By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Following the $1.9 million sale of property to an Atlanta, Georgia-based developer, the Birmingham City Council on Tuesday paved the way for an “A.G. Gaston Center for Entrepreneurship” as part of a larger mixed-use development on land in downtown.
The property, located at 2320 and 2312 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. and 800 24th St. N., directly across the street from a portion of City Walk Bham, is formerly known as the Birmingham Board of Education Service Center.
The proposed name for the entire mixed-use development is “The Tower at Uptown,” according to Cornell Wesley, director of the mayor’s office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity (IEO).
At a May 22 meeting of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, Wesley said Riddle Property Group (RPG), the project’s developer, was engaging with the owners of the A.G. Gaston name to establish a minority coworking space on the ground floor of the new development.
“It is an answer to, ‘Where do the emerging and some of the startup community reside?’ Wesley told The Birmingham Times. “…there’s still a little bit more room left for those who need technical assistance as well which is what we’re trying to program and wrap around.”
Wesley said the space would be like the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta, which provides a variety of resources, including office space, coaching, networking and capital for minority entrepreneurs.
Additionally, RPG intends to provide restaurant, retail, condominium, hotel and even medical space at the new development, according to Wesley. Combining Birmingham’s music history and cuisine is something the developers are thinking about, he said.
The property includes three buildings, which will be preserved, as much as is possible, Wesley said. The middle building of the three will left intact, with more floors built on top, assuming it’s load-bearing capacity meets requirements, according to Wesley.
The redevelopment plan is the second recent attempt at making the space useful, Wesley said, pointing to a 2021 plan to sell the space for $1.1 million to another group promising similar mixed-use development that didn’t pan out.
“That offer made it to closing but was not able to get across the finish…Kind of seeing how those things were trending, we prepared as a department to have a backup opportunity that would still accomplish the same goals,” Wesley said during the May 22 committee meeting.
Wesley said the entire area around the site makes the proposed center an appealing location. “We fully believe that City Walk, and its coming online, UAB’s home stadium being named at Protective Life, Legacy [Arena] and the activity of not just sports but entertainment … have increased, or rather, made it possible for us to be able to repurpose that asset,” he said.
RPG declined to comment for this story.
Updated at 11:46 a.m. on 6/1/2023 to clarify that RPG was reached but declined to comment.