By Michael Sznajderman
As workers connect the pieces of a rebuilt elevated highway through downtown Birmingham, also coming together are the ideas for the nearly mile-long public space that will occupy the real estate underneath.
CityWalk BHAM will stretch for 10 blocks below the newly reconstructed Interstate 59/20, from 15th Street North to 25th Street North. The 31-acre space will provide better pedestrian connections to several downtown attractions and nearby institutions, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama School of Fine Arts, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and the soon-to-be built Protective Stadium, the new home for UAB football.
Public meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Birmingham’s Boutwell Auditorium, 1930 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd., for the public to view the latest designs. There will be two sessions, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Over the past year, landscape designers under contract with the Alabama Department of Transportation have gathered input from residents and other stakeholders about what should be included in the public space, from recreational facilities to outdoor art.
Based on the input, a “master plan” for the space is coming together, although officials emphasize that nothing is final.
Preliminary plans show an eclectic mix of amenities, including a pond and walking trails on the east end; a 1-acre dog park; a “central pavilion” with a water feature; a “destination” children’s playground; and proposed multipurpose recreational fields and loop trail on the west end. A meandering walking path would extend the entire length of CityWalk BHAM, as well as sidewalks on the northern and southern perimeters, offering multiple ways for people to traverse and gain access to the public space and its many features.
Other elements proposed in the master plan include a skate park – one of the most popular ideas submitted during public-input sessions. A BMX bicycle track, a climbing wall and plazas that can serve as locations for festivals or food trucks are also proposed, as well as extensive lighting to make the CityWalk bright and inviting both days and evenings.
“When we finish it, it will be something the city will be proud of,” said DeJarvis Leonard, ALDOT regional engineer.
Tad Snider, executive director and CEO of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority, said the master plan “checks a lot of boxes” – connecting the convention complex “better than ever before” to the rest of downtown while creating a new regional attraction. He said the proposed open space on the east end could serve as a great tailgating area during UAB football games, enhancing the game-day experience for fans.
Plans call for completing construction of CityWalk BHAM by spring 2021, before athletes and visitors attending The World Games arrive in the city that summer.
Learn more at http://citywalkbham.com/.