David Baker Architects

Ensley Mixed-Use Neighborhood

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Aerial sketch. Image: David Baker Architects


This 10.38-acre plan sensitively reimagines the site of a closed, fire-damaged high school in Birmingham’s historic Ensley district as a vital community hub that offers much-needed affordable homes and neighborhood amenities.

Responsive to the needs and fabric of the surrounding area, the plan provides a mix of low-scale homes, reconnected roadways, new green spaces, a standalone Early Learning Center, and a 15,000sf grocery store—an adaptive reuse of the existing school gymnasium.

Site plan. Image: David Baker Architects

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Linear park on the corner of Avenue J and 24th Street. Image: David Baker Architects


The plan restitches the isolated site into the surrounding neighborhood with vehicular and pedestrian connections and a system of pedestrian-first paths and open spaces. Parking is concentrated at convenient nodes.

The site plan places the highest density at the center with 3-story apartment buildings, then steps down toward the neighborhood edges lined with existing bungalows. Facing these edges, low-scale housing includes a new typology: Street-facing two-level stacked flats that share gardens with rear “carriage house” units—one home over covered parking. The carriage houses face onto “living alleys”—traffic-calmed walkable streets. This configuration lends the project an organic, incremental character.

Living alley context. Image: David Baker Architects

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Neighborhood grocery adapted from disused Ensley High School Gymnasium. Image: David Baker Architects

Existing gymnasium that will be converted to a community grocery. Image: David Baker Architects

The amenity-rich development will offer K-5 education; afterschool programming; and services including financial literacy, wellness, and mobile health care. The project was granted rezoning approval in March 2021.

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Community heart along Avenue K. Image: David Baker Architects


Gold Nugget Award of Merit—Best On-the-Boards Site Plan
Pacific Coast Builders Conference


Revitalizing Ensley

project details


Affordable Housing, All Projects, Mixed-Use, On the Boards, Townhouses, Urban Design


Birmingham, Alabama


Zimmerman Properties


David Baker Architects

Urban Planning Consultant

David Baker Architects



project data
Ensley Mixed-Use Neighborhood 22026
Birmingham, AL
In Design
number of units
total 244
retail (sf) 10,000
community center (sf) 3,000
auto 343
density ratios
acres 10.38
units/acre 24
construction type
2-3 stories Type V
adaptive reuse