Stacks and Tracks


The concept for this entry was derived by: 1) acknowledging the rich industrial history of the City of Birmingham and its role in shaping the city center; 2) Celebrating the predominate role of the historic railroad and industrial smoke stacks at the heart of downtown; 3) facilitating the extension of RR Park; and 4) generating excitement and energy through the celebration of Birmingham's hope and promise.


Stacks & Tracks will be "participatory" in nature, which is in contrast with the RR Park's more "passive" nature. The feature interactive component is a 140 feet diameter ferris wheel with 18 enclosed passenger pods for year round use. The ferris wheel will rise out of an extensive water feature that combines wading areas, jets, water cannons and fire in an exciting interactive display. At night, the ferris wheel will reflect the energy of the RR Park District with an LED light show powered by on-site solar panels. Other major components include; a residential/hotel component of condominiums and/or hotel structure, retail / restaurant space and a parking deck screened with metal translucent panels that shine during the day and glow with LED programmable lighting displays at night.

Powell Avenue will be a pedestrian promenade that extends RR Park's main thoroughfare to the new plaza and continuing to connect to Sloss Furnace. Unique elements from the steam plant's façade will be projected horizontally in paving materials to visually link the steam plant, Powell Avenue and the new plaza.

The Birmingham metro area has long been praised for its geographic beauty. Our design embraces this asset by providing visitors with sweeping views of Jones Valley and a striking visual landmark 365 days a year / 24 hours a day. The connection to RR Park is both physical and programmed.

The overarching goal of this concept is to create a draw to the destination components with an initial investment providing a framework for development that will fund ongoing operation of the RR Park. The parameters for development are suggested in the attached sketches and include adaptive re-use of the neighboring Steam Plant. There are numerous successful redevelopment precedents for decommissioned power facilities within city centers in Baltimore, St. Louis, Kansas City and Nashville.

The design most importantly provides a dynamic active plaza for people of all ages to use day and night to socialize and interact in a memorable way that builds community.


Stacks and Tracks attract crowds of people to the Railroad Park District through a mix of spectacle and visual stimulation. The building functions that are both pure amusement (ferris wheel) and utilitarian (parking deck) will ensure that people make return trips. The energetic environment will be created through visual stimulation, such as LED screens: Laser lighting up the stacks; and activities such as playing in the fountain or riding the ferris wheel. The visual impact of these large whimsical objects is cool, but the energetic environment that they create, facilitates social interaction, is even cooler.

The plaza is punctuated by the ferris wheel, a visible icon on the downtown skyline and from the interstate creating a whimsical attraction visitors and residents of all ages will return to time and time again.

The participatory water feature at the heart of the plaza provides an active element for wading on a hot day. Spraying jets of water and large stacks reminiscent of industrial smoke stacks shoot steam and water bursts vertically beneath the Ferris wheel. Café tables adjacent to the water elements allow parents to watch the activity and children play, creating a sense of community and a gathering space for all ages.

The LED screens enveloping the parking structure are metal mesh that turn into dynamic lighted LED displays at night, displaying art and community events and telling the story of Birmingham's history, culture and forward thinking future.


Stacks and Tracks complement the Railroad Park/Sloss Corridor by connecting existing assets that are unique and distinctive to Birmingham, together and expanding the energy of the park throughout the city. These pedestrian connections become wonderful links for hiking, biking, jogging, and moving people through the city and fostering development along the way. Sloss Furnace and the future Ball Park anchor each end of a linear path reinforced by the central spine of the RR Park and Powell Avenue, along with a pedestrian promenade to Line Park and Pepper Place along 1st Avenue. The site becomes a vital node of activity in the center of these urban pathways. The plaza promotes connectivity through the metro trolley / transit system from the new Intermodal Terminal that will provide connectivity throughout key downtown and regionally.

This idea provides different yet complementary functions that are not repetitive with existing RR Park activities. The active event oriented participatory nature of the plaza with an interactive water element and ferris wheel provides a different function as well as badly needed parking. At night, the laser-lighted smoke stacks, LED screens and the illuminated ferris wheel come alive to provide an exciting night experience and attraction down town. Future development with the Hotel/Residential, entertainment/retail at the steam plant with restaurants, bars, comedy clubs, theaters, art studios and galleries will complement the RR Park.


Stacks and Tracks provides a framework for development over time to leverage the initial investment by the Community Foundation together with the private development of this block. Residential / hotel, retail space and potential adaptive re-use of the adjacent steam plant site are envisioned over a period of time.

The initial investment of civic plaza and parking will support RR Park needs and future residential and retail development. The RR Park can be sustained with income received by layering a tax increment district over the privately owned and developed sits to provide a permanent income source to the RR Park.

The design provides a framework for development that can grow over time and provide a dynamic civic space that facilitates a multitude of community events from street vendors, festivals, arcade uses, to flea markets, flower shows, street side performances and simple people watching while relaxing.

The design is LEED sustainable with storm water recycled for the water features and solar panels powering programmable LED display panels.

Retail space is planned to support and add further activity to the plaza with a mix of entertainment retail in the historic steam plant and contemporary cutting edge hotel / residential building and other retail space with theaters, grocery store, bike and skateboards shops, ice cream shops, boutique shops, restaurants and cafes.


Stacks and Tracks provides a dynamic, energizing, intriguing, timeless, and repeat destination with the potential for a new experience with every visit. The constant movement of the ferris wheel, water, steam, and LED display board creates the type of excitement that can be seen from Red Mountain and the interstate. These vertical elements enhance the more passive experience of Railroad Park.

The space is dynamic and changes from the day and the night. This space serves as a front door and parking area for the Railroad Park but also fosters further retail and residential development. LED lighting displays will show key scenes from Birmingham's history, current events at the Park and in the city. These dramatic multi-color light displays give an exciting backdrop to activity in the plaza and screen the parking deck.

Every visit will be a different experience adding to the rich variety of experiences at the RR Park which will draw people back again and again.

Our plaza enhances Railroad Park entrances with needed parking for the park and support for future retail and residential development on the block, including the use of the adjacent historic steam plant when it is decommissioned. The addition over time of restaurants, ice cream shops, bike shops, theaters, and grocery stores will reinforce the plaza, providing an exciting community gathering space that flows in and out of Railroad Park at both street and bridge levels.


The broad appeal of the Stacks and Tracks development is that it anchors an identity, promises excitement, offers hope, and instills pride in the residents of Birmingham. When you create a memorable destination / sense of place for the city's residents, then visitors will come to experience it as well.

Stacks and Tracks will be a place that visitors must see in Birmingham with the traditional City sights. The space will have appeal not only during the day but at night also. The participatory fountain and Ferris wheel will be an icon in the City and a place that visitors and residents must visit. It will be a place where children want to return time after time to ride the Ferris wheel and play in the water fountains, while parents observe at an outdoor café. When those children grow up they will appreciate the city center and be inclined to give back to the downtown and the community with when they had rich experiences with. It will also be a place that anyone with physical limitations can experience and enjoy the fabric of activity and people.

During the day the plan will complement the Railroad Park by providing parking, and at night, will come alive with dramatic LED lighting, the activity of the Ferris wheel, fountains and laser lighting cast upon the smoke stacks set against shops, restaurants, and the hotel. Stacks and Tracks will be a place people of all ages want to mingle, socialize and interact strengthening our sense of community with one another.