Long the eye-sore just west of downtown Birmingham, the former Sears building is finally changing hands. Built in 1945, the building has been reportedly vacant for more than 20 years. As soon as January of 2007, however, up to 65 companies could be located under one roof in the 167,000-square-foot building.
Susan Matlock, president of the Entrepreneurial Center and executive director of UAB’s Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries (“OADI Technology Center”), has long been working with Mayor Bernard Kincaid and Barber Companies to secure the building for the region’s mega-incubator. The Birmingham City Council voted mid-June to spend $1.5 million to help buy and renovate the building in partnership with Matlock’s organizations.
The building and adjacent parking lot on the property were recently appraised at $3.05 million, which the parties agreed would be the purchase price. The Entrepeneurial Center completed a capital campaign last year and will provide the remainder of the funds for the purchase from the Barber Companies. The total cost for renovations is expected to run about $12 million.
Councilor Valerie Abbott was credited by the Birmingham News as stating that when “once completed, the new business incubator is expected to have an economic impact of more than $680 million.” A respectable return for the City’s investment, do doubt.
The OADI Technology Center is currently nine miles from the UAB campus. Once OADI is moved to the new facility, UAB entrepreneurs will only have to travel less than a dozen city blocks.
An RFP has been drafted. Next, Matlock will begin the interview process to select the design team to see her vision turned into reality.