What’s Driving Birmingham's Building Boom? Gray Construction’s Brian Jones Weighs In
The revitalization of Birmingham, Ala., particularly downtown, has been all but overnight. Over the last few years, countless new projects and building restorations have sparked a new wave of energy in the community that’s contagious—and shows no signs of slowing down. With hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of developments underway in metro Birmingham, the city’s position as one of the Southeast’s most valuable marketplaces continues to rise.
Brian Jones, chief operating officer at Gray Construction, recently spoke to the Birmingham Business Journal to discuss the enormous potential spurred by the building boom. Alongside a panel of experts, Jones touched on topics ranging from the next big hotspot for Birmingham development to the overall outlook for development moving forward.
A few key insights from the interview are below:
Q: Which project in metro Birmingham do you think will have the biggest overall impact?
A: Infinity Auto Insurance’s relocation from the suburbs to downtown Birmingham will have a huge economic impact. The move has brought hundreds of jobs to the area—which means hundreds of new patrons are now supporting other downtown businesses and restaurants.
Q: What's an under-the-radar project that could be a major catalyst for future development?
A: Box Row Avondale is a unique concept that holds a lot of potential to spark more non-traditional developments in Birmingham. It will add an entirely different component to Avondale’s popular restaurant scene, so it will be interesting to see if it spurs further creative concepts in developing the area.
Q: What are some of the key projects your organization has worked on? What makes those projects special?
A: First, I’m very excited about Gray’s new Southeast regional office on Third Avenue North. We are completely transforming the former Booker T. Washington Insurance Co. building and look forward to settling into the new space. It’s a special project to us because in many ways it signifies the growth that Gray has experienced in Birmingham. Seeing our Southeast regional office grow from just two team members to more than 25 has been an incredible journey. It’s also neat to be a part of the redevelopment of downtown, which is driving a lot of positive change in the CBD.
Additionally, the Merdeces-Benz expansion that’s underway in Vance, Ala. is obviously a huge deal not only for BL Harbert International and Gray— but for Alabama’s thriving automotive manufacturing sector as well. The project is accelerating further expansions from several suppliers, so it’s really creating a ripple effect that’s leading to job creation and overall economic growth.
We’ve also completed several large projects for leading companies like Austal USA, Newman Technology, Johnson Controls, Inc. and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing through our Birmingham office. The impact that these facilities have had on local economies across the state has been extremely rewarding to us.
Q: The historic renovation tax credit has had a major effect on sparking development, but lawmakers let it expire. How will that shape future construction in Birmingham?
A: The expiration of the historic renovation tax credit will absolutely slow momentum on the development of Birmingham. Many great projects in the heart of downtown Birmingham, like the Pizitz building and Corretti Catering, may not have been possible without this credit. I will be interested to see if state lawmakers revisit this incentive soon because it really was a positive driver for growth and development in the area.
Q: What's the next big hotspot for Birmingham development?
A: I see a lot of opportunity for growth North of Railroad Park and West of 19th Street North. Property values are more attractive West of the CBD, so these locations will draw a lot of interest from developers. The Avondale district and Southside of the park are hot right now, but West of the CBD is where I would look.
Q: What's the overall outlook for development in Birmingham moving forward? Which sectors are likely to improve and which may slow down in the years to come?
A: The overall outlook is optimistic. I expect to see improvements in hospitality and retail, with a slowdown in residential. Birmingham is also poised for significant growth in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and technology spaces.
Birmingham is a great location not only for start-up companies looking to take off, but also for Fortune 500 companies that are expanding in the Southeast—so I expect to see continued growth for some time.
The complete Table of Experts Series feature, “Insights into Birmingham’s Building Boom," was published in the June 10th issue of the Birmingham Business Journal.