If you’ve been to bustling Second Avenue North lately, then you’ve surely noticed the massive eye-catching development next to El Barrio and just across the street from Bamboo on 2nd. A soaring wall of windows on the top floor stirs the imagination of passers-by below, conjuring images of some celebrity-worthy loft apartment with 360-degree views of the twinkling Magic City skyline.
Well, we now have the scoop on — and a sneak peek of — this mysterious development!
Louis Nequette, Architect and President of Nequette Architecture & Design, took us behind the scenes on this stunning project named for his father. The Thomas, a mixed-use building, will house nine spacious one-bedroom loft apartments, a shared rooftop patio space and underground “bat-cave”-style parking for tenants, two office suites, Nequette’s new office on the top floor and two ground-level commercial spaces, pre-equipped for restaurant tenants.
“Its goal is to add to the thriving energy of the neighborhood with both daytime and evening commercial activities, complemented by large, modern boutique loft apartments,” says Louis. “No other downtown street combines small scale historical buildings, residential living, thriving eateries and beautiful trees like Second Avenue North.”
Louis has a particular passion for this type of community planning called New Urbanism, which proposes that true community is created and developed when humans get to connect and engage in the public realm.
“When we take public buildings — like churches, coffee shops, grocery stores and libraries — and mix them with residential building — townhouses, apartment flats, cottages, houses and estates — then arrange them all within close walking distance to one another, and finally, make those walks beautiful and engaging with parks, sidewalks, street trees and natural backdrops, we get a whole that is much greater than the sum of the parts,” says Louis. “That’s when you have a village, a town, a place. Without the walkability, mix of uses and thoughtful building design, you simply have … well, suburbia.”
Louis’ firm was growing and looking for a new home, and because of their New Urbanist values, Second Avenue North’s walkable, energetic atmosphere was a natural draw. After setting up a temporary office, they set their sites for a permanent home in the historic former Harold’s Furniture building across the street. It was actually two buildings, built in 1889 and 1901 respectively, that Harold’s Furniture had been using as one interconnected building for the past 50 years.
“The Harold’s Furniture building had been on the market but passed over, maybe for lack of vision or challenges to budget when approaching it from a conventional development standpoint,” says Louis. “We saw it differently, as a base upon which to add a floor, increase the leasable size and breathe new life into an old gem.”
Nequette Architecture & Design firm put their money where their proverbial mouths are, enhancing the neighborhood with a dynamic New Urbanist, mixed use development, but they also did so with integrity, respecting the history and place of the development through timeless architecture and design.
“We believe in a design aesthetic that transcends trends and tricks, one that builds legacy, ideally increasing in value both emotionally and financially the older it gets,” says Louis. “We also wanted to be respectful of the heritage of the street and the building, so that maybe you never know that it ever changed. This is ‘anti-architecty,’ because as architects today, we are often taught to leave our mark like a dog. The finishes within the building follow a black-and-white color palette. What could be more timeless? It’s also very English, and the building and the city it sits in originate from English precedence.”
The large, airy loft spaces are simple and clean, awash in natural light and feature a deconstructed feel with exposed brick walls and ceilings, a nod to the structure’s history as a warehouse. Chunky exposed beams here and there lend a rustic historical charm that is juxtaposed by a sleek modernity. The kitchens, baths and walk-in closets are spacious with appliances, fixtures and finishes befitting one with discerning tastes. “We strive to build with quality, time-tested and natural materials so our buildings age well and feel richer over time,” says Louis.
Louis’ firm expertly designs gorgeous spaces that seamlessly meet the functional goals of everyday living, but more than anything, he says, they design to inspire. “We want to create places for people to build relationships and community as if we are choreographing a series of experiences that may make one’s day brighter,” he says of his firm’s mission in designing The Thomas lofts. “My favorite thing about The Thomas is that we are making a major contribution — for us! — to the future of Birmingham with the addition of a quality mixed-use building. And we get to work in it every day.” Not too shabby!
Keep your eye out for this gorgeous mixed-use development to open. We hope to give you a peek of Nequette’s top-floor offices, and we can’t wait to see what businesses inhabit the retail spaces on the first floor!
The Thomas lofts will be completed and available beginning April 1, 2018, through May 1, 2018. For more information on the lofts, contact Lynlee Hughes of H2 Real Estate by emailing [email protected] or by calling (205) 936-0314.