CityWalk BHAM – that’s the working title for a proposed, mile-long linear park underneath the soon-to-be rebuilt Interstate 59/20 elevated highway through downtown Birmingham.
State transportation officials unveiled the working name and a website, http://citywalkbham.com/, along with a Facebook page, where information can be shared about the proposal, in advance of public input sessions scheduled for this coming Tuesday and July 24. The sessions are designed to gather ideas and input from the public about the proposed park.
The linear park would run for 10 blocks underneath the rebuilt highway from 15th Street to 25th Street North – starting near the Civil Rights District and ending just beyond the Uptown entertainment district, east of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC).
Also unveiled is a potential logo for CityWalk BHAM, inspired by the shape of the proposed park space.
Officials emphasize that nothing is decided, and that the community is encouraged to participate in the public sessions and provide ideas about what should go in the public space. The sessions Tuesday will take place at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium, with the July 24 sessions at the Birmingham CrossPlex. There will be three sessions on both days, from 10 a.m. to noon, noon until 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
State transportation officials say the new public space is possible because of the way the elevated highway is being rebuilt, with no vehicle exit or entrance ramps along the 10-block stretch. The new highway also will have far fewer support columns that now disrupt the spaces under the existing elevated highway. Instead of columns every 65 feet, the new design spreads the columns 165 feet apart.
The seamless design of the new highway also is expected to cut down on much of the existing highway noise from above. Meanwhile, enhanced lighting that can change colors, similar to the 14th and 18th Street tunnels near Railroad Park, promises to make the proposed linear park more inviting to pedestrians.
According to the new website, officials will gather input from the public over the next few months, with engineering and design work for the park taking place late this year through next summer. Construction would begin in winter 2020 with completion anticipated by spring 2021 – in time for The World Games coming to Birmingham that summer.
While no specifics have been determined for what the linear park will offer, ideas are already circulating. Among the potential features: athletic, recreational and event spaces, a carousel, a skate park and fountains. Public art also could be a part of the space.
Beyond the benefits of the public space, officials envision the linear park as a way to provide better pedestrian connections among multiple attractions downtown – linking the BJCC, Uptown and the Sheraton and Westin hotels; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Boutwell Auditorium and Linn Park; the Alabama School of Fine Arts and its theater; and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and its multiple historic sites. The park also could help link downtown and neighborhoods just north of Interstate 59/20.