Affordable apartments set for vacant downtown Birmingham high-rise

Stonewall Building (Birmingham News file photo/Jerry Ayres)

Affordable apartments — starting at $600 a month — which have been long-planned for the 12-story Stonewall Building may finally come to fruition as the revitalization of downtown Birmingham continues.

Ed Ticheli, the long-time owner of the building, this week received $182,182 in state historic tax credits for the renovation of the former office building, also called the Martin Building, at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue North and 23rd Street.

An additional $2.9 million in tax credits sought by the developer was wait listed by the state until 2019. This means the project will be first in line for funds next year.

Ticheli’s attorney Murphy McMillan said the plan is to transform the 84,000-square-foot building into 137 residential units. Retail space is possible for the ground floor depending on demand.

The building will not offer Section 8 housing, he said.

"We are excited about the prospects for the project," McMillan said. "We think it will be a great contribution to the area. A lot of redevelopment hasn’t occurred in that part of downtown. We hope this will spur more development."

The building is about a block from the U.S. Post Office on 24th Street North and two blocks from the Redmont Hotel on 5th Avenue North.

The building was completed in 1925 as the Martin Office Building. It was later known at the Stonewall Building for the Stonewall Insurance Co., which once occupied it.

The apartments slated for the Stonewall Building will be more affordable than most apartments being constructed in downtown. Rents will begin at $600 for studio or one-bedroom apartments with an average rental rate of less than $900 for two-bedroom apartments.

"There are presumably a lot of people who are living in the suburbs because they can’t afford to move downtown," McMillan said. "We think this is a good option for them."

Ticheli is also working to partner with the YWCA to provide apartments for women working to get back on their feet, he said.

Ticheli has owned the Stonewall Building for more than 10 years. He attempted to redevelop the building into an affordable apartments complex in 2008, but the project stalled due to a weak housing market.

To transform the vacant building into 71 apartment units and some commercial space at that time was projected to cost a projected $10 million.

Ticheli and his brother Leo had planned to start work on the Stonewall after completing the $5 million Gallery Lofts, the $3 million J.T. Massey Mercantile and Massey Corral renovations and the redevelopment of the former Jimmie Hale Mission property.

The Tichelis demolished smaller buildings around the Stonewall Building to make way for parking for the residential project.

McMillan said the current plan is to break ground on the project by the third quarter of 2018. Construction is expected to take 12 to 15 months.

"The building is just a shell," he said. "For the most part, they are just empty floors."

McMillan said the major part of the redevelopment is redoing the mechanical and electrical systems for the more than 90-year-old building.

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