Urban Studio Collaborates on Historic Cobb Lane

In Birmingham, Alabama, Cobb Lane is one of the oldest, and most well-known commercial nodes outside of the downtown area. Cobb Lane itself is an alley within the block bounded by 20th and 19th Streets South, and 14th and 13th Avenues South, and located a few blocks from Five Points South restaurant and entertainment district. Cobb Lane may be one of the only remaining brick cobblestone paved alleys in the city center, and for years, Cobb Lane was the home of several popular restaurants and bars.

Urban Studio director Alex Krumdieck and Associate Professor John Pittari, were approached by J.T. Ennis, the former owner of the restaurant and bar J. Clyde, on behalf of several other Cobb Lane property owners. The group requested that the Urban Studio re-envision a revitalized Cobb Lane, but with a different purpose than former eating and drinking activities. In a true collaboration, 5th year students lead all the Urban Studio students in a four-team strategic planning effort for the entire block. Once a strategic plan was established, 3rd year students were instructed to develop designs for two individual Cobb Lane building sites selected from the strategic plan by Urban Studio faculty. The area was re-branded as an “arts district,” with the students first designing a combined artist studio and coffee shop in a renovated historic structure, and then designing a building on a vacant sire that contained a wine bar and residential flats above.

The students presented several times throughout fall semester 2020 to J.T. Ennis, his business partner, and his realtor via Zoom. In early 2021 J.T. Ennis and his business partner visited the Urban Studio to review the final site model, which they found quite valuable in envisioning possibilities for Cobb Lane. They expressed interest in some of the strategic plan and building designs and are currently in discussion with a local developer and local architect to implement those ideas as part of the overall plans for redevelopment of the block. Says Ennis of the collaboration, “The Urban Studio’s interest in the Cobb Lane district has come at a great time, serving as a catalyst of sorts for the neighbors along Cobb Lane to begin discussing breathing new life into the block.  Bringing young eyes and fresh ideas to bear on the prospect of redeveloping the area, the Urban Studio has offered us ideas for giving Cobb Lane a successful new identity, and linking its history with Birmingham’s future.”

*Cobbs Lane logo image by merchantcircle.com

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