Beth-El’s new neighbor? Huge apartment complex planned in Birmingham

A 15-story, $40 million apartment project is proposed for next door to Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El.

The upscale development is being planned by Harbert Realty Services on the lot where the former Highland Diagnostic Center is, but is known to old-timers as the former Britling’s Cafeteria property. The Birmingham Design Review Committee approved the proposal on Oct. 16 with minor adjustments.

The tower itself would have over 220 apartments and ground-floor retail space, a rooftop deck and pool and a fitness center. The large surface parking lot across the alley would be used for a six-story parking deck with over 500 spaces, and six floors of additional apartments along the perimeter, including fronting 14th Avenue. There would be a flyover walkway from the parking lot to the main tower, going over the alley.

In all, the property would have about 310 apartments. Harbert will try to obtain variances from the city to construct the project, which they expect to begin next March and finish by summer 2015.

A delegation from Beth-El has been attending the design committee, planning commission and Five Points Merchants Association meetings.

While the complex would provide a huge residential option easily within walking distance of the Conservative congregation, it would exacerbate the congregation’s parking issues.

Though the congregation has never owned the Britling’s parking lot, it has long been used as overflow parking, especially on the High Holy Days. The lot has also been the home of Beth-El’s annual When Pigs Fly Kosher Barbecue contest.

Without the Britling’s lot, Beth-El has 24 parking spaces in the lower lot on Highland Avenue and about 14 spaces in a narrow lot across the alley fronting 21st Way. That property was purchased by Beth-El about three decades ago. The next property, the yellow house further up 21st Way, is also owned by the congregation. There is some street parking on 21st Way.

Beth-El has formed an ad-hoc committee to monitor the process, especially as it relates to traffic and parking.

Plans call for the apartments to be upscale, aimed at young professionals and University of Alabama at Birmingham instructors.