Empire Building part of $45 million project including two Marriotts, new Chris Hastings restaurant


One of Birmingham’s most iconic buildings will be part of a $45 million project that will bring two Marriott hotels and a gourmet restaurant downtown.

The Empire Building at 1928 1st Ave. will become Empire Hotel, a luxury hotel with a restaurant, 117 bedrooms, a gym, lounge, meeting space and rooftop bar. The adjoining former Alagasco headquarters building will become a limited service Marriott hotel with 120 rooms and provide 50 jobs.

Empire Hospitality LLC will develop the project. Buford, Ga.’s Ascent Hospitality is the managing partner. The company plans to start construction April 2015 and finish by summer 2016.

Ascent currently manages 13 hotels in Alabama, though this will be the company’s first in Birmingham.

The companies expect the Empire redevelopment to cost $27 million and the Alagasco redevelopment to cost $18 million.

“Historically, this has been one of the most important corners in the City Center.”

 Chris Hastings, chef-owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club, will open a restaurant as part of the project. Hastings has been named top chef in the South by the prestigious James Beard Foundation. Hastings is currently working on another restaurant concept in Pepper Place.

The hotel will be part of Marriott’s luxury Autograph collection brand, Alabama’s first.

“The Autograph is one of the flagship hotels of the Marriott arsenal,” Empire LLC Representative John Tampa said in a statement. “The restoration of this iconic structure is not only a game-changer for Downtown Birmingham. With Chris Hastings managing the 5 star restaurant and bar, this development adds to the city’s reputation as a culinary powerhouse. We’re pleased to have one of Alabama’s premier culinary chefs onboard.”


The 16-story Empire was built in 1909 and is part of the “Heaviest Corner on Earth.” In the early 1900s, four of the South’s tallest buildings were constructed at 20th Street and First Avenue in downtown Birmingham. A magazine proclaimed it “The Heaviest Corner on Earth.”

The project is funded in part through Alabama’s historic tax credit program.

“Historically, this has been one of the most important corners in the City Center. Its due time to see it returned to its former glory,” REV Birmingham CEO David Fleming said in a statement. “Thanks to tools like Alabama’s Historic Tax Credits, developers have more leverage to bring high-profile historic buildings like the Empire back to life. With those state and federal incentives, these projects could not have move forward.”

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