What UAB’s new master plan means for commercial real estate in Bham

{ Full Birmingam Business Journal Article Here }

As revitalization in the city center of Birmingham continues, there is one specific area where a high percentage of future growth could be of the vertical variety – the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus.

In this week’s Cover Story, we took an in-depth look at UAB’s recently approved master plan. Two words came up often: density and vertical. And many commercial real estate pros we talked to are pretty happy with the school’s new strategy.

Before attractions like Railroad Park and Regions Field entered the fray, brokers say UAB was virtually the only entity buying up large tracts of property on the Southside.

With developers investing heavily in the city center, that’s no longer the case.

There are currently more than $650 million worth of projects in development within eight blocks of the campus.

“Until the last few years, most if not all potential sellers in the areas around UAB would only consider selling the property based on a land value of $40 to $50 per square foot,” said John Lauriello, principal at Southpace Properties.

Now, private developers are buying property for up to $80 per square foot near the school’s campus, Lauriello said.

If UAB’s master plan involved a significant expansion of its footprint, that could create some challenges for the market – especially with the lack of available property near the campus.

That’s one reason why brokers like Harbert Realty’s Dean Nix are big fans of UAB’s new plan, which focuses on increasing the density of development on campus with projects like the new Collat School of Business building, a new Arts & Sciences building and a football operations facility.

Perhaps the best example of UAB’s strategy shift are its plans for expanding the College of Nursing. Rather than building a new facility, the school is adding five floors to the existing building.

That will increase on-campus density while preserving a nearby greenspace – another focus of the new master plan.

“If they are going to build vertically, I think that’s wise because it keeps the campus kind of hemmed in,” Nix said.