Birmingham's Railroad Park Selected As 2012 Winner Of Urban Land Institute Urban Open Space Award

Oct 22, 2012, 19:25 ET from Urban Land Institute

DENVER, Oct. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Birmingham's Railroad Park, a 19-acre green space in the city's downtown that integrates the train experience with open space activity, has received national recognition as the 2012 winner of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Urban Open Space Award. The selection of Railroad Park was announced at ULI's Fall Meeting in Denver.

The award was based on a competition to recognize an outstanding example of a well-used public open space that has spurred regeneration and the transformation of the surrounding community. The Birmingham park was chosen from a competitive group of five finalists, which included the High Line in New York, N.Y.; Pier 25 at Tribeca Section of Hudson River Park in New York, N.Y.; RiverWalk Urban Waterfront in Calgary, Alberta; and Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Ore.

Railroad Park occupies the historical seam created by a rail viaduct that bisects downtown. The new topography integrates the train experience with a variety of new open space activities, which help organize and stimulate growth in the southern part of downtown while promoting connections north of the railroad. The park is a segment of what was known as the "Railroad Reservation"— a zone of rail sidings and warehouses attached to the 11-track rail corridor that served the steel-making industry. The site adjoins a 15-foot-high rail viaduct with active tracks, which provide the inspiration for the park's name.

Railroad Park, which is owned by the City of Birmingham and managed by the nonprofit Railroad Park Foundation, is the culmination of a long process of consultation and participation. In 2002, a ULI Advisory Services panel offered redevelopment recommendations to help improve and grow the downtown area. The city later tasked Tom Leader Studio (TLS) with designing a park that was to reside on a site that both had the lowest elevation in the city and was the original home to a marsh. Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) was selected to provide Architectural Master Planning services.  Other team members included Associate Landscape Architect, Macknally Land Design, along with GA Architecture, HKW Associates, Khafra, and Walter Schoel Engineering. During the park's official opening ceremonies in fall 2010, the foundation's board president, Will French, described the park as a tangible example of success that is possible when the public and private sectors work in partnership.

According to jury chairman Randall K. Rowe, chairman of Green Courte Partners, LLC, Lake Forest, Ill., Railroad Park serves as an asset for the City of Birmingham by helping spur investment in the surrounding area and providing its people with a place to reengage in healthy urban living. "Railroad Park is a transformative example of how open space can enrich and revitalize a surrounding community as well as become a critical part of the urban social fabric," Rowe said.

The award was created through the generosity of Amanda M. Burden, New York City Planning Commissioner and 2009 laureate of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. In 2011 the Kresge Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and the ULI Foundation joined forces to continue the Urban Open Space Award through 2014.

"All great planning comes down to the granular approach of how a building meets the street, how a street feels, how you feel walking in the city, and how it feels to be in public spaces and use public spaces that are inviting," said Ms. Burden. "Great public space is why you stay in the city."

About the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute ( is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in sustaining and creating thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

ULI Press Release:

About Tom Leader Studio

Tom Leader Studio ( was formed in March 2001 for the practice of landscape architecture. This nationwide practice seeks to create an active liaison between emerging ideas and practices and their realization in physical space. Recent TLS projects include the Stanford University Medical Center Campus and Pool Pavilion Forest, an art  collaboration with James Turrell, that was winner of an ASLA Honor Award. In 2012, TLS was winner along with architect Michael Maltzan of the St. Petersburg  Pier Competition. Together with KVA, TLS was winner of the Minneapolis Riverfront Competition, an on-going large scale urban initiative now known as "RiverFirst" ( The 2005 project, "Shanghai Carpet", was featured in the 2007 "Groundswell" exhibit on international landscape at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2011 TLS was a finalist for Cooper Hewitt's National Design Award for Landscape Architecture.

About Kennedy & Violich Architecture

KVA ( is an interdisciplinary design practice that explores the relationship between architecture, digital technology and emerging public needs.  KVA projects include the Soft House housing project in Hamburg, Germany for the International Building Exhibition (IBA), the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative, and the new 34th Street Public Ferry Terminal in New York City. KVA's work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the Rotterdam Biennial, the Vitra Design Museum, SFMoMA and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

For more information, contact:
Liliana Lewicka 510-524-3363; email:

Related Links:
Kennedy & Violich Architecture
Tom Leader Studio
Railroad Park Booklet


SOURCE Urban Land Institute