Demolition began today in Southtown, the public housing community located on 26 acres of high-demand property behind a painted wall on University Boulevard between St. Vincent’s Hospital and the UAB campus.
The Southtown Court social housing campus will be converted from multi-unit to mixed-use housing. This will make way for a mix of residential development, hotel and office space, parking garages, and retail space across the Red Mountain Highway from St. Vincent’s Hospital.
“It’s time to do something different,” said David Northern, CEO of Birmingham District Housing Authority. The housing community is more than eight decades old, dating back to 1941. The demolition will allow the start of “something beautiful and new,” Northern said.
“It will be a major improvement in the quality of life,” said Birmingham City Council member Darrell O’Quinn. “It’s great to finally see this happening.”
Demolition of abandoned apartments began today, to pave the way for the construction of a hotel and medical office complex along University Boulevard west of the freeway. The development will include 850,000 square feet of office and commercial space, with room for retail and restaurants.
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Southtown Court is a 445-unit public housing community previously home to 1,000 people. Only about 88 of the 445 units are still occupied. Those who still live there will remain in their apartments until the new housing is completed. The currently occupied apartments will be the last part to be demolished.
The rest of the residents were relocated as the Birmingham Housing Authority offered a variety of options for homebuyers’ vouchers, rental assistance vouchers and the choice to move to other Birmingham Housing-owned flats Authority.
All residents met with social workers who explained their options, she said. About 224 families chose rental vouchers that they could use with private landlords, choosing their own place of accommodation.
Many of those who stayed in Birmingham Housing Authority properties chose to move to Park Place, the HOPE VI city center development which was built as a mix of subsidized federal housing and market rate rentals in the footprint of the site of the former Metropolitan Gardens public housing. in the center of Birmingham.
A new trend has been to demolish overcrowded old social housing where poorer people are concentrated and replace these apartments with mixed-income developments aimed at attracting unsubsidized tenants. Park Place, the HOPE VI plan which replaced the former Metropolitan Gardens community in the city centre, was the first example of this model in Birmingham.
The new development on the Southtown Court site will feature up to 560 housing units, split equally between federally subsidized housing and market rate rents. Initial plans call for 220 subsidized units.
The redevelopment plan calls for green spaces, including “pocket parks” and a buffer zone along the west side of the Red Mountain Highway.
New buildings, including hotels and offices, cannot exceed 225 feet in height.
Southside Development Corporation, a consortium that includes Corporate Realty Development and other partners, will oversee the development.
Built in 1941, the densely populated and impoverished public housing community of Southtown Court has been plagued with problems over the decades. Drugs, crime and violence have made Southtown a dark and sometimes depressing home, said many of its residents who favored an update for the area.