Filtering by Category: Construction
Ginkgo trees line 2nd Avenue. The city plants them in 4 foot square tree wells every 25 feet or so. The trees look great and add a lot of warmth to the neighborhood. The city does not plant or cover the wells, so a lot of them are just dirt. It would be nice to have a unified look for the neighborhood, but in the meantime it gives us residents an opportunity to get creative and do some gardening.
Two weeks ago we dug up the old dirt around the ginkgoes in front of the Counts Bros building and added some soil conditioner. We surrounded the wells with a wood border to keep in the soil and discourage pedestrians from stepping on the plants. The wood fit with El Barrio's look, and the guys seemed pleased with it, although I think they were just happy to get rid of what had become 4 foot ashtrays.
Before I talk about the plants, I have to admit I know very little about gardening so I probably choose some items that won't work with the sun or whatever. I took some pictures and brought them to a local garden store and they did the best they could advising me on what to plant. We planted jasmine and clematis around the base of the trees to add some leafy greenery at ground level. At the corners of the wells we planted small perennial flowers for some color. I wasn't sure how vegetables would do, but it was hard to resist planting some cayenne and other hot peppers. Primarily we stuck to herbs: chives, oregano, and basil. We also commandeered a couple of rosemary shoots from a nearby bush that was overgrown.
Urban gardening presents some challenges that you wouldn't have with a yard. For example, I don't have a water faucet on the first floor, and lugging buckets didn't seem like a lot of fun, so I had to come up with a creative way to water the plants.
It was hard for me not post pictures of the mural while it was in process. I have a terrible time keeping my mouth shut, particularly when I'm excited about something. I was already living upstairs when Shane B started working on it. Every night for a month, he'd come in around 9 and work until I'm not sure when. I'd always find some excuse to poke my head in and take a few work-in-progress pictures, and then hide them on my computer in a folder named "Don't Post, Idiot." I'd mentioned before that the mural was done entirely with spray paint, and that this amazed me. You can see that more in these pictures. For more pictures of the finished mural, look here.[gallery order="DESC"]
It should have been obvious, but it's recently come to my attention that Jeremy Erdreich must be a much smoother talker than I: He convinced El Barrio to let him post some dining room pictures, in particular the mural about which I was sworn to secrecy. It's a great article and you should definitely follow that link and take a look. In other news, Mike told me the health department inspection went well, and the guys moved in most of the dining room furniture this weekend.
Congratulations to El Barrio for receiving their Certificate of Occupancy on Monday. Next up: Health Department and some extra restaurant specific CO that I don't quite understand. I can't publish pictures of the dining room yet, but it doesn't look like anything else in Birmingham. The only thing left to do is move the custom made furniture from the garage and Appleseed's warehouse, and finish up a decorative piece that I'm not supposed to talk about yet. I can post some pictures of the kitchen (some of which were taken before completion).
In a separate note, in my Halloween Reverse Parade post, I forgot to thank Patty Pilkerton, the Central City Neighborhood Association President, for spearheading the effort to bring the parade back from oblivion. Thanks, Patty!
I lied about not showing any more pictures of the dining room. I took a couple of shots that don't reveal any of the surprises. Appleseed repaired the floors around the front of the restaurant. Previously these areas had risers and the wood underneath was rotten and unusable. They reused the wood that was taken up for the parking deck to repair these areas. Appleseed also finished the exposed duct work. They used the same style they used in my loft which, along with other decorative finishes, adds a cohesive feel to otherwise unrelated spaces.
Having finished with the lies, we'll move on to the secrets. We're in the middle of painting the dining room. The El Barrio owners asked me not to show you that until after they open. While the painters are onsite, they are also finishing stains and paint in the storage and common spaces. They've repaired and stained the floors in Jerry and Roxane's office, and it looks great next to the concrete. They've also stained the stairs that lead to the storage facility and my loft (thanks to Jeremy Wood for the ebony stain suggestion).
Finished with both secrets and lies, I'm free to show you some of the restaurant areas outside of the dining room. The walls in the kitchen and bathroom hallway are complete. The kitchen walls are covered with an easy to clean material. The hood has been installed and the gas lines have been run to cooking area. The enormous hood exhaust fan is sitting in the garage waiting to be moved to the roof. The vent will be run all the way from the kitchen up past my loft so that my place doesn't always smell like tacos (which may or may not be a bad thing).
In the parking deck, the grease traps were sunk into the floor and covered with concrete. A walk-in freezer was built on top of them (in one day, which impressed me).
With the framing complete, Appleseed has almost finished hanging sheet rock. They've also started some of the trim in the dining area, using reclaimed wood on the walls, benches, and booths. In addition to the walls, the HVAC units have been installed and they are currently running ductwork, as well as working on a hood to move exhaust through the cieling, past my loft, to the roof. Along the Eastern wall a local artist has started painting a decorative piece, which I've been asked not to show until it's completion. In fact, from now on I won't be displaying pictures of the dining area until it's finished. You'll have to satiate your voyeurism with the kitchen and non-decorative developments. If you live in the area and want to cheat, just walk over here; I'm not aware of any immediate plans to cover the windows.
Appleseed has started building out El Barrio's benches and booths. There will be three full booths in the back against the wall and a line of tables with bench seats along the Eastern wall. The front nooks, which were display windows once upon a time, will feature bench seating along the windows as part of a more casual and fluid dining area (similar to Jinsei's front area, for you Birmingham people). [gallery order="DESC"]
Artwalk was a great success this weekend, bringing in over 10,000 visitors into the Loft District. People filled the streets shopping for art, listening to music, seeing live performances, and visiting lofts and businesses in the area. Before the event we had a pretty nasty storm, and it revealed a few minor leaks that needed to be patched, but nothing terrible. However, we had been digging out the garage floor to sink the grease traps for El Barrio. We had so much rain that the ground water came up and filled in the hole, submersing a small backhoe that the subcontractors were using.
After the water went back down the subs were able to recover the backhoe. Luckily the water didn't harm the backhoe, and they were able to finish sinking the trap.
Despite the storm they've made a lot of progress recently. Beside the traps, El Barrio's framing is complete and they even started installing sheetrock yesterday.
Still breathing heavy from my scorching-hot 3-part series featuring piles of dirt? Well hold on to you pants. We're getting to the good stuff: concrete slabs. What?! Not enough, you say? OK, maybe I can throw in a little framing, but that's gonna cost you extra. The original pine floors were removed in El Barrio's bar and kitchen areas in order to replace them with concrete. For a professional kitchen, concrete is much safer and easier to clean. The wood was salvaged to be used in other places. After pouring concrete, framing began for the bar and some interior rooms.
The same day the contractor poured El Barrio's floor they also poured concrete in the residential entrance. Some of the wood at the residential entrance was damaged. We've tried to reuse and repair any of the original pine that we could, but here we cut out the rotten boards at a diagonal to be replaced with this concrete. It's pretty dirty in the picture below, but it's intended to add a little drama to the space with contrasting textures. Aside from being the entrance to my loft, Jerry and Roxane will eventually use this area as an office for Self-Storage management and real estate.
For the last post in my critically acclaimed series featuring dirt, El Barrio finished laying conduit under the kitchen and bar. Next week, we'll be moving away from dirt, and into the exciting world of concrete slabs! [gallery order="DESC"]
Continuing my photographic study of dirt, last week Appleseed finished laying out the plumbing for El Barrio. The long strip in the first shot is the bar. The larger area below is the kitchen area. These pipes will feed the various sinks, dishwashers, etc needed to run a restaurant. Should finish up with electrical this week. [gallery order="DESC"]
El Barrio began their buildout last week, and Brian has been gracious enough to let me post some progress pictures as long as I don't spoil any surprises of the decor's Wow Factor. What I'm saying is: get ready to look at some pictures of dirt. The original pine floors were removed in the bar and kitchen areas in order to replace them with safer and easier to clean concrete. The salvaged wood was kept to use for patching the dining area floor, where the wood will remain.
As in the parking deck construction, below the wooden floors was a coal by-product filler, which is the dark patches you can see in the pictures. The dark patch towards the back is the kitchen area, and the thin strip running up the side is the bar, where they will feature fresh margaritas.
In other news, last night I gave the garage door opener to my first parking customer. Welcome, Darryl! And thanks for being so patient.
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When I saw the plans for the revolving television, I have to admit I thought "Yeah, good luck with that, guys." When I saw the wall built and laying on it's side, 600 pounds of I-can't-lift-that, I thought "See, I was right. This isn't going to work."
As usual, I was wrong. The rotating TV wall has been installed (we're holding off putting the TV into it until I move into the loft). Although the original drive belt design was abandoned in favor of a pinion system, and a smaller gear was used for the hand crank, it works perfectly. You'd think that it would be difficult to rotate 600 lbs. but the gearing makes it almost effortless.
In its flush positions, the wall displays the TV in either the entertainment room or the kitchen. At 45 degree angles it can be viewed in the dining area, or the as-of-yet-undetermined-use area (pool table?).
In non-rotating-wall news, we passed most of the inspections yesterday. There were a couple of minor changes the fire department inspector requested, so we had to push the final inspection off until Monday afternoon. The Certificate of Occupancy is close. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
I thought I was close when we finally got the water works to show, but here we are three weeks later sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting on Alabama Power to show up, repeatedly send out the wrong crew, and blow off appointments. But no longer! Behold, the line crew! Hoo-ray! Now it's just a matter of connecting up all the systems, and having the city inspectors out. Once we have a CO, the Trattoria Centrale guys can start their construction, I can move in, and we can start renting parking spots and storage units. Waiting on the water works and power company added a total 7 extra weeks to the project, mostly of dead time. While not a delay causing issue, I enjoyed a similarly fun encounter with Brighthouse cable. Utilities seem to have a very difficult time with multi-use buildings, especially mixed residential and commercial. Brighthouse sent their residential installer out to hook up cable internet service in my loft. The installer said that he couldn't run cable through a commercial space to get to the residential, and I would have to get the commercial installer to come out. When the commercial installer came out, he said that he couldn't install in a residential space. If it weren't for the help of a smart lady named Angela in Brighthouse's customer service department, I'd probably be having the exact same circular argument with a DSL company at this very moment.
While we've been waiting we put in the appliances. I've included a picture of the stove and hood. The counters and backsplashes are still covered for protection.
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We've had some delays waiting on Birmingham Water Works and Alabama Power to get out to hook up meters, but the water meters were finally installed this week. It took a while but once they got to it, I think they sent everybody; my friend Kevin Keck took a nice picture of 15 gentlemen standing around waiting to dig. Now we can finish up the connections and get ready for final inspection from the city! There will still be some trim work to be done after inspection, but I should be able to move in at that point, and start leasing storage and parking. We've got the raw space finished for El Barrio. They will start their buildout in the next couple of weeks, and I'm really excited to see what they do with it.
In order to create a separate front entrance for my loft and our storage customers, we've cut a third front door perpendicular to the street. The Appleseed guys did a great job matching the existing doors and building the new one out of wood salvaged from the building.
The frames for the loft windows were completely rebuilt. This turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. There were no standards in 1911 and the windows were all custom built, so they are all different sizes by fractions of an inch. Mike was concerned that they might not be able to open and close, but they do, so now I can hang out the window and scream at people walking down the sidewalk.
There have been a lot of incremental, if somewhat less photogenic, improvements. The elevator is installed and waiting on inspection; my mom is in a wheelchair so she'll be able to see the upstairs for the first time, soon. Pantry shelving has been installed, and I'm excited about how much space I'm going to have. I also included pictures of the master bathroom light fixtures to rectify my poor photo from last week.
The master bathroom tub, like the mud room, was inspired by one of my hobbies. Mike wanted to find a tub that "would be big enough to test SCUBA gear." I don't think this is quite big enough for both me and a tank, but its close and regardless I like the sentiment. Aside from the utility, I really like the look of this tub; the guiding concept for the loft has been putting sleek modern items next to rough, old and/or industrial features. In this case you have the tub and bold tile next to the 100 year old black brick and heart pine floors (covered up in this picture).
The light fixtures in the sink areas have been installed, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to once again show off my photographic incompetence; don't they look great? The fixtures along with the sinks and faucets follow the same clean lines of the tub, and the cabinetry will have custom steel doors like the kitchen. Mike told me something or other about the mirrors but I don't remember what it was.
Another modern looking feature, Appleseed added "floating" shelving in the entertainment space. Simple, seemingly unsupported, white lines create a cool pattern. These shelves will house a lot of the fun historic items I found before we started construction.
Ben is currently building cabinetry for the revolving TV. Below you can see one of the old elevator gears he's cut to mount in the mechanism.
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After a few tornado related delays, we're back on track to try for a Certificate of Occupancy by the end of the month. The parking deck is complete except for the concrete section below which will be El Barrio's grease traps. The rear stairs are almost finished and already looking pretty cool.
After the door hardware installation, the self-storage units themselves are complete. The security system should be finished soon. Unfortunately the freight elevator will most likely not be ready until next month.
My residence is nearing completion as well. All plumbing fixtures except the tub have been installed. The steel cabinetry is finished and the industrial feel will contrast the slick appliances, once installed.
The Big Ass Fan is installed. I took a picture of Mike standing under it, for scale. As you can see, it's big. Mike's idea for the fan was to have it peaking out halfway past the center dividing wall, to give the illusion of a giant circular saw coming towards the wooden beadboard wall.
I got this voice message: "Wade, It's Mike Gibson. Just calling to let you know the countertops are freaking awesome. Okay. That's it. Thanks. Bye." Appleseed's specialty is custom cabinetry. To keep with the industrial feel and exposed materials, they built the kitchen cabinetry out of steel rather than wood. I like to reuse as much of the building's original materials as possible so they incorporated two sturdy old wooden display tables into the base of the kitchen island. The tables were once used by the dry goods store.
I had originally wanted concrete countertops. Mike told me that if everything I used was rough, then it wouldn't look like I was doing it on purpose; it would just look rough. He said that I needed to put some nice features in to contrast the rough look. He suggested a white Alabama marble, which I just didn't like. His next suggestion was onyx. I looked around online to see some examples. Turns out, onyx is slightly translucent, so you can light it. I thought it would be cool to have a countertop that looked like glowing lava, or a forge to compliment the steel cabinetry. Ben figured out a way to run LED lights around the edge. You can see the results below, and it looks incredible.
The cabinets in the master bath are also steel. However, the guest bath has standard wooden cabinetry, but we did use onyx on top. Mike claims to have "a surprise" for the guest bath countertop, so we'll see what that is.
The 2nd floor of Counts Brothers' parking deck has been poured. The rear stairs are currently under construction and the elevator is being installed. [gallery order="DESC"]