Loft District

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Birmingham's Loft District is an area roughly bounded by 20th and 26th Street North and Morris and 4th Avenue North in which several former warehouses and other buildings have been converted into loft apartments and condominiums.

The idea of promoting a loft district began shortly after Michael Calvert came to the city in 1982 to lead Operation New Birmingham, an organization whose mission was to promote commercial activity in the downtown area. One of Calvert's first tasks was to identify the strengths of the area, and the stock of historic buildings was one of those strengths. Specifically the multi-story warehouses that had constituted a "Garment District" on Morris, 1st and 2nd Avenues, east of 20th Street.

Calvert's proposal to convert those buildings into lofts as had been done in New York, Seattle and Memphis, was met with skepticism. ONB proceeded to survey downtown workers about their interest in loft-style residences close to their offices. Dorothy Shaw led a group of the most interested young professionals. Scott Shepard researched Historic Preservation Tax Credits, Bo Grisham secured an option on the Calder Furniture Co. warehouse, and architect Bob Burns, sketched out how 15 lofts could be fitted into it.

That plan hit an obstacle when loan officers at SouthTrust Bank informed the developers that there was no market for lofts. Grisham and Shaw's group hosted a "leasing party" in the vacant building and were able to return to the bank days later with a fully-leased project.

Since 2001 the district has hosted the annual Art Walk festival on the weekend after Labor Day.

The district was one of five "initiative areas" given attention in Urban Design Associates' 2004 City Center Master Plan.


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