|City/Town: • Birmingham|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Built: • 1925 | Abandoned: • ~1980's|
|Status: • Restored (2020)|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
Standing at 12-stories tall, the 84,000 square-foot Doctor’s Building or Martin Office Building was built in April 1925. Shortly after its completion, space was made to house the Birmingham City Commission and other departments while the Birmingham City Hall was being repaired after a fire destroyed the library and caused irreparable damage to the central tower. The architectural firm of Turner & McPherson had offices on the 12th floor.
The property was sold in 1946 and in March 1947, the FBI Birmingham Division moved into the building, where it remained until moving to the 2121 Building in December 1962.
The building became the headquarters of the newly-formed American Life Insurance Company and was known as the American Life Building. Even today, it is better known as American Life for the large lettering emblazoned on the back of the building. American Life acquired the Stonewall Insurance Company of Mobile and moved its headquarters to Birmingham in 1967. It remained the lead tenant of the renamed “Stonewall Building” until 1979, after which the offices and retail spaces were gradually vacated. It found use as a document storage facility until about 2000. At that time, it was in need of renovation and was listed on Operation New Birmingham’s 12 Most Wanted list. The list included many prominent downtown buildings in need of renovation, but many remained abandoned due to the 2008-09 Great Recession.
In 2004, an announcement was made for a new plan for the building which called for converting the building into 48 condominiums at the cost of $4 million. Although asbestos was removed from the building in 2006, construction halted indefinitely thereafter. Owner Ed Ticheli announced in 2008 that they planned on converting the building into 71 apartments. The schedule for redevelopment for the Stonewall Building was dependent on the housing market and would follow the completion of the Massey Building and Jackson Hotel, which the Tichelis also own. The project was expected to cost about $10 million, and stalled out during the Great Recession of 2008-09. In 2013 another proposal, from Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Dominium, projected a $10 million renovation to provide 65-70 artist lofts in the building. That project fell through as well.
In 2018, owner Ed Ticheli renewed his redevelopment proposal for the building, planning 137 affordable apartment units, ranging from $600 to $900 per month for rent. Depending on demand, retail space is possible for the ground floor. The proposal was awarded a $182,182 tax credit under Alabama’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, with an additional $2.9 million request awarded in 2019. The apartment building opened late-2020 as Lofts at American Life.