Alabaster man places third in Birmingham development contest

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

An Alabaster resident and two of his colleagues recently earned one of the top prizes in a contest aimed at creating a “cooler, more vibrant city” in Birmingham.

Dave Smith, of Alabaster, and his fellow team members Grant Gramstad of Birmingham and Larry Hudson of Trussville, placed third in the Prize2theFuture contest.

Through the contest, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham solicited development ideas for a lot near Birmingham’s Railroad Park. The lot is between 18th Street and 19th Street, and is bound by Powell Avenue on the north and First Avenue on the south.

According to the foundation, development of the lot, which now houses a parking lot, would play a part in eventually connecting Railroad Park with the Sloss Furnaces national landmark.

After more than 1,100 groups submitted ideas for the lot, the foundation judged the plans based on several criteria, such as the plan’s “cool factor,” feasibility and public appeal.

Smith and his team submitted an idea detailing plans for a “Magic City Station,” which would resemble a large historic train station.

Although Smith’s team was edged out by two other submissions, the foundation will consider themes from all contest submissions when it moves forward with developing the lot.

The station would feature a curved atrium ceiling stretching more than 100 feet wide and 400 feet long, which would double as a screen for an LED light display and sound system.

“The inspiration for this system is the Freemont Street Experience in Las Vegas,” the team wrote in their submission. “The ends of the Magic City Station will be transparent so that the show could even be seen while at the Railroad Park.”

The group also planned for the building to utilize green technology such as solar panels, and to eventually become a carbon-neutral facility.

Once completed, the Magic City Station could house railroad-themed stores and restaurants, and the shows displayed on the screen-like ceiling could change depending on the time of the year.

“Truly, people of all races and backgrounds, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, will enjoy the shows which can easily be designed to appeal to diverse audiences or to targeted groups for special occasions,” read the group’s proposal. “The Magic City Station will be an entertainment destination for everyone in the area as well as out-of-town visitors.”

Smith and the other members of the team said they have many years of experience constructing and managing similar projects throughout the country. By leasing retail space in the Magic City Station, Railroad Park could earn income, and could also boost the city’s economy, the group wrote.

“The Magic City Station will draw people to the Railroad Park, and the Railroad Park will draw people to the Magic City Station,” read the proposal. “People will want to come, and then they will want to come back.”