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Tag: downtown loft district

A Neighborhood Aesthetic at Artefact Supply Downtown

artefact supply downtown

artefact supply downtown

Remember last year’s Glimmer pop-up by Charm on 2nd’s Chatham Hellmers? It won’t be around this holiday season, but a more permanent retail situation has taken its place. Brandon Hays opened Artefact Supply downtown this fall. Besides adding more sidewalk shopping, the store helps define a Loft District aesthetic.

With its cozy settee and an Oriental rug lounging across from the clothing displays, it’s easy to imagine this shop as a throwback to the district’s original commercial tenants. Artefact Supply’s menswear-only mission adds to that sensibility, creating the feel of a small tailor’s shop, for instance, rather than a modern boutique.

Labels here lean toward indie design, including the Florence-based Billy Reid. In fact, Reid was a major formative influence for Hays, according to the shop website. Drawn to the “timeless, classic styles and quality, craftsmanship” the label represented, Brandon began approaching his closet with that same eye. But he couldn’t find the kinds of clothes he was looking for locally and found online shopping uninspiring. He set about solving the problem for himself and others with Artefact Supply.

The shop was originally scheduled for the Box Row project in Avondale, but we think its final downtown location is a more perfect fit. With an indie aesthetic, booming food scene, and general loft-ness, it would be easy to categorize downtown as another Birmingham “Brooklyn.” But there’s a definite aesthetic that sets downtown apart, a distinct sense of polish. In fact, the combination of fancy architectural influences and nearby big business feels more New Orleans Central Business District to us.

The neighborhood is both humbly bespoke and also a little bit grand, from Heidi Elnora’s new atelier to the prevalence of Alabama marble. With its rich leather goods and fine knitwear, Artefact Supply fits both parts of the downtown style brief.

Food, Cute, Fun: Downtown Birmingham on Instagram

Sunset over Bham…

A post shared by H2 Real Estate (@h2realestate) on

There’s one downtown resident who makes modern interiors, city vistas, and even emergency medical procedures look squeal-out-loud adorable. It’s not a dog or even a child. Downtown Birmingham’s cutest Instagram belongs to a hedgehog named Kevin. But this gram-er in miniature’s feed is more than just cute animal photos. It’s a fun introduction to downtown living.

Kevin has the ultimate loft district accessory: a rooftop view. But having a bird’s eye on everything doesn’t stop him from exploring the neighborhood. Like most downtown Birmingham residents, he’s been photographed at Railroad Park, the Rotary Trail, and the Vulcan mural. He’s also hopped over to Sloss Furnaces and Cahaba Brewing, since neither are far down the road.

Besides his quills, Kevin surrounds himself with all of our downtown style goals. His open plan living space has bar area seating and a cozy sectional sofa. The kitchen has wide open shelves and industrial pendant lighting. It’s bright enough to support a fiddle-leaf fig, and the color palette of light neutrals only emphasizes natural light.  

Some days Kevin prefers lounging around his own space with his best pug friend–dogs are a common feature of Loft District living, after all. Others, he’ll ride a fanny pack to Chipotle in Parkside, which makes us jealous. And we imagine he dipped into Revelator Coffee while visiting 3rd Avenue’s public art.

Kevin is the ultimate snapshot, in other words, but there are another handful worthy of honorable mentions:

Feast & Forest has a beautifully styled feed. It’s full of natural light shots, an organic palette, and often some exposed brick. Besides shots of the Bandit Baking case and handmade pasta, the backgrounds alone are a Loft District style guide. Polished concrete, reclaimed wood, the aforementioned brick–the feed is exercise in rustic urban textures.

We Have Doughnuts is another hit of daily food fun, but it’s also a glimpse of street life. We love their Blach’s Loft Building location and their ability to inject fun into the workweek. They offered a treats-only Halloween to folks who showed up in costume and included games worth free doughnuts during the Rio Olympics.

The City of Birmingham has been offering more and more neighborhood events in the downtown area, from Food Truck Fridays to Prince memorial celebrations in Linn Park. The easiest way to keep track? Follow their Instagram feed. And for those events you can’t make, there may well be video clips to show a glimpse of what you missed.

Louis Nequette on Buying Downtown Birmingham Living

nequette architecture downtown birmingham living

Wondering if downtown Birmingham living is right for you? And if so, which part of the Loft District really has your name on it? Our friends at Nequette Architecture & Design recently made the leap from renting a downtown office to creating their own downtown development on 2nd Avenue North. They loved the neighborhood enough to buy into it, and we think it’s worth sharing why.

Even since we started this blog–two years ago now–the 2nd Avenue corridor has undergone some dramatic changes. Urban Standard, El Barrio, and Charm were all there, but Bamboo’s owners were still running Tavern on the Summit. And Paramount was an empty former yogurt shop. The “walkable energy” of this now very mixed-use area was part of the draw for his firm, Louis Nequette told us.

“We were trying to find a walkable community environment,” he explained. The firm considered our two favorite over-the-mountain spots, Homewood and Mountain Brook, but also set their sights on the downtown market. They quickly honed in on Second Avenue, according to Nequette.

“We said, let’s move down here and do a short-term rent and just see what it feels like. But it didn’t take but a few months to fall in love with the energy down here and the people and the character.”

Sold on the neighborhood, we helped them close on a building within the same block. A combination of street-level retail, upper-floor lofts, and their own penthouse design studio, Nequette said construction on the development should be completed in November 2017.

And their current space won’t have a chance to be empty, Nequette said. Not only is there a tenant lined up to replace his firm, but an art gallery should be moving into the ground floor as soon as April 2017.

For a firm with a big stake in building community, Nequette believes 2nd Avenue is the ultimate design lab for his firm. “It represented everything we wanted to embrace and the type work we do and learn from by participating in.

“We said, why not find a way to be permanently involved.”

5 Downtown Birmingham Halloween Costumes

reed books, a downtown birmingham halloween costumes

reed books, a downtown birmingham halloween costumes

Many moons ago, we brought you a list of Birmingham-themed Halloween costumes. It’s one we still stand behind, but this year we’re taking a deep dive into one of our favorite neighborhoods: Downtown, and its Loft District. We took the timing–just over a week to go before the big day–into consideration, too, with some ideas you can pull off even at the last minute.  So without further adieu, and in no particular order, here’s our 2016 list of downtown Birmingham Halloween costumes:

Sushi

Bamboo on 2nd is kind of a phenomenon, and sushi is an easy-ish last-minute Halloween costume. Brit and Co even suggests it as a group costume option.  To make your look more Birmingham-specific, consider recreating one of Bamboo’s outside-the-box rolls. Pro-tip: the secret’s in the sauce drizzle.

Vaudeville

There’s always plenty of Halloween love for a flapper costume, but vaudeville gives you leave to be more eccentric. And if the Lyric’s re-opening isn’t worth celebrating with costume, we’re not sure what is. It’s probably worth a trip to Zoe’s in Forest Park if you choose this option, but it’s sure to make a statement.

Reed Books

Downtown’s used bookstore and “museum of fond memories” is an icon in its own right. Our resident blogger even has wedding photos with the store’s Third Avenue window as a backdrop. How do I put this one together? You might ask. To which we say, with gleeful abandon. Perhaps a Charlie Chaplin-styled suit and a Piggly Wiggly hat plus snout. Or the A Christmas Story leg lamp meets Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Both topped with a book from Reed’s

Baking bandit

It’s hands down our most low-key suggestion, but who doesn’t love the Bandit Baking Co. goodies at Feast & Forest? Our version involves a chef’s coat, a Zorro/Lone Ranger mask, and maybe a whisk. A dark chocolate sea salt cookie never hurt anyone, either.

Oktoberfest

If you witnessed the dachshund parade, you’ll understand our soft spot for Oktoberfest at Das Haus. Plus, it’s still October, so why not take a two-birds-one-stone approach? You might even be able to score discount lederhosen at this late date.

Happy haunting, y’all.

Revelator’s Coffee Cocktail Offers Hybrid Downtown Drink

revelator coffee cocktail

revelator coffee cocktail

Imagine your favorite cocktail, then the reasons you tend to avoid mid-week day drinking. Now imagine the cocktail experience without the downside. With the coffee cocktail, you can raise your glass at 1pm then going unashamedly back to work. Just head to Revelator Coffee, downtown’s Loft District staple.

We’ve devoted lots of blog real estate to cocktails downtown. And the city seems to agree that downtown is its favorite bar scene. But with the new Marble Ring speakeasy open in Avondale, it would be easy to wonder if the Loft District is facing some stiff cocktail competition.

What we see instead is a strong value add to the area with Revelator Coffee’s specialty mocktails. They’re a fun, polished product available nowhere else we know of.

And while there’s nothing especially thematic about the coffee cocktail offering, the distribution has its own speakeasy influences. The only way to keep track of coffee cocktails available is to follow the shop’s social media or to ask in person. It’s old-school small business meets new school word-of-mouth, which is a common theme in the district.

As are the cocktails, which is why Revelator’s coffee version fits in so well. These drinks don’t have the milkshake vibe of a frappaccino. They look (and taste) like a crafted adult beverage, minus the alcohol.

Both bitters and tonic make an appearance in the current Espresso Tonic, which has an almost savory taste. The bitters interact with lime for a flavor that’s weirdly–but deliciously–reminiscent of a Bloody Mary.

The previous Weekender had a tangerine, espresso, half-and-half combination we would have sworn would never work, until it did. Our Revelator sources say to be on the lookout for holiday cocktails as the finally (blessedly) arrived Fall progresses. But you might as well start sipping now.

In this creative agency area downtown, we can’t help the occasional Don Draper reference, and we’ve come to think of Revelator as the place for a modern Mad Men lunch. It’s a better angels version, though, with health-minded bowls and a coffee cocktail that responsibly fuels your work.

Cheers!

Halloween for Grown-Ups at Birmingham Ghost Walk

birmingham ghost walk route

birmingham ghost walk route

Halloween can be hard as a grownup. You’ve aged out of trick-or-treating, but a crowded bar scene may not be your thing. Never fear. The Birmingham Ghost Walk through downtown’s Loft District is your answer. It runs year-round, but we love it most as Halloween for grown ups.  

All the classic Halloween ingredients are there: dead people and high drama in low light. But your grown up self will appreciate the history lesson that goes along with it. You’ll watch as a man in a black hat tells you the city’s past, what the tour site calls “all of the dark and interesting history that began right with the founding of our “city in the midst of the wilderness” and continue right through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s (although most of the tales pre-date The Great War).”

The tour is also growing to reflect an expanding downtown district. With 20th Street as its dividing line, the current tour wanders areas east, the ghost walk site explains, but a new tour option in 2017 will move west into the Theatre District. Those options are a tidy symbol of downtown’s recent growth, giving areas with new life their own share of the dead.

Downtown is on the upswing, after all, but she’s still a lady with a past. Skeletons in her closet, if you will. On a quiet mid-week evening, you may even imagine whispers of those Birmingham ghosts. Perfect if you’re the type who wants to revel in the season without the heart-stopping thrill of Sloss Furnaces.

For folks who live downtown, the tour is a constant source of entertainment. On your final dog walk of the evening you may well catch a snippet of story and the glint of a lantern down a dark alley. “Come,” says the tour website. “Grab a bit of shadowy darkness…and walk with us.”

And you’ll want to. You really will.

2101 Cafe and the Redmont’s Downtown Balance

2101 cafe at the redmont hotel

2101 cafe at the redmont hotel

Some days you need a shot of luxury as much as espresso. Some days you need to feel like you’re on vacation, even if you’re really on your way to work. On those days, there’s 2101 Cafe at downtown Birmingham’s Redmont Hotel.

There are the places you visit because they ground you in the neighborhood. Then there are those you visit because they feel like an escape. A 2101 Cafe visit does both.

Pass the red-coated doormen at the entry, an enthusiastic greeting at the front desk, and head left to the cafe nook. You’ll find long parsons tables with built-in outlets, a succulent pot of aloe. Bentwood bar stools with triangular foot rests. Past the glitz of the entry, you’ll find the modern energy of the district.

(You’ll also find a nicely stout latte made with Revelator coffee, plus a sampling of breakfast and lunch options.)

This is not the place to hunker down over a business plan or map plot lines for your first novel. There’s a reason all the seating is in bar stools, no individual tables. This is not a coffee shop in the Friend’s sense or even the Starbuck’s one. It’s a delightfully caffeinated way station. The place you charge your phone and your brain while you do one last review of your slide deck, web copy, sales pitch.

But for all its fast modernity, there are hints of history that linger. There are mullioned windows and transoms, built-in shelves with under lighting, a street door with sidelights. Open and modern but not especially industrial, it’s a nice alternative style guide for the district.

The overall experience is the two sides of downtown loft district life–artful buildings and multitasking energy–in one single visit. No need to linger too long; you already live here.

But it’s still nice to visit.

Downtown Birmingham Design: Custom Tile Inspiration

downtown birmingham design at h2

downtown birmingham design at h2

Downtown Birmingham design is full of historical details, and entryway tile is one of our favorites. It’s a design vernacular that offers a neighborhood boost, historical charm, and plenty of inspiration for our own homes.

Downtown Birmingham design has plenty of moments with a wide viewing radius–the Thomas Jefferson Tower, for instance, or the John Hand Buildng. But according to Main Street America, it’s the sidewalk-scale design that really matters for a thriving downtown scene. Fortunately, downtown’s loft district has plenty of that as well.

In fact, it’s those design elements that help define the Downtown Birmingham Historic District, according to its application to the National Register for Historic Places. “Throughout the district the buildings relate to the pedestrian, opening storefronts or public lobbies to the street at regular intervals and providing architectural detail for the pedestrian eye,” the application noted.

“A storefront’s entrance alcove acts as a transitional space from the sidewalk to the commercial entrance,” according to Riverhead, New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission Guidelines for Historic Buildings. “It provides shelter from the weather, and is often designed to increase the display area of the storefront to entice potential customers.” Tile was often part of this outdoor marketing package, it explains.

“Historically, the configuration of tile or terrazzo was only limited by the creativity of the installer, and often included decorative boarders [sic] and patterns of various colors,” note the Riverhead guidelines.

With our modern emphasis on open plans and seamless transitions, we’re often trying to make flooring consistent throughout a space. But the beauty of this tile is that it stands out. It articulates the transitional space between a bustling sidewalk and a business interior. Like the front porch in more residential districts, it defines a threshold as something unique.

That’s well and good as a design history lesson, but why stop there? We think there’s plenty of renovation inspiration to be gleaned as well. Those Greek key borders or geometric florals or even tile-crafted fonts offer high-impact ideas for bathroom tile design.

Looking to blend timeless materials with a bit of personality? Consider downtown your design inspiration.

Downtown Birmingham Bars Lead the City’s Favorites

paramount birmingham

paramount birmingham

Downtown Birmingham bars grabbed 4 spots on the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2016 list of  “Bham’s most popular bars.” Loft District hot spots The Collins Bar, Carrigan’s Public House, Paramount, and The Wine Loft all made the list. That means you can access four of the city’s crowd favorites within less than a mile–six-tenths of one, to be exact. If you want to be in the thick of things, there’s no better place to be. 

So what’s behind the downtown draw?

We’ve talked before about the neighborhood’s craft cocktail appeal, but there’s more to the neighborhood’s popularity than that. There’s an accessibility to the artistry here that really draws us in.

Consider the level of cocktail produced among Paramount’s arcade games. Or the Collins’s handful of questions to create a custom cocktail. The Wine Loft is a repeat host of the Wineology event for Birmingham Restaurant Week, and has a wine list full of everyman descriptors.

And while we love the neighborhood hotspots, those are just the beginning. Cocktails at Tavern on 1st or John’s or Cafe Dupont are equally lovely without the large crowd.

There’s plenty of fancy drinking around here–Carrigan’s has had a cocktail that featured Glenlivet–but it’s short on the fancy attitudes. It’s something we like to think of as Birmingham hospitality at its best, where grand facades give way to a warm welcome.

As the neighborhood increasingly plays host to out-of-towners–those Marriotts are coming, y’all–downtown Birmingham bars will be part of putting our best face forward. And it’s one we can all enjoy.

So much of life downtown, of loft district living, is enjoying the idea of access. When some of the best and most popular places are at your proverbial doorstep, it’s hard not to feel #blessed. Whether it’s traveling guests or simply friends from other neighborhoods, it’s easy to convince folks they should converge in yours.

Topgolf Birmingham’s Lessons on Downtown Development

With Kinetic Communications’s adorable rooftop putting green, it was only a matter of time before golf arrived in the downtown Loft District. And this summer news broke that a Topgolf Birmingham may be coming to Uptown.

There’s no definitive announcement, the Birmingham Business Journal reported. But the combination of zoning changes and press statements the journal could confirm sounds promising.

“With all the recent development in the downtown Birmingham area and all that the Uptown Entertainment District around the BJCC offers, we look forward to continuing our efforts to finalize a venue in the Birmingham market,” Topgolf executive Zach Shor told the journal.

The BBJ put together a slideshow of other Topgolf locations as part of its reporting on the news. It’s an impressive highlight reel of fire pits and city views, casual streetwear and virtual sensors.

Topgolf’s vibe is very much young professional, not simply professional. Uptown’s fun restaurant concepts and the nearby Birmingham Museum of Art’s Art on the Rocks have a similar feel.

Topgolf Birmingham wouldn’t be a place you bring your custom clubs or get trailed by a trusted caddy. The facility would have a “driving range style,” according to the BBJ. Besides adding a faster downtown pace, that approach should make the golf experience more novice-friendly.

Golf has a longstanding association with business culture, and Topgolf makes sense with the high-end business travel new downtown hotels expect. We’ve already outlined those boutique effects on the district restaurant scene.

This isn’t just any golf though. Which has us thinking it’s a nice tie-in to the tech atmosphere Birmingham’s building with Sloss Tech. The twin boom of hip loft rentals and high-end hotels is creating a downtown friendly to both the business traveler and the digital native.

Like downtown’s Loft District, where our own Matt Neal noted a shortage of units for sale, Topgolf would represent a chic rental game. It’s less a story of ownership–neither fancy equipment nor expensive memberships needed–and more one of experience. It’s more cool than opulent, more new world than old.

But for all of Topgolf’s flash, it seems the fundamentals would remain: the driver, the clubhouse, the conversation. It would be a start-up layer over a game with history.