Liberty Towers at Midtown
The Liberty Towers at Midtown (originally the Pioneer Building, best known as the Liberty National Building) is a combined 10- and 16-story office building at the intersection of 20th Street and 3rd Avenue South. It was the headquarters of the Liberty National Life Insurance Company from 1931 to 2010.
The original 10-story structure facing 20th Street was developed as a speculative project in 1925. The building was designed by Warren, Knight & Davis and constructed by C. M. Allen & Son. The recently-completed office tower was purchased by Liberty National for $227,000 in 1931 for its headquarters offices. In addition to the life insurance company, the building housed the the U. S. Bureau of Investigation's Birmingham field office.
A six-story addition was completed in 1952. A 1/5th-scale bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty was placed on top of the older building on September 13, 1958. Liberty National provided guides for visitors wishing to see the statue up close.
In 1971 a 16-story addition to the lower building was completed at a cost of $5,500,000, overshadowing the original structure. The expansion was also designed by Warren, Knight & Davis and constructed by Brice Building Company. The addition utilized the same white-glazed face brick as the earlier building and provided space for a new employee cafeteria as well as eight high-speed elevators and new heating and air-conditioning equipment.
In 2010 Robert Simon of Corporate Realty Development announced plans to purchase the building and erect a new 12-story office tower in its place. The proposal was contingent on CRD landing a corporate headquarters tenant and has not been pursued as of August 2014.
In early 2016 a portion of the original building's brick veneer came loose on the south facade, dropping debris onto the alley near 20th Street and forcing officials to close off part of the street.
Pembroke Academy Investments LLC acquired the property out of foreclosure, and subsequently sold it for $3.6 million to Scott Bryant and Dick Schmalz, developers of the nearby 20 Midtown mixed-use district, who formed Liberty Building LLC and gave the complex its current name. In 2017 a newly-created entity, Liberty Redemption LLC, and representing the former owners, re-acquired the property through right-of-redemption.
In 2018 the City of Birmingham and several economic development agencies submitted a bid for the vacant complex to host a relocation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington D.C.
- "Liberty National to build upward" (May 1969) The Birmingham News - accessed via Birmingham Rewound
- Samford, Frank P, Jr (October 3, 1984) Torchmark Corporation: History of a New Company. Birmingham: Newcomen Society address.
- Cooper, Lauren B. (July 23, 2010) "Liberty National leaves downtown." Birmingham Business Journal
- Tomberlin, Michael (October 17, 2010) "The man with the Magic City touch: Developer has plans for downtown Birmingham tower." The Birmingham News
- Hrinkiw, Ivana (February 24, 2016) "Bricks fall from downtown Birmingham building onto 20th street again." The Birmingham News
- Godwin, Brent (April 28, 2017) "Original owners get Liberty National building back." Birmingham Business Journal
- Poe, Kelly (May 25, 2017) "Liberty National building to be renovated, owners say." The Birmingham News
- Godwin, Brent (May 26, 2017) "New owners eye revival of Liberty National Building." Birmingham Business Journal
- Godwin, Brent (September 26, 2018) "Birmingham eyes major HQ projects for prominent downtown tower." Birmingham Business Journal