD expand to the Southtown neighborhood.”

Last year, Chicago-based planning firm Camiros presented possible concepts for a redeveloped Southtown, which included more green space, better traffic and transportation design, and even the possibility of additions like a neighborhood grocery store.

“This redevelopment effort is definitely a positive initiative for the city of Birmingham. Southtown is one of the top, if not the best, redevelopment opportunities in Jefferson County,” said Michael Reilly, leasing and brokerage associate at J.H. Berry.

“This project’s success should help create more growth and access between the Southside, Lakeview, Forest Park and downtown submarkets. This is the kind of positive growth that Birmingham needs. Our firm is thrilled that the Southside Development Co. was able to bring together a group with vested interest in the area to ensure the project is completed.”

Southtown’s location next to St. Vincent’s and within blocks of University of Alabama at Birmingham and Lakeview means the development of the property could have a ripple effect to other neighborhoods.

In recent years revitalization has happened in nearby Lakeview, with a wave of new restaurants, bars and apartment units transforming the neighborhood into one of the hottest in the city of Birmingham.

Now a similar transformation could be in the cards for the Southtown area in coming years.

“It’s a great opportunity to revive an area of Southside that has remained largely untouched. Demand for property in that area will only continue to increase,” said Red Rock Realty Group Broker Lochrane Smith.

“Owners who have property surrounding Southtown Court are bullish about their property values,” Smith said. “They have heard for years about plans to redevelop Southtown.”

Now, with plans moving forward, many investors could begin to look at Southside for more investment opportunities and new real estate developments.