Group believes old Birmingham freight depot can be saved

A Birmingham group is fighting to keep a piece of the city's history from becoming a parking lot. Alagasco may tear down the Birmingham Southern freight depot on 14th Street North for parking at a new operations center. I Believe in Birmingham thinks a tenant can be found.

"It has the train depot feel to it and you have the sense it used to have all these tracks here," said Joseph Baker of I Believe in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Southern depot was built in 1928 during the Magic City's steel boom. It sits on 14th Street North worn and empty.

Baker{}still sees its place in Birmingham's future.

"We had been looking at opening a brew pub and this had been one of the properties we looked at a long time ago. We aren't in a position to buy it yet. That's not why I'm doing it.{}I want to see it put to some productive use," he said.

There's another freight depot nearby. It was renovated by Alagasco, which{}happens to own the Birmingham Southern depot. The company has approval to tear it down to build a parking lot for a new operations center.

"We love the idea of preserving history. But in this particular case, there's a lot of challenges with the space," said Sherri Goodman, a spokesperson for Alagasco.

Goodman says those challenges aren't just with the building. Some , like a sewer line,cannot be moved and 150 employees must have safe parking.

"We've looked at as many alternatives as we can. Our goal is to improve the area, to revitalize the area and to overall fit in with the fabric, the revitalization going on there," she said.

I{}Believe in Birmingham has the same goal. But the depot is part of it, {}much like an old fire station on Clairmont Avenue. The group also saved it.

However, if no tenant can be found to move into the property, the fight may be lost. In that case, pieces of the depot will be kept, integrated into the new center.

"That is at least a gesture of trying to take a piece of history and roll it forward," said Baker.

I Believe in Birmingham will meet at Good People Brewery at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the building's future. Baker admits not much time is left to find a tenant.

Alagasco is planning on moving into the new operations center on First Avenue North February 2015.