BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A building constructed in the 1940s is getting new life in downtown Birmingham and is being touted as an answer to the city’s affordable housing crisis.
According to census records, Birmingham’s population has decreased by more than 18% since 2000. One of the reasons cited is more affordable housing options elsewhere in the area, but an 83-year-old building may be a sign of things to come.
The project calls for restoring the old Red Cross building downtown and bringing with it an affordable housing option, which developer Ed Ticheli believes Birmingham needs more of.
”There’s not enough workforce housing in downtown Birmingham. People have to commute like an hour each way to find housing,” Ticheli said.
The $30 million project came to life thanks to incentives on the federal, state and local levels. Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn sees it as a smart investment.
“We would like to see more of that type of development so that folks who work at the jobs that are in the city center area, they don’t have to live in Pell City or Alabaster or Fultondale, they can live in the city center and not have to commute in and out every day,” O’Quinn said.
The pricing structure of the units ranges from $830 a month for a 312-square-foot unit to around $1,400 for a unit that runs about 800 square feet.
At those prices, leasing manager Evan Riddlesperger says the demand is definitely there.
”We’ve been fully booked on tours every single day of the week the last few weeks,” Riddlesperger said. “We’ve been getting a lot of traffic, people love the area. They love the building.”
What impact might the project have on property values in the area? Councillor O’Quinn says that’s not a concern.
”Absolutely not. It’s adding a lot of value to that part of town. Those buildings have sat vacant for a long time. They’ve been a source of blight for a long time,” O’Quinn said.
For Ticheli, the prospect of providing a housing option to those who don’t have many options available is a good feeling.
”At the end of the day, when you see those smiling faces walk in and they have safe and secure housing and they feel real good about going to sleep at night. It’s worth it,” he said.
Ticheli hopes to begin moving residents into the building’s 190 units by mid-June.