What do you do with a large industrial campus when the industry’s need for it has faded?
Ram Tool took the dreamer’s approach and called in some of Birmingham’s best development minds to brainstorm what the future might hold for the Continental Gin industrial campus in Avondale. Team members from Woodlawn Foundation, CCR Architecture, Auburn Urban Studio, Krumdieck Architecture, Create Birmingham and REV Birmingham gathered last week to map out the possibilities.
The Continental Gin Industrial Park is perhaps best known today as the home of Ram Tool’s offices as well as Cahaba Brewing‘s brewery and taproom. The 28-acre industrial site began in 1925 with the Continental Gin Company, which manufactured cotton gins.
The Head family, which owns Ram Tool, bought the park in the early 1960s and have worked to preserve and renovate portions of the historic property for current and future uses. The brainstorming session helped Ram Tool begin to plan how to rework the site for modern-day use by more occupants.
Attendees toured the site to learn the park’s history and relationship to surrounding neighborhoods. They dreamed up ways in which the Continental Gin site can add to and become an integral part of the future of the neighborhood and Birmingham.
After the tour, attendees sat down to put their ideas to paper. They challenged each other to stretch their ideas beyond the preconceived and probable, which resulted in some interesting sketches and plans for the underutilized property to bring more vibrancy to the campus and into the neighborhoods.
The historic warehouses are filled with character in the form of steel framing, brick walls and ceilings that reach heights of 13 to 26 feet! The complex includes a mix of tenants now, such as the Southern Vintage Fire Apparatus Association and Senator Doug Jones’ Birmingham offices, in addition to Ram Tool’s offices. The remaining spaces offer lots of wide open square footage that could be used as-is or reworked for new uses.
So, what’s next for the Continental Gin site? More discovery, more listening, more dreaming… the ideas have just begun!
Big ideas and a steadfast belief in downtown Ensley emanated from 19th Street Ensley on Wednesday. REV’s team is compiling feedback in a report to share with development partners and the City of Birmingham.
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