Adaptive Re-Use Development in an Urban Environment – a Civil Engineering Perspective

Birmingham has experienced a wave of redevelopment in urban space within recent years. With multiple incentive programs in play and the millennial desire to live and work in the City, it is unlikely that redevelopment will slow down (pending any paradigm shift caused by the COVID-19 pandemic). Sain Associates has been fortunate to team with developers who have been active in this space. One of the recent projects is Capstone Real Estate Investments’ redevelopment of the former Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Birmingham.

The Greyhound Bus Station was a functional intercity bus terminal for 70 years, with operations ceasing in 2017. Although it underwent an expansion in the 1970s, the site consisted of common challenges found within urban redevelopments, including incomplete construction information, failing infrastructure, and undersized utilities compared to modern-day standards. Additionally, due to this site’s historic nature, the new design had to satisfy the National Park Service.

From a civil engineering perspective, Sain first reviewed the available utility information and determined that there were several gaps in information. We hired Video Industrial Services to visually inspect the onsite utilities to prepare an as-built record of the existing utilities. The investigation revealed an undersized and failing storm drainage system. Additionally, it appeared that the 1970’s expansion was constructed directly on top of the onsite storm system. Sain also inventoried the existing site paving, which exhibited signs of failure and insufficient drainage.

We engineered the onsite storm system to provide adequate drainage to comply with the City of Birmingham Standards. We also recommended new pavement sections for the site and designed new traffic loading conditions and spot elevations to provide sufficient drainage. Sain coordinated our site design with the project architect, Williams Blackstock Architects They coordinated historical design elements with the National Park Service to meet NPS requirements.

The civil engineer’s role in urban redevelopments does not end following the design phase. Sain routinely coordinated with the contractor, Stewart/Perry, during construction as unknowns were uncovered and field adjustments to the design were made.

Ultimately, when providing design services for urban redevelopment and construction, all project team members should expect the unexpected when excavation for new improvements commences.