"The Station" is envisioned as a year-round farmer and merchant's market, similar to the French Market in New Orleans, or Pike Place Market in Seattle, where local farmers, merchants and artisans can daily market their wares to the local consumer. The proposal also features an interactive fountain ("splash pad"), where children can frolic during warmer months, perhaps convertible to another form (ice rink?) for the winter. Finally, the proposal includes a small, open, roofed amphitheater to host local music, plays and shows.
Reflecting classic railroad terminal aesthetics, the site would be an excellent host for the proposed replica of the "Welcome to the Magic City". The fountain should be at or near grade level and located adjacent to a "calmed" 18th Street, designed as a visual landmark. From 18th St, , a patron would see a triangular shaped, ground level fountain, narrowing into a set of rails, upon which sit a number of rail cars housing such activities, as a "restaurant car" and an museum focused on the railroad's role in the rise of the Magic City. The merchant stalls would sit on "terminal platforms" along either side of central "train". At the far end, opposite the fountain, the amphitheater stage abuts the other end of the railroad and fans out to site edge, forming opposite of the fountain triangle.
18th St must facilitate safe pedestrian egress between the Park and The Station. Ideally, the street would be closed to 1st Ave N and added to the Park complex. That not likely, this and adjacent block segments should be redesigned for calming (slowing) automobile traffic in the vicinity of the park complex, ensuring the pedestrian friendly conditions necessary for this and the entire Railroad Park/Sloss Corridor. Appropriately designed calming devices can announce that the traveler has entered the "Railroad Park District", and should be applied all along Sloss Corridor. An additional connection to the Railroad Park is proposed via a signature wooden, railroad trestle, connecting from the Park's higher elevation on its northern edge and descending into the Station, a future local landmark.
Finally, we propose a "heritage trail" with a series of education stops stations along a continuum linking the paths from the Park, through The Station, and into the proposed Sloss Corridor, attracting tourist activity, new residents, school field trips and more.
|THE COOL FACTOR
"The Station" is envisioned as an urban market place to add vibrancy and variety to the Park District while providing an everyday convenient service to emerging downtown neighborhoods such as UAB and the Loft District. An easy pedestrian or bike trip from any part of downtown, The Station's open market will afford patrons seasonal fresh produce and other farm products year-round. The fountain, amphitheater, museum and restaurant offer choices for the public to gather and meet. The open design of the site and structures offer flexibility and adaptability to a wide range of public and private seasonal activities.
Walking or biking daily to market is the kind of activity that appeals to the youthful, creative sector the City seeks to attract. This "Creative Class" favors interesting and active urban environments, often selecting and moving to the Cool Place of their choosing then seeking employment. Together with the Park's already substantial appeal, the introduction of daily marketing of goods and services, restaurants, museum, fountain, amphitheater and year-round activities only intensifies the Park's already substantial appeal to this desirable demographic. The Station completes Railroad Park and establishes the District the major activity center for downtown workers and residents and engendering that elusive "sense of community" so missing in today's suburbs.
"The Station" complements the Park and the Sloss Corridor, intensifying the demonstrated appeal of the Railroad Park, by adding concentrated, year-round activity in a well situated, compact location. While the Park's perceived utility is diminished after dark and in colder months, the range of activities and attractions proposed for The Station insures that The Railroad Park District is able to support daytime and evening fun for residents and tourists throughout the year.
The classic terminal station aesthetic and layout, as well as the heritage trail and museum, are clearly intended to focus on the role of industry and transportation in Birmingham's "magical" rise to prominence. The heritage trail is proposed to be extended into the Sloss Corridor it's developed. Further, the traffic calming proposed adjacent to the Park and The Station can act as the southern terminus of the proposed connections to Sloss Furnace. By extending the pattern of calming north along 1st Ave S, much of the proposed Corridor can be realized without having to acquire significant additional property.
The rental/leasing of the market stalls ought to provide an excellent income stream. Though it is intended that the amphitheater should be available often for use free to the public, the facility must also be available for private rental. Depending on how it is funded, the proposed museum might generate income through small user fees and souvenir sales, and the proposed Railroad Restaurant Car would generate income in support of other site activities while also drawing visitors to the facility on its own merit. The Station should also house one or two fast food type concessions either on the platform in a railroad car.
Everything about "The Station" is magnetic and contagious. Residents of downtown neighborhoods should be regular patrons, just because for the year-round access to seasonal market goods. Add restaurants, a museum and frequent plays, music and shows, and locals might never leave. Notwithstanding playing in the fountain in the warmer months and whether feasible winter activity-such as a winter ice rink-the fountain should be an animated, visual spectacle, like those on Clematis Street and at City Place, both in downtown West Palm Beach, FL, providing an ever changing show around which people will rendezvous just to watch.
It is clear that the The Station, as envisioned, is a dynamic entity by design, its constantly changing activity the only constant. A frolicking fountain for frolicking; a seasonally ebbing and flowing living market; a public access amphitheater providing a venue for emerging local talent. What's not to like?
The Railroad Park already has a broad appeal, having already captured the imagination of the Birmingham area. "The Station" substantially enhances and expands that appeal by providing a more varied array of entertainment and activity options, necessarily broadening further, the appeal of the so-called "Railroad District".
The market draws vendors in from well out of the city to market their produce and products. Those vendors will in turn, alert their social network resulting in weekend day visitors coming to see and play in the fountain, catch a show, visit the museum or dine in the Club Car. Downtown workers living in the suburbs will have lunch, pick up some fresh produce, and return with their families for evening and weekend events. School kids will come on field trips to the museum and heritage trail, perhaps run through the fountain, rave to their parents, resulting in additional family visits. That "Creative Class" demographic we want to attract to the city will love The Railroad District and will want to live nearby, strengthening and increasing the vibrancy of emerging downtown neighborhoods. They will be daily patrons of and will almost never arrive in a car, preferring to scooter, bike, and walk or ride the (proposed) trolley.