City of Birmingham

Work Begins to Take Down the Ramsay-McCormack Building, Façade Improvement Program Launched

Ramsay-McCormack Building in Ensley (Source: City of Birmingham)

Redevelopment on Ensley’s Ramsay-McCormack Building is finally underway, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Thursday. The 10-story structure will be deconstructed and replaced with a five-story building constructed using salvaged materials from the original.

Woodfin’s announcement came the same day a city-run façade improvement pilot program was announced to target nine “priority redevelopment areas” in the city, including the Ensley Commercial Business District.

The Ramsay-McCormack Building, originally built in 1929, has been vacant since 1986. It previously had been the subject of other redevelopment plans; in 2016, for instance, Mayor William Bell announced a $40 million renovation of the building, after which the building would become headquarters for the city’s municipal court and police and fire departments.

Woodfin nixed that idea when he took office, instead enacting a $4 million development plan with Ensley District Developers, LLC, a group that had been assisting with the restoration of the city’s Masonic Temple on 17th Street North.

Earlier this year, Woodfin told the City Council that a structural assessment of the building revealed it wouldn’t be salvageable. “As hard as we have tried and wanted to go with the building in its current form, based on an assessment by third-party professionals and their rendering and submission to us, we can’t move forward,” he said. “We need to reconfigure the building.”

Per Thursday’s announcement, the 75-day deconstruction period will salvage “character-defining” materials from the building, including bricks, marble and terra cotta to be used in the new structure.

The new building already has two tenants signed on — Innovation Depot will use office space there, and the headquarters of Birmingham Promise, Inc., which manages Woodfin’s scholarship initiative, will be there.

The Ramsay-McCormack redevelopment is meant to “symbolize revitalization” in Ensley, Woodfin said, and would be the spearhead of a “comprehensive” revitalization plan. The building itself is expected to be completed near the end of 2022.

District 9 Councilor John Hilliard added that he was “excited to see this major economic development” happening in his district. “No longer will we have to gaze upon a big empty building wondering ‘what if,’” Hilliard said. “I’d like to thank the mayor’s team and all of our partners who have helped make this a reality.”

Redevelopment in Ensley received another boost Thursday from the announcement of the community development project’s new façade

improvement pilot program, which will focus on nine “priority redevelopment areas” in the city:

  • Ensley Commercial Business District
  • Fourth Avenue Business District
  • North Birmingham Commercial District
  • Eighth Avenue Business District
  • Lomb-Tuscaloosa Avenue Commercial District
  • Downtown West Commercial District
  • Portions of the Downtown Northwest Commercial District
  • Portions of Woodlawn Commercial District
  • Portions of East Lake Commercial District

The program will give property owners financial incentives — $20 per square foot based on total project cost, with a maximum of $50,000 per building — to improve their building’s façades. The funding will be provided as loans that are forgiven over a five-year period, so long as the property continues to be maintained. Funding from the program will come from federal community development block grants.