Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Council Extends Timeline to Build on Old Ramsay-McCormack Property

The Ramsay-McCormack Building in Ensley was torn down in 2020 after having been vacant for almost 35 years. (Source: City of Birmingham)

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday extended an agreement with developers tasked with constructing a five-story commercial building at the former site of Ensley’s Ramsay-McCormack tower, a long-derelict structure that the community lobbied for decades to have destroyed.

The council voted unanimously to extend the agreement with Ensley District Developers from Dec. 31 to June 30, 2025.

The council initially approved the $4 million revitalization plan to construct a new office building at the site of the former 10-story tower in October 2019.

Built in 1929, the Ramsay-McCormack tower had been empty since 1986. The city demolished it in October 2020. Former Mayor William Bell in 2016 announced plans for a $40 million renovation, after which the building would have served as headquarters for Birmingham’s municipal court, police department and fire department.

But his successor as mayor, Randall Woodfin, nixed those plans, instead putting out a request for development proposals to private developers in August 2018. The city rejected all the proposals it received, and in February it once again asked for proposals. From those responses, the city selected Ensley District Developers.

An August blog post from the developers states that the project “transitions from design and pre-construction to vertical construction” and mentions as a milestone the city’s Design Review Committee in April unanimously approving the design and specifications for the new building.

The extension of the agreement is likely to frustrate neighboring businesses, several of which sued the city in 2012 to have the building demolished and replaced. In 2016, a judge ordered the city to destroy the building by April 28, 2017.

Efforts to reach city officials or developers for comment as to the reason for the extension were not immediately successful Tuesday.

The council also approved an amendment to the agreement that would require the developers to report progress to the full council in addition to the director of innovation and economic opportunity.

In other business, the council:

  • Entered into an executive session to discuss pending litigation but did not elaborate.
  • Approved an agreement between the city of Birmingham and West End Hills Community Development Center Inc., allocating $290,000, to allow West End Hills Community Development Center to provide community-based programs, STEM after school care, pre-K for 3- and 4-year-old children, youth enrichment summer camps and tutoring programs to enable students to recover from lost classroom time caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Approved emergency contracts for emergency repairs to the sewage drainage systems of four homes for a total cost of $55,550. Meghan Venable-Thomas, director of community development for the city, said the four homes were part of 250 properties approved for a city program offering home repairs for low- and middle-income families. The program is funded through Community Development Block Grants.
  • Authorized the mayor to execute a $35,000 vendor agreement between the city and Flock Group Inc. to provide the Police Department with a Flock Safety Platform, including 5 Flock Safety Falcon Flex cameras with software service and support, for up to 24 months. The cameras will be placed in five high-crime areas. The police chief said this expense was part of a grant that the department has received for three years.
  • Authorized the mayor to execute a cost-sharing agreement between the city and Norfolk Southern Corp., under which Norfolk Southern will install “Qwick Kurb” median channel devices at railroad crossings at 31st Street Southwest and Cleburne Avenue; 24th Street Southwest and Pearson Avenue/Jefferson Avenue. Norfolk Southern and the city will each contribute $21,670 toward the project.
  • Acknowledged the retirement of Lamford Johnson, the city’s executive secretary.
  • Heard a report from the mayor, who reminded the council that the city would be closed Dec. 25 and 26, which will affect trash pickup schedules. Monday and Tuesday routes will see a two-day delay while Thursday and Friday routes will be delayed by one day, he said.
  • The mayor also mentioned the city would open warming stations from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Jimmie Hale Mission on 3420 2nd Ave. North. Food will be provided. Those needing transportation to the shelter can be picked up at Brother Bryan Park, 2100 Magnolia Ave. South; Faith Chapel Care Center, 921 2nd Ave. North; Linn Park, 20th St. North; and the Boutwell Auditorium, 1930 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd.

Watch the livestream of the meeting or read the agenda.