By Anthony Cook
Alabama News Center
Redevelopment firm Orchestra Partners Thursday morning announced nationally renowned Alamo Drafthouse Cinema as the first major tenant slated to occupy Powell Steam Plant, an 85,000-plus-square-foot historic structure in the heart of Birmingham’s Parkside District.
Alamo Drafthouse represents a major piece of Orchestra Partners’ redevelopment plans to transform Powell Steam Plant and the surrounding Parkside District into an entertainment destination and connectivity hub.
Orchestra Partners joined Alamo Drafthouse, Alabama Power, Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander (District 7), Birmingham City Councilor Hunter Williams (District 2, chair of the Economic Development committee) and other community partners at Powell Steam Plant to make the announcement.
“Since announcing redevelopment plans for Powell Steam Plant in November 2019, our goal from day one was to be intentional about finding the right tenant that aligns with the shared vision for this historic property,” said Hunter Renfroe, Orchestra Partners co-founder and principal. “By partnering with a reputable national brand like Alamo Drafthouse, we will pay homage to the steam plant and create a vibrant entertainment destination that attracts more people downtown.”
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema offers a unique movie experience featuring quality films, food, drinks and retail. Named the “#1 theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly and “Coolest Movie Theater in the World” by Wired, Alamo Drafthouse operates 37 locations from California to New York, providing a combination of theater and restaurant, showing first-run movies, independent films and hosting special events with an extensive menu made from scratch.
Birmingham moviegoers can expect an authentic localized experience with an innovative theater design, superior dining experience, local craft beers and specialty cocktails, custom pre-show content, events and amenities. Birmingham joins Raleigh, North Carolina, and Charlottesville, Virginia, as Alamo Drafthouse’s newest Southeastern market location.
“We have a tremendous opportunity in Birmingham, as this marks Alamo Drafthouse’s first true venture into the Deep South,” said John Martin, partner at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. “Every theater brings a customized approach to appropriately fit the building space and surrounding neighborhood. Powell Steam Plant’s historical value is unlike any theater Alamo has previously converted, which will allow us to emulate this theme throughout every aspect of the cinema experience.”
Alamo Drafthouse will be the anchor tenant and occupy approximately 40,000 square feet (60% of the leasable square footage) inside Powell Steam Plant. Redevelopment plans for the entire project call for a mixed-use entertainment venue designed for movies, music, events, retail stores and restaurants. Orchestra Partners plans to redevelop the adjacent lot, which could include an upscale hotel and apartments, while the street between the steam plant and adjacent lot will be a pedestrian center for outdoor gatherings.
“Powell Steam Plant has been an integral part of Birmingham’s history for more than 125 years,” said Williams, Birmingham city councilor since 2017. “Through public-private partnerships, redeveloping the steam plant will help bring more Birmingham residents downtown while also supporting tourism and economic development efforts to propel our city into the future. Adding yet another major neighborhood anchor in the heart of downtown will be a game changer for Birmingham.”
Powell Steam Plant, built in 1895, provided steam and electricity for downtown businesses in Birmingham. It connected the city by powering the streetcar system, which was essential to the city’s growth. Alabama Power acquired the steam plant in the 1950s and continued operations until 2013.
“We are proud to welcome Alamo Drafthouse and witness the vital role it will play in breathing new life into Powell Steam Plant,” said Kimberly Jackson, Alabama Power government and community relations manager of the Birmingham Division. “Now this historic structure will serve as a catalyst for intentional, inclusive growth, promoting economic development and improving the quality of life for all of Birmingham’s residents.”
Alamo Drafthouse will join existing Parkside neighborhood anchors, including Good People Brewing, Regions Field and Railroad Park, further cementing Parkside as an entertainment district that will continue to connect communities in the region. In addition to Powell Steam Plant, Orchestra Partners is redeveloping Urban Supply, a mixed-use destination adjacent to Good People on the west end of the Parkside District.
“Our long-term vision for Parkside is to not only create entertainment but enhance walkability and reconnect Birmingham’s surrounding neighborhoods back to its urban core,” Renfroe said. “Bringing Alamo Drafthouse to Birmingham moves us one step closer to achieving this goal.”
Construction on Alamo Drafthouse will begin in summer 2022 with an anticipated opening slated for fall 2023. For more information and leasing opportunities, visit www.parksidebham.com.