Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Children At Play

Last week, I drove through Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood on 39th Street, a route I’ve traveled many times before. I always knew it as straight as an arrow, but not any longer.

I later discovered that residents had asked the city to slow down traffic, and engineers responded with “chicanes.” These landscaped islands form a hopscotch pattern which moves drivers along a gradual “S” path, slowing them down. The center stripes are painted to match the gentle curves, all of which can have a calming effect on those passing through the neighborhood.

The goal here was to enhance pedestrian safety and improve neighborhood livability. When compared to speed bumps, chicanes are lower maintenance long term, and they sure do look nicer.

I think a sign I saw on this stretch of road that said it all: “Drive like your children live here.” Hopefully this pleasant stretch of road will encourage just this type of driving. Like many buildings these days being adaptively reused, to me, this is also an example of meeting current needs from an existing platform. 

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.