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Birmingham Green - 20th Street Refresh

Birmingham, AL

New and repaired paving, fresh plantings, and a lot of cleanup gave Birmingham’s main street its first big lift in 50 years.

Birmingham Green - 20th Street Refresh

Last revamped in the early 1970s, Birmingham’s 7-block downtown main street corridor had grown a little tired with overgrown plantings, spalled crosswalks, and damaged sidewalks. Numerous studies explored plans for a refresh; several local landscape architects contributed ideas; and the Alabama ASLA chapter even used a quarter-block to test some interventions as Park(ing) Day installations. The COVID-19 pandemic renewed interest in reclaiming public space for people to occupy for dining and social activities, and in finding ways to safely support local businesses. The pandemic also delayed Birmingham’s planned hosting of The World Games by a year, which created an unexpected window – and impetus – for making a significant update.

The project included spot repair of concrete and brick pavers in the sidewalks; complete removal of spalled crosswalks and replacement with new crosswalks with brick paver inlays; and reclaiming the bus stop pull-offs as space for people to gather, eat, or relax.  The traffic lanes were re-striped to create dedicated bike lanes in both directions; a FLEX lane to allow temporary parking for quick trips into restaurants or shops; and narrower through lanes to help slow traffic. Apart from mature trees that were still in good condition, nearly all the existing planting was removed and replaced with native or adapted plants, supplemented with new planting in large containers and hanging baskets, all selected for seasonal interest.

By the time the project scope was documented, and the project was bid, a little more than 200 days remained for the contractor to complete the work, including addressing unknown and unforeseen circumstances like working around building renovations, major utility work, and schedules for marathons and parades. Post-pandemic supply chain issues meant that products and materials were delayed or just not available. The whole project team remained flexible and focused on solutions, and the project was indeed finished on time and within budget … even if the new smart trash cans arrived and were installed with just one day left before the opening of The World Games!

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