It’s 1998 and the scene in downtown Birmingham is 180 degrees different than the scene we know today. The “Loft District” was not yet a sought after downtown community but Elisa Crowder was ahead of the curve. Already occupying space downtown at the Wheelock Building for her business, Elisa was in search of a live-work space that she could customize to suit her needs and aesthetic preferences.
When she initially viewed the space she now calls home, it was the open floor plan, high ceilings and storefront windows that drew her in. Formerly an art gallery, Elisa saw it as blank canvas to design the live/work space she was imagining.
Overall Elisa wanted the condo’s aesthetic to feel industrial and contemporary with a soothing color palette and almost everything in the space is custom. She added curved walls to create visual interest, aluminum baseboards to tie in the exposed ductwork, solid birch doors and earth-toned marble flooring can be found throughout. 3-Form translucent and polyresin architectural panels were incorporated in several areas and feature a design of grass, leaves, and water to bring earthy elements into the mix.
It’s fair to say that beyond the architectural details, this condo offers amenities that aren’t often found downtown. The master bathroom features a Jacuzzi tub, walk-in shower, dual sinks and heated towel racks. A sound system was also installed throughout the home so Elisa could enjoy music in every room.
“Downtown Birmingham is developing so quickly and this property is in the center of it all, “ said Elisa when describing her favorite aspects of the home. She has loved being walking distance to numerous restaurants and bars (The Atomic is right next door), taking exercise classes at Railroad Park, popping into of art galleries and going to shows in the Theatre district. “It’s nice to have everything so close.” From new restaurants like The Essential to The Famous Peanut Depot, Barons games, breweries and clothing boutiques, everything is at right your fingertips.
“Having a work-live space right in the center of and in walking distance to all of this activity has been wonderful and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Birmingham.”
Now this fabulous 2,0000 square foot condo could be yours and features a new price! Contact us today to view this unique 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom loft-style condo in the heart of downtown. View the listing here.
Downtown Birmingham is definitely having a moment. This summer has been full of exciting additions to the area and the H2 office is buzzing about our new across the street neighbors, The Essential, a new concept from the founders of Baking Bandits and Feast & Forest. We stopped by the recently opened restaurant – located at the bottom of Founders Station on Morris Avenue – and chatted with owner Kristen Hall about her vision, how she got here, and of course, food!
“When we opened Feast & Forest the long term plan was always to expand and find a bigger space, but that need ended up coming much sooner than expected,” Kristen explained over coffee. Architecture was key to their vision, which led Kristen and co-owner Victor King to search for the right space for two years. When they initially looked at the location The Essential now occupies, it was a bank drive-thru that was partially underground. The building itself dates back all the way to it’s construction in 1887 so needless to say it took some creative vision to turn this spot into a charismatic restaurant. The cobblestone charm of Morris Avenue and untapped potential of the historic street were key factors in selling the space to the restaurateurs. “It has been a long time since this beautiful street has seen it’s full potential,” Kristen noted. In the end, they felt that choosing this new home on Morris Avenue would hopefully spark more businesses to join them.
The renaissance of downtown is evident, making it an exciting time to make the move into the city for professional or residential reasons. Kristen, who is passionate about the ‘rebirth’ of the area, told us there was no doubt in her mind that the new restaurant would follow Feast & Forest’s lead and occupy a home in town as well. “The downtown spirit is so different. There is so much heart in the city and it’s exciting to see so much opportunity for growth. Endless possibilities!”
While it’s apparent that Kristen and Victor have found their professional sweet spots, their paths weren’t always headed in this direction. Kristen, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and masters in public health, had spent her first twelve years working at UAB in medical education and community relations. But, she was always dreaming of new things, and eventually the time was right. “Sometimes things chose you.” The mom of two, soon started baking with her daughters and would leave treats on neighbor’s doorsteps, ring the doorbell and leave. Hence they became known as the “Baking Bandits.” That venture spiraled into Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market and eventually led to Kristen entering and winning Birmingham’s first “Big Pitch “ competition.
Co-owner Victor King who has a degree in entrepreneurship from Samford University has worked in restaurants for most of his professional career. He spent over 3 years working at Highlands Bar and Grill before pursuing a role in butchery. The pair met in late 2014 and realized that their perspectives on food worked well together, and they began building a plan for a brick and mortar. A few months later, construction began on 24th Street and Feast & Forest was born
So why rebrand from Feast & Forest to The Essential? “Feast and Forest was a season, a chapter in a book, and it was very specific to that space,” Kristen detailed as she described why The Essential needed a story of it’s own. Victor and Kristen’s love for food and produce led them to want to do the minimal amount of things to it in order to make the food taste it’s best. They wanted the space, menu and name to honor this straightforward approach, thus “The Essential “ was born.
Fans of Banking Bandits need not worry though, just like these famous pastries were a part of Feast & Forest, they’ve once again found their new home at The Essential and Kristen is excited to announce the imminent launch of her new blog which will be centered around the fundamentals of baking pastries.
The Essential offers unique options for every meal. The menu will change seasonally so be sure to stop in every few weeks for a good sampling of what they offer. If you’re headed over there for the first time, Kristen recommends trying the Eggplant and Okra “It’s the perfect collaboration for summer.” She also recommends trying the Chicken Liver Mousse Éclair – the perfect collaboration of Kristen and Victor’s pastries and savory tendencies. “It’s the best of both worlds, I love to take pastries to unexpected places.” If that’s not your speed, they make all pastas by hand and Kristen suggests trying the rigatoni, paired with the roasted beet salad, and pork shoulder with peaches, cucumber and peanuts from next door! Try the blackberry almond cake and lemon meringue tart for dessert.
The aesthetic at The Essential is dripping with charm – a unique marble tile pattern lines the floor around the bar and a rich blue tone is carried subtly throughout the restaurant. “One thing we wanted to accomplish was to be open 7 days a week so that we can be part of every person’s, every day – from breakfast to cocktails. We wanted to create a home away from home for people who live and work downtown and love our city.” The end goal with the design was always to transform people’s experience of Birmingham and both owners are proud to know that their Parisian-esque spot transports people out of their typical Birmingham environment.
There are lots of ways to personalize your home with big renovations, or even custom installation work. But what if you want big style, no professionals required? For that, we suggest interesting accessories that stand out in streamlined spaces. One key example for urban style: bar stools with big impact.
The sheer power of repetition makes it an effective style trick. When you have three or four of something, after all, it tends to command notice. Be warned that a great bar stool rarely comes cheap, but it is an easy and portable style choice.
And you need not look through decor magazines or even the rabbit hole of Pinterest. We’ve simplified matters by drawing on our own local inspiration. We’ve looked at ideas around town and found these bar stool examples for your kitchen style game.
Satellite plays up its space age styling with the stool version of a modern molded plastic chair. Long wooden legs angle out from the base with simple black supports. It’s a dose of nostalgia that still feels fresh, much like its 41st Street scene.
We’ve all hit that point midway through a particularly grueling workweek that demands more than your average comfort. The kind of week that demands breakfast food. Luckily, the good folks at Carrigan’s Public House launched a solution this fall: a “breakfast for supper” special each Wednesday evening.
One of our favorite things about the neighborhood is its rotating roster of specialty brunch availability–Saturdays at El Barrio and Feast & Forest, select Saturdays at Yo Mama’s, and Sundays at Trattoria Centrale–but Wednesday evening is a whole new ballgame. We frankly wouldn’t complain if every day was some sort of brunch day, but we’re perfectly happy to celebrate incremental wins.
True brunch may be a meal reserved for leisurely weekends, but fancy breakfast food need not wait that long. The Carrigan’s solution seems both fancy and spartan, going out with a hint of staying in. All in keeping with the mixed use dynamic of downtown loft living.
We can’t promise a solution to all your hump day problems, but breakfast at Carrigan’s is a fine start. Or at least a merciful end. Here’s to hump day!
You’d be forgiven for not knowing the downtown Revelator Coffee menu includes food. It’s not online after all, and there are only passing references to it on social media. It’s worth paying attention, though, because there are some easy treasures here.
Focused on basic staples–avocado, hummus, boiled eggs, and fresh veggies–the lunch menu is a fancy version of what you might pack yourself or throw together at home. But with this presentation and price point (around eight dollars, with add-ons from one dollar to one-fifty), why would you?
The presentation is gorgeous but not overdone, as though the space’s architecture has been translated into food. The PM bowl reminds us of bibimbap: an artful arrangement of bite-size color and texture begging to be eaten. There’s creamy hummus, lightly-dressed arugula, and sticks of raw veggies for a lunch that feels positively virtuous in its healthiness but will still fill you up.
The avocado toast is another popular option (they were out of it by the time we swung by for a late lunch). Asher Lutz, son of local style blogger Lindsey Lutz of Life Lutzurious, reportedly loves the avocado toast here. And this is a kid with a favorite Bottega dish, so he clearly knows what’s what.
Food here is slightly less secretive than the coffee cocktail–food options are at least printed–but there’s no permanent online presence. The menu seems designed as an additional offering for an established crowd rather than a real marketing draw. And that strategy makes sense with Revelator’s boutique feel.
It’s as though they cleverly foresaw the move toward actual boutiques downtown and established themselves early in the game. Revelator’s been on the vanguard of this end of the loft district, after all. The Lyric wasn’t yet operating when it opened here, nor had the Pizitz Building or Thomas Jefferson Tower redevelopments begun. So it seems like no accident that they’ve added more complex offerings as this area has become one to linger in.
So, whether you’re looking for a non-sad working lunch or an easy, open-ended chat, it’s worth putting Revelator on your list.
We worked with Nequette to acquire the two former Harold’s furniture buildings, which are more or less across the street from his current rented space. It’ll be a classic loft district mixed-use project — ground-floor retail topped with loft living — with a twist: the firm will be the building’s penthouse resident.
“Our plan was not to put that floor on there until we climbed up on the roof and got a load of the 360-degree amazing views,” Nequette said. “After seeing that we were inspired and wanted to create a place where we could do what we do every day with as much inspiration as possible.”
The building’s thick industrial walls have enough heft to support an addition, and the one the firm has planned should be stunning. “There’ll be a lot of glass,” Nequette said, to optimize the views.
The building dates from 1889, according to documents Nequette found, which adds a layer of history to the design consideration. Still, Nequette said the process isn’t far off from any kind of major renovation: “It’s about walking through and finding the redeeming qualities of, ‘Where’s the magic? What’s special about the existing building?’
“Sometimes there’s nothing, and it gets demolished completely. Sometimes there’s so much that it really warrants it being a historical preservation kind of project. And then most cases it’s kind of in the middle, and that’s how this one was,” he said.
Residential units were a natural next step, since the minimal interior framing of a warehouse “makes for a great loft kind of situation.” As for the penthouse addition, Nequette bucked the trend of adding “a modern box on a traditional building.” (He says it’s often a good approach, though, that “creates a lot of interest to clash those two styles together.”)
The deciding factor was the addition’s footprint. “We felt because we wanted to pull the top floor up to the front elevation, that that would look more strange and out of place and not in keeping with the character of 2nd Avenue,” he said. “As opposed to doing what we’re doing, which is take a much more traditionally-inspired approach to that design.
“We’ve done both at different times, but in this case, it calls for trying to keep the whole building in character.”
What does that character look like? Neatly-framed windows that emerge naturally from the building’s existing roofline, with a bay window bumping out over the second building. A hint of modern tension in its asymmetry, but nothing that would give you pause.
Looking at the drawings, we were struck by how natural the addition seemed. Which is how we feel about most Nequette Architecture& Design projects. That middle ground we mentioned? It’s a way of designing that feels like it’s always been there, and a result we always love.
Levy’s Fine Jewelry downtown stands alone. Literally. It stands not in a neat commercial row but as the only store on its block of 2nd Avenue North. That’s fitting for a store that’s been a longtime fixture of downtown Birmingham and offers pieces from many of its eras.
We’re quick to celebrate the grand repurposing of our city’s past, particularly in this downtown Loft District. But it’s also nice to celebrate a place like Levy’s that’s weathered the last century more or less intact.
And should you be contemplating a very special holiday purchase, we recommend thinking of Levy’s long history as a wonderful metaphor. This shop is a place that has lasted, after all. Not impervious to change, but strong enough to adapt with it.
Not that you need metaphors to appreciate the global antiques or rows of jewelry sparkling in its window displays. The baubles speak plainly enough for themselves. But if your special person is the kind who loves living in a neighborhood with a past, with the crafted details now rarely produced, Levy’s is the best possible source.
There are some great gifts to celebrate collective Birmingham pride–in fact, we rounded some up in our very first guide. But what of those who’ve cultivated their own corner of the city? They might like a more specific option. So we’ve put together a list of locally-inspired gifts we think are most emblematic of some hot neighborhoods right now: A Birmingham gift guide for the urban dweller.
The season’s big entertainment option is ice skating in Railroad Park. And with a run that extends through mid-January, December gifting is still feasible. But the most bated-breath stretch of this year has been watching the downtown Publix take shape. Its opening has been delayed until sometime in January, reported AL.com. But there’s nothing to celebrate the neighborhood’s practical convenience like a Publix gift card.
Redmont Vodka appeared in ABC stores this spring and served as Sloss Fest’s “official spirit,” reported AL.com. Lakeview’s entertainment options have grown leaps and bounds this year–Sky Castle, Ghost Train, Scene among them–and Redmont’s branding strikes the perfect balance between the area’s understated exteriors and its party potential. They’ve also released a Cotton Gin, which we can’t help but love.
Between the Lyric Theatre and the Redmont Hotel, it’s been a restorative year downtown. There’s more on the way, of course, with the Pizitz Building and the Thomas Jefferson Tower, but why not celebrate what we’ve achieved so far? Tickets to one of the Lyric’s varied shows–Russian ballet and Ben Folds are both on the calendar for 2017–are a thoughtful way to experience this now-functioning beauty. Or commit to treating your giftee to drinks at the Redmont’s rooftop bar, appropriately named The Roof, as another experience-over-stuff option. And tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Redmont make for easy wrapping.
New Year’s Eve is fast approaching, which means it’s time to strategize. How else can you pick up something appropriately festive for yourself while you’re out holiday shopping? We suggest complementing your cocktail threads for this year’s new event: New Year’s Eve at the Redmont.
More specifically, on its rooftop bar, The Roof.
There are plenty of wonderful ways to ring in a new year. Romantic fine dining, house parties with friends, champagne on your very own couch–these are all valid choices. But there are some events that are inherently memorable, and our money is on the Redmont to be among them.
We’ve advocated for ticketed events in the past for one simple reason: it’s nice to know there’s room at your destination. And with the Redmont evening’s tiered pricing, you can choose what level of accommodation you expect, from General Hotel Admission to a rooftop sofa with your name on it. Or make a complete evening of it by purchasing tickets to Harvest’s prix fixe dinner that night as well.
But decide soon. All but the VIP ticket sales end Friday, December 16.
It’s hard to imagine a bad choice, though, if it involves city views from 14 stories up. The twinkling lights of downtown’s Loft District are unfailingly magical. And spying landmark buildings from City Federal to the Thomas Jefferson Tower? Well, that’s a wider angle than your average downtown resident can boast.
The view is reason enough to visit The Roof anytime, but even more so this time.
At its heart, celebrating New Year’s Eve is marking time by secular ritual. It’s honoring (and sometimes shedding) our past as we hold out our hopes for the future. And at its very best, it’s about doing those things collectively. In this, our new Birmingham era, what better way to celebrate the developments of 2016 than at one of them?
While renovations were underway, a giant chandelier was the most distinguishing feature at Canary Gallery downtown. It’s still one of our favorites, but there’s no shortage of things to see now: crisp white walls display work ranging from bold pop art to soft country landscapes. Like its Loft District neighbors, the gallery puts an existing building to stylish mixed use.
What we especially like about this space is its visibility. Even when the gallery is closed, its corner spot with generous windows and ambient lighting means there’s something to see any time of day. It’s a boon for the neighborhood streetscape and part of a block undergoing rapid transformation. After all, Artefact Supply opened this fall, and our friends at Nequette Architecture and Design have their own plans nearby.
Perhaps the gallery’s most intriguing feature is its business model. The gallery describes itself as “a neighborhood art gallery, event space, and gathering spot.” It’s a working gallery with art for sale, in other words, but it’s also a flexible multipurpose space befitting its downtown district. Downtown Birmingham is already a booming artistic space, but Canary adds something extra to the mix.
It’s hard not to daydream about hosting an event there. The floor plan’s easy flow and lofted nook invite mingling and lingering. Which is what owner Libby Pantazis had in mind, according to a profile in Iron City Ink.
And the tone of Canary Gallery is more reminiscent of Art Crawl than high society. It’s designed “to be a friendly, welcoming place, not a holy temple of art,” according to the Iron City Ink piece, which noted that gallery hours cater to the surrounding bar and restaurant scene. In fact, the gallery’s blog suggests restaurant patrons could spend their wait time over a glass of wine–available for purchase–and art.