Historic Buick Building undergoes Renovation – Mobile, AL

Buick Building renovation comes after 10 years vacant; downtown supporters hope it’s not the last

MOBILE, Alabama — Welcomed are the plans to renovate the Buick Building, a two-story commercial space that once-contributed to a vital business district on St. Louis Street. For about a decade the structure sat vacant, but no longer.

Commercial construction firm Rogers & Willard, which owns the 40,000-square-foot historic building, will give it a major facelift before it moves in as the anchor tenant.

Rural Sourcing Inc., the Atlanta-based information technology company, also plans to lease a portion of the building to house the approximate 100 employees it intends to hire as it expands into Mobile for the first time.

And there’s more space for other tenants to get inside, said Jeremy Milling, owner of Milling Commercial Realty, who has the listing. There’s space ideally suited for a restaurant, or the potential to convert some of it into a communal working venue, he said.

The move is no doubt a welcomed one for preservationists, economic developers and realtors concerned with the renewal of downtown; another derelict building moves closer to vitality.

Milling said this could be the beginning of “what we see as the early stages of probably an increase in office-type uses along St. Louis Street.”

Fred Renfrey, who leads economic development efforts for the Downtown Mobile Alliance, agrees. He said the project along with the looming renovation of the federal courthouse could serve as a catalyst for the expansion of downtown’s development to the area on the outskirts of the city’s urban core.

“As both of those development projects come to fruition it will pique the interest of more and more office users and more developers, too,” Renfrey said.

In its heydey — sometime between the 1920s and 1940s — a stretch of St. Louis Street was best known as “Automobile Alley” for the number of car dealerships present. At the dawn of the housing crisis in 2007, there was talk of convert the building to apartments, or perhaps condominiums.

In 2008, the building also known as the Turner-Todd Motor Company, which once sold Buicks, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The issue has been a recurring one.  In March 2013 former Mobile Mayor Sam Jones stood before the same building to announce that the city was cracking down on the number of forsaken properties within the Hank Aaron Loop.

Devereaux Bemis, director of the Mobile Historic Development Commission, said a survey of historic properties within the Hank Aaron Loop that’s not already in a district is currently underway.

Bemis said they’re analyzing properties to see if there is a “cohesive concentration to create another historic district.” It would center on the automotive-related businesses that once operated in and around St. Louis Street.

“That’s one of the things that may keep this from happening,” Bemis said, “is if there is not a concentration of contributing buildings.”

link to original article at al.com

HHB Engineers is the Mechanical engineering consulting firm for the renovation of the historic Buick Building.