Preliminary work to stabilize and protect the historic Powell Avenue Steam Plant has been a careful, meticulous and deliberate process, and it is now complete. The complicated process began about four years ago, after the plant was officially decommissioned.
Among the tasks: carefully removing and preserving historic equipment, reroofing the structure, stabilizing and protecting the towering chimneys, rebuilding the old clerestories (What’s a clerestory? See prior updates), repointing and sealing the beautiful brickwork, addressing a sometimes-wet basement, and designing, fabricating and installing custom windows that mirror the long-lost originals. Also, a new steel superstructure was built inside the length of the building’s southern half to create a second floor.
Now, as pre-construction work at the site slows, the focus shifts to determining the best use for the structure going forward. Over the past four years, the Parkside area of downtown around Powell Steam Plant has changed radically.
Regions Field, the new, downtown home to the minor league Birmingham Barons, along with Railroad Park just west of Powell and the Rotary Trail to the east, have become major draws for residents and visitors. Those attractions have spurred even more development, including apartments, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. Nearby, First, Second and Third avenues North and Morris Avenue also are undergoing a transformation, with new hotels, businesses and restaurants, the Pizitz Food Hall, the renovated Lyric Theatre and the soon-to-open, two-theater Sidewalk Cinema complex, which will specialize in independent and foreign films.
With all the changes taking place downtown, Alabama Power wants to make sure that, however Powell is redeveloped, it fits and complements Birmingham’s swiftly evolving City Center while serving as a catalyst for additional economic development. At the same time, the company intends to maintain the historic character of the steam plant while telling its story and role in helping build a city.
For more than a century, the Powell Steam Plant served the people of Birmingham. Alabama Power’s goal for Powell’s next chapter: that it continues to serve the community well.