Mayor Bell announces $40 million public safety complex for Ensley

By Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

Mayor Bell, along with community leaders, announced the $40 million plan to revitalize downtown Ensley. (Monique Jones, The Birmingham Times)
Mayor Bell, along with community leaders, announced the $40 million plan to revitalize downtown Ensley. (Monique Jones, The Birmingham Times)

Birmingham Mayor William Bell on Wednesday announced a $40 million public safety complex for downtown Ensley.

The planned complex includes a Municipal Court Building that would house the Birmingham Police Department Administration and the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Department Administration in one location.

The facility would be located in the 500 block of 19th Street in downtown Ensley and would mean renovating the 10-story, 50,000 square foot Ramsay McCormack Building, a long-vacant art deco office tower in the Ensley historic business district.

The first phase of the project would include Municipal Court; phase 2 Police Administration and phase 3 the Fire and Rescue Administration.

“We have looked at several plans over the last several years but none of them really made that impact that this project will make for this community,” Bell said. “Our goal is to bring jobs, retail opportunities and opportunities for significant growth back to downtown Ensley.”

Bell said he was told by architects and planners “if you want to make a great economic impact, find a way to bring this building and to bring this community back to life.”

It was time to revitalize Ensley since downtown Birmingham has been stabilized, the mayor added.

“This [plan] gives us an opportunity to look at what we can do in the Ensley community, the heartbeat of the western section of town,” he said during a press conference.

The plan will involve public and private funding.

However, members of the Birmingham City Council, who must approve the plan, said they were not aware of the redevelopment.

April Odom, director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Information, said Bell wanted to take it to the community first.

The mayor’s office said the city is working in close coordination with Bethel Ensley Action Task, Inc. (BEAT) to revitalize downtown Ensley. An additional $24 million will be invested by BEAT.

According to the city, BEAT has plans to develop a mixed use development adjacent to the proposed Public Safety Municipal Complex. The BEAT development will include new residential, retail and open space opportunities. These projects are a part of the city’s ongoing comprehensive planning and framework planning efforts to revitalize Downtown Ensley and the broader Ensley community.

Bell was joined by neighborhood and community leaders, BEAT leaders, REV Birmingham and staff from police, fire and municipal court including Chief A.C. Roper who spoke briefly in support of the project.

The city has owned the nearly 90-year-old Ramsay McCormack building since 1983, at the decline of the area’s major industrial and commercial activity. The building was completely vacated in 1986.