By Joseph D. Bryant
Housing Authority of the Birmingham District
More than $4 million in upgrades are set for a downtown residential tower in Birmingham’s civil rights district.
The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District’s Board of Commissioners Monday discussed a plan to renovate Freedom Manor, the 103-unit apartment building on 5th Avenue.
Renovations include a new facade for the 30-year-old building, enhanced security systems, improved common areas and upgrades to each apartment.
HABD President/CEO Michael Lundy said the construction is expected in spring 2017. The agency will now move to procure a contractor and obtain approval from the department of Housing and Urban Development.
“When this is done, we going to have a beautiful new place, both for our seniors to enjoy, and also building that contributes to the character and growing vibrancy of this historic part of downtown,” Lundy said.
The building located just across from Kelly Ingram Park. The presentation was called “Freedom Manor at Kelly Ingram Park.”
The announcement of major renovations to Freedom Manor come at the same time that the city of Birmingham anticipates greater attention to the civil rights district, which could receive national park designation by President Barack Obama in coming weeks.
“By renovating this building we will be able to improve the standard of living for everyone living there,” said Commissioner Willie Jean Lewis, who is also a resident of Freedom Manor. “It means a lot to the residents.”
Lewis also noted that the central location of Freedom Manor already makes it an attractive housing option. Renovations will bring even more amenities.
“Everything is convenient here. The park is right here,” Lewis said. “It’s an ideal location and just a perfect senior spot.”
Lewis said she’s been inundated with reaction from residents, mostly asking one question.
“They want to know how soon we could get started,” she said. “They were happy with what they saw in the presentation.”
The housing authority selected Birmingham-based architect firm STUDIO 2H DESIGN to conceive the upgrades.
Principal and architect Nolanda Hatcher said the final design will reflect the needs of the residents after a series of community meetings. Residents have already expressed approval at their first glance of the conceptual images.
Hatcher gave her initial presentation and showed samples of colors for floors and fixtures and cabinets. She said the plan will transform the building into an inviting residential space from its current institutional look.
“This was good when this building was built back in the 1980s, and blue was also in style in the 80s,” she said.
The project will be paid with HABD capital dollars in addition to grant funds being sought by the agency.
“Freedom Manor has been there a long time, and for us to be able to renovate and revitalize this building says a lot about what we think of our seniors,” said HABD Board of Commissioners Chairman Cardell Davis. “This is an exciting project for lots of reasons, but most importantly is the impact that this will have in improving the quality of life for nearly 100 people who call this building home.”