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Ramsay McCormack Redevelopment in Ensley Overcoming Hurdles to Reach Milestones

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By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

The Ramsay McCormack building redevelopment in Ensley is facing a host of hurdles including project funding, extended material delays and rising equipment costs, but continues to deal with those issues and reach a number of milestones, according to an update Friday from Ensley District Developers (EDD).

“The Ramsay McCormack project is successfully navigating an environment dominated by a host of challenges in project funding, extended material delays, rising equipment costs, labor availability, and regulatory compliance,” according to EDD in a statement. “The catalytic nature of the Ramsay McCormack project and its potential to both spur and support other investments in the area remains a critical piece of the project’s value – a truly high-performing building.”

As EDD, Henderson and Company is partnering with Direct Invest Development, LLC to redevelop the building. Irvin Henderson, is managing partner for EDD.

In 2020, the company brought down the building and according to Henderson in a previous interview the problems began to mount. First came the pandemic.

“Steel is very high,” Henderson told WBRC-TV in an interview late last year, describing the aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Glass is 80 percent higher. At one point in time, roofing materials couldn’t even be gotten at any price.”

At the time, Henderson said the difficulty in finding workers, and having to stop water from coming into the site had also slowed down the project.

The downtown Ensley development led by EDD will be constructed on the site of the original 10-story office tower, bringing a 5-story contemporary commercial office building with features that focus on keeping occupants and the building’s visitors healthy.

Development of the building continues as the project transitions from design and pre-construction to vertical construction, according to EDD.

The new, all-electric building will contain state-of-the-art lighting, efficient heating, cooling, and water-reducing systems that are environmentally friendly. It is Birmingham’s first private sector building of its kind — built to the LEED Silver Certification standard by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a widely recognized and respected certification for environmentally sustainable building design and construction.

Recent project milestones include:

–Construction Drawing Completion. The EDD architecture and design team completed the drawings and specifications that will support the building’s construction. This design package depicts elements of the finished building, including the foundation, floor, walls, elevations, interior details, and elevations, MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) design, structural details, and landscaping plans.

–Design Review Approval. The City of Birmingham Design Review Committee, during its April 2023 meeting, unanimously approved the design and specifications for the new Ramsay McCormack building. Approval by this regulatory body is a requirement of construction projects prior to permitting by the City of Birmingham. The Design Review Committee has the authority and responsibility for determining conformance with the City’s Design Review Ordinance and with the design review standards/guidelines affecting the exterior and interiors visible from public ways.

–Community Engagement. As part of the EDD’s commitment to ongoing community engagement, the company convenes faith and community leaders from the Ensley area to provide an update at the McAlpine Park Recreation Center on the development. During the June meeting, the discussion with leaders covered construction, financing, and tenanting plans for the Ramsay McCormack as well as updates from leaders on the leaders’ future community development interests and plans.

–Financing Advances.  Despite inflation and rising interest rates that have cooled an already struggling real estate development market, financing for the Ramsay McCormack project continues to advance with the commitment of financial institutions evidenced as they move into due diligence.  EDD is working with a number of investors and financial institutions who are committed to the construction and completion of the Ramsay McCormack as many developers rethink, retool or shelve planned projects, with those already underway experiencing a host of labor, equipment delays, and cost-related issues, according to the developers.

The building at Avenue E and 19th Street was named after investment partners Erskine Ramsay and Carr McCormack of the Ramsay-McCormack Development Co.

The building housed the Bank of Ensley on the ground floor, as well as the developer’s offices and local offices for U.S. Steel for several years. Despite a renovation in 1970, the closure of U.S. Steel’s Ensley Works left much of the tower vacant and the building’s doors were closed in 1979.

The city has owned the building since 1983, when U.S. Steel sold it for $1. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 but has been empty since 1986.

In February 2019, Birmingham city officials called for proposals for redevelopment of the building and properties in Ensley’s historic business district.

For more visit: www.Ensleydistrictdevelopers.com