The iconic 1920s former department store The Pizitz in downtown Birmingham has been recognized as the Best Historic Project in the 2018 Marvin Architects Challenge. The decade-old juried competition awards innovative real estate projects for exceptional architectural design.
The Marvin Architects Challenge includes seven categories, with one winner selected in each annually. The historic project award recognizes properties that have been altered or added to a historic building to meet continuing or new uses while retaining the building’s historic character. Birmingham-based Bayer Properties is the commercial real estate firm responsible for The Pizitz revamp, which was completed in 2016. Bayer worked with top architecture and construction companies to restore the iconic property, including New Orleans-based Wisznia Architecture and Development, which led the architectural design.
“Prior to the commencement of reconstruction, we studied the building and were in awe of its natural charm,” said Jules Lagarde, architect with Wisznia Architecture and Development. “The sheer enormity and scale of the project’s façade warranted a unique redesign strategy. This project provided a great challenge for our team and this prestigious award exemplifies our dedication to honor the building’s past.”
Since federal, state and historic tax credits were used to fund the revitalization, the project team was tasked with finding replacement windows for the building that would match the originals and were approved by the National Park Service, as well as the State Historic Preservation Office. Marvin Windows and Doors met those standards and worked with the team to restore more than 300 windows.
The original building structure is a poured-in-place concrete structure with a terra cotta exterior surface on two sides and 250 double-hung wood windows and 52 pairs of casement windows. The double-hung windows were replaced with Marvin’s Clad Ultimate Magnum Double-Hung Window, while the casement windows were replaced with Marvin’s Double-Hung Picture Window to simulate casements and to be consistent with attributes of the Magnum Double-Hung Window.
In addition to its innovative window design, the project was commended for incorporating an alternative to individual HVAC units, since the exterior façade of the building would not allow single compressors, and air-handling units pumping refrigerants eight to nine floors were also prohibited. To solve the problem, the design team outfitted each apartment with a water source heat pump so that chilled or hot water could be supplied through piping to heat or cool each apartment.
Another interesting design challenge was creating access to natural light for each of the 143 apartments. To ensure ample natural light in interior apartments, four bays were cut out of the floor plan, new columns, beams and slab on six floors to allow for daylight to come through storefront windows.
“The design teams did an outstanding job at preserving the archetypal nature of The Pizitz and keeping the original integrity of the building,” said Libby Lassiter, executive vice president of leasing and development for Bayer Properties. “We have received tremendous praise from a number of top design organizations and are grateful to each of the partners who helped us restore one of Birmingham’s most beloved structures.”
The Pizitz was originally constructed in two phases between 1923 and 1925. The transformation of The Pizitz was completed in December 2016, with The Pizitz Food Hall opening in February 2017. The Pizitz is home to 143 multifamily apartments; a large creative co-working space called Forge; and The Pizitz Food Hall that is home to 13 food stalls, two full-service restaurants, the Louis bar, Yellowhammer Creative and Warby Parker. The building is the future home of the Sidewalk Film Festival with two 100-seat theaters.
Bayer Properties worked with contractors Brasfield & Gorrie and Creature (formerly Appleseed Golden) to restore the building. In addition to Wisznia, Bayer Properties partnered with KPS Group, Rule Joy Trammell + Rubio, and Creature architects. The Pizitz building is owned by Bayer Properties, Wisznia Architecture and Development, and Stonehenge Capital.