Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Constructing Adaptive Reuse

We are nearing the homestretch on one of our more unique projects. The Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is taking shape in a space that was once the basement of a department store in our CBD.

The initial challenge was to build the cinemas below the first floor food hall with an additional six stories of apartments above the food hall, all live. The existing conditions in this basement then threw us more curve balls. Ceiling heights meant that the theatre floor had to be lowered into 4’ of limestone in order to achieve the right line of sight for the cinema patrons. To add to the challenge, as we were excavating, we uncovered water–three streams to be exact–below the existing slab. This meant the finished slab elevation would permanently sit in a stream of water.

Using a waterproofing membrane that adheres to the concrete with fiber, we are able to achieve a “reverse swimming pool effect” which keeps water from entering the space while allowing the water to percolate through the stone base to the new system of underground ducts. In addition to the waterproofing system, foundation drains were installed to both divert water to neighboring ducts outside of the space and also to decrease the head pressure so the underground water in the space will move to the discharge points faster.

Adaptive Reuse has value, but with inherent challenges, we have found. The result of this project is a unique and functional theatre space in the heart of downtown Birmingham which will be part of a nationally acclaimed Film Festival.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.