City Federal Building

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Top of the City Federal Building in November 2007

The City Federal Building, constructed as the Jefferson County Savings Bank Building, later called the Comer Building, is a 27-story, 325-foot-tall neo-classical styled skyscraper located on the northwest corner of 2nd Avenue North and 21st Street North.

The building was designed by William Weston for Eugene Enslen's Jefferson County Savings Bank. It was constructed by H. M. Strauss with decorate facade tiles from the Federal Terra Cotta Company of New York. The building opened in 1913.

Partly due to the spectacular cost of the new building, the bank suffered a run in January 1915 and failed. The building was soon renamed in honor of former Governor B. B. Comer. The penthouse terrace was used as the home of the Birmingham Press Club. The 11th floor became the national offices of the Women's Missionary Union, which moved to Birmingham from Baltimore, Maryland in 1921.

It was the tallest skyscraper in the Southeast when it was constructed, and remained the tallest in Alabama until Mobile's AmSouth Bank Building was completed in 1969. It was surpassed as the tallest building in Birmingham when the AmSouth-Sonat Tower was completed in 1972. It remains the tallest neo-classical skyscraper in the South.

The Comer Building was renamed in December 1962 as part of a $250,000 renovation for the City Federal Savings & Loan, which purchased the skyscraper and prepared to move into its new offices in April 1963. With the help of Cobb, Adams and Benton architects and Thomas Brasfield & Company contractors the interior was remodeled and the exterior cleaned and waterproofed. New landmark neon signs were installed on the roof and down the southeast corner of the structure. In 1964 WSGN-AM constructed a penthouse studio on the top floor of the tower.

The building, which had been added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, was vacated ten years later. A 1996 proposal to convert the building into 128 luxury apartments under the Rennaissance Apartments name was unsuccessful.

By the early 21st century, the building's facade had deteriorated to the point that the city labelled it a safety hazard and constructed sidewalk protection. The city filed a federal lawsuit against the building's owner, S&S LLC, to force them to secure the exterior cladding and to reimburse the city for its expense in protecting the sidewalk.

Atlanta-based developer Synergy Realty Services purchased the building in March 2005 and began a $20 million renovation to convert the office space into 84 condominiums, ranging in price from $250,000 to $925,000, and a penthouse residence priced at $1.85 million. Birmingham's Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds architects developed the renovation plans. Charles & Vinzant was general contractor, and Andrea Carmichael did the interior design work. Ingram & Associates is marketing the residential units.

The neon sign was kept as a landmark. It was refurbished and re-lit on December 14, 2005 to draw attention to the project. The first residents moved in during the Summer of 2007. By the Spring of 2009 48 units remained to be sold and Synergy organized to auction off 20 of them on May 12. After 11 units were sold at lower-than-expected prices, the owners stopped the auction. The Atlanta commercial real estate firm Carter acquired the building from Synergy in 2010 and invested in capital improvements to public areas and streetscape while also re-pricing the 28 unsold units.

A stereo view of the City Federal Building from the roof of the Brown Marx Building



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