City Grill

Ben Leaver

Ben Leaver
Chief Financial Officer
Robins & Morton

Builders in Birmingham are maintaining their market momentum into 2024 with a steady stream of work as developers and city officials eye existing structures poised for reuse.

“Overall, the market is stable,” Leaver says. “Visually, there are a lot of tower cranes as you look across the city skyline, and some sectors are experiencing a slight increase in activity, but many are maintaining momentum.”

Active sectors include biotechnology, education, multifamily and residential as well as health care and associated research facilities, he says.

City Scoop Birmingham

The city of around 200,000 people —part of a metropolitan statistical area of more than 1.1 million—is seeing increased activity in its suburbs, he adds, with a focus downtown on revitalization.

“Birmingham is beginning to see the impacts of long-vacant office space, especially in the downtown area,” Leaver says. “City officials are considering launching new incentives for adaptive reuse, such as converting office buildings to residential space.”

One example is the former AT&T City Center downtown, which was recently converted into a multifamily development: the 600 Apartments. The third-tallest building in the city, located at 600 19th St. N., now has more than 400 luxury rental units in the 30-story building following a $100-million renovation effort, according to Constructed in 1972, it was at one time home to more than 2,000 AT&T employees.

Tower on Tenth

Robins & Morton renovated the Tower on Tenth, which it initially constructed in 1967.
Photo courtesy Marty Sellers

The project reflects a nationwide trend of finding new life for vacated buildings rather than demolishing them or letting them remain unoccupied, he says.

“Another significant effort for the city is recruiting diverse, young talent to Birmingham and improving opportunities that keep it here,” Leaver says. “The Birmingham Business Alliance has been instrumental in this effort through their programs such as Birmingham Has More.”

That program, according to its website, was created to enhance job creation, community development, talent recruitment and tourism opportunities in the seven-county region of greater Birmingham.

“Most of the challenges that we see in Birmingham are not exclusive to the city and represent broader challenges that we face in high-volume construction areas,” Leaver says, mentioning specifically the challenge of finding available land inside Birmingham’s city limits and the differing rezoning and permitting processes among local governments.

“Birmingham is focused on combating urban decay through incentives that encourage developers and building owners to preserve or reuse existing historic buildings,” Leaver says. “Additionally, improving the walkability of the city and integrating green spaces has been critical for improving urban development.”

“Improving the walkability of the city and integrating green spaces has been critical for improving urban development.”
—Ben Leaver, CFO, Robins & Morton

The city has also put an increased emphasis on gathering places and community entertainment that Leaver says may play into how downtown buildings are revitalized in the future.

Robins & Morton has recently renovated the Tower on Tenth, the former Trades Tower, as well as at Hoffman Media’s new headquarters on Second Avenue.

The Tower on Tenth project, a $19-million revitalization of a historic building first constructed by Robins & Morton in 1967, created 242 apartment units in the 12-story, 144,000-sq-ft building. The team worked closely with the city of Birmingham and the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority to achieve 40% participation of minority trade contractors and a team of all local contractors, according to the firm’s website.

Other local projects for Robins & Morton include work on Samford University’s Homewood campus, where the firm is rebuilding student housing and constructing a new residence hall, and Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, a two-floor, 28,840-sq-ft expansion to the hospital in Homewood, Ala.