A Maryland-based real estate firm has big redevelopment plans for a prominent property in the Magic City.
Berman Enterprises has under contract the former Trinity Medical Center campus – the buildings and the surrounding land – on Montclair Road, and is eyeing a massive mixed-use project for the site. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Walter Brown of Graham & Co. has the listing and put the property under contract with Berman in January. The former hospital consists of nearly 1 million square feet on 20 acres, and there is a little more than 55 acres surrounding it.
A development at the site would bring one of the most unique vacant properties in Birmingham back to the life. The former Trinity site has been vacant since the hospital moved to U.S. 280 in 2015 and became Grandview Medical Center. As we’ve reported, it’s often a challenge to bring vacant hospitals back to life – but experts have said the location of Trinity, as well as market conditions in the metro area, do make mixed-use projects attractive.
Ben Berman of Berman Enterprises said the firm is excited about the possibilities but stressed that the plans are just conceptual at this time.
“Our hope for this project is to redevelop the property into a dense mix of uses such as luxury apartment rentals, luxury senior living (continuum of care; independent living, assisted living, and memory care all in one building), potentially for-sale residential condos, office space, townhomes, an upscale hotel and retail,” said Berman, in an interview with the Birmingham Business Journal. “That would include both service retail on the upper portion of the site and retail along Montclair. And the type of retail we would like to bring is something we feel is missing in this area – entertainment. We would love an upscale bowling concept with great food offerings, or a luxury movie theater with plush seating and personal food service; things along those lines.
Berman Enterprises would act as master developer on the project, and would work with several other developers and partners who would work on the component parts. Berman said they have tapped Shannon Tyndall and Katy Lincoln of the local CBRE office to be the retail brokers.
“We want to create a neighborhood here and we are calling it Trinity Heights. ‘Trinity’ is an homage to what was here before and ‘Heights’ is a nod to the elevation of the property – the views are incredible. We envision it being the newest district in Birmingham,” Berman said.
Master plan documents show there would be green space in a central plaza that would become a key feature of the entire project. There would also be a community park on the north side that Berman said is designed for anyone in the city to come and enjoy. They would also work to preserve and expand the existing hiking trail on the site as a community amenity.
“We want everyone in the surrounding communities to know that we are creating ample space for community/public use,” Berman said. “We want to foster an environment where folks in the community hold outdoor meetings/events bring their kids and enjoy the trails; do yoga, etc. We want people from the community to come here and enjoy it.”
Berman said the location of the site, where it sits near Crestwood, Crestline and Mountain Brook, as well as how it sits– nestled into Red Mountain with vistas that offer views for miles – gives the project potential to serve as a key connection point for Birmingham.
Berman said the current vision is for the main hospital building to serve as the senior living component, the 820 building as condos, the 840 building as office space, and the 860 building as a hotel.
“What’s great about this property is that the bones are here. Our challenge is figuring out, can it be done?” Berman said.
He said the hope is to approach it as adaptive reuse of the current structures, but that tearing down and building new construction for some components is also an option. Planning documents call for significant exterior updates to the buildings, which were built between the 1960s and 1980s. This includes adding as much glass to the main hospital tower facade as possible, since it can be seen from miles away.
An elevator tower is possible to provide easy connection from buildings on the lower part of the site along Montclair Road up to the central plaza on the top.
Another key aspect of the development is the existing parking. Berman said there are 1,600 parking spaces in two parking decks, which would be incredibly expensive to build if it weren’t already in place.
Berman Enterprises is a third-generation family real estate company that owns more than 11 million square feet of real estate in five states. Berman said Trinity Heights would be the first project in Alabama, and the largest mixed-use project the company has done.
Berman said he had never been to Birmingham until he received the flyer for the listing and began talks with Brown about the redevelopment opportunity. He said after one year of traveling here for several days every month, he believes Birmingham is “a hidden gem.”
“I think this is a great city that has so much potential,” Berman said. “And we have this incredible property under contract that I have said many times is quite possibly the best located piece of real estate in the entire area. Our hope is that we can work with the city and the surrounding communities to turn this vacant hospital site into an exciting, vibrant, mixed-use district that folks can enjoy and be proud of. In this way, through the successful development of this project, we can be one small part of this wonderful city.”