From the outside, the Pizitz building looks like it could be 1925, shiny and new but true to the era it was built.
Step inside, you see modern finishes, stainless steel appliances and modern technology like humidity-controlling air conditioning systems.
That's exactly what Bayer Properties was going for in its renovation of the iconic 1923 Birmingham building, now a mixed-use project with a massive food hall, office space and 143 apartments on top, according to Bayer Properties' Development Manager Tom Walker.
"What's in here is all very new, but it's all sitting in a historic shell," Walker said.
Granite counters and modern washer dryer units sit on original concrete or restored red pine hardwoods taken straight from the building's old warehouse floors, when the building was the flagship store for the successful Birmingham-based retail chain.
"It's been laying there since 1923," Walker said.
The eight-story building at 2nd Avenue North and 19th Street is still under construction - the Food Hall and the top floors aren't quite ready - after more than a year and a half of work. It's been empty since 1988 when the store closed.
The development has had a number of false starts. Bayer first bought the building in 2000 and its parking deck for $1.6 million, hoping to land a law firm for the building. Just two years later, a New Orleans company announced plans to buy it and turn it into loft apartments, but that deal never came to fruition. In 2005, Sloss Real Estate Group proposed turning it into 100 condos and commercial space, but that also fell through.
In 2008, Bayer submitted the first iteration of the renovation plans and qualified for historic tax credits. Construction didn't start until 2015. Plans changed a few times in that period: V. Richards was planning to move a 6,000-square-foot store and restaurant into the bottom floor, but that fell through and the plans were eventually replaced with a "food hall" featuring 13 food stalls, two restaurants and a bar.
The Food Hall is scheduled to open in early February.
At completion, the building will have 84 one-bedroom apartments and 59 two-bedroom apartments. They have 17 different floorplans. They feature huge windows, some seven by four feet and some larger, because the historic tax credits required Bayer to replicate the building's original window dimensions.
"You would never build windows like that in apartment today," Walker said.
The market-rate apartments start at $1,395 and go as high as $2,245 a month. Twenty-nine units - about 20 percent - are affordable rate units, which start at $960 a month, but are only available to certain incomes. For example, a one-person household would need to earn at least $28,800 but no more than $35,850.
KPS is the architect and Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor. Highland Commercial Mortgage, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city of Birmingham, US Bank Community Development Corporation, National New Markets Fund LLC, Iberia Bank and ServisFirst Bank are all providing financial assistance. AG Interior Design designed the project's model units, and Masonry Arts restored the terra cotta on the exterior of the building. Yellowhammer Creative did the graphics for the food hall. Appleseed Workshop is partnering with Golden Construction on the design and build-out of 10 of the food stalls and two of the signature restaurants, as well as the courtyard.