Tom Walker has found a passion in redeveloping older properties in Birmingham.
The veteran finance and commercial real estate guru recently worked on one of the biggest redevelopment projects to date in downtown Birmingham, The Pizitz Building.
Since that project’s completion, Walker has moved on from his long-standing position in Bayer Properties’ development office and has taken a position at a Birmingham that has already done its fair share of transforming the urban core.
Walker is now chief operating officer at Sloss Real Estate.
After managing the Pizitz project through completion, Walker wants to move on to other projects in multiple areas around Birmingham.
“I got really infatuated with the redevelopment of urban properties and existing properties being repurposed,” Walker said in a recent interview with the Alabama center for Real Estate. “Cathy (Sloss Jones) had a lot of that stuff that on the table and came to me and offered me a position that I really couldn’t turn down.”
Bayer Properties purchased Pizitz over a decade ago, and it had gone through several redevelopment plans before announcing and completing the final project. Bayer traditionally develops and manages properties akin to its outdoor mall The Summit in Birmingham.
Sloss Real Estate has helped to revive the Lakeview neighborhood in Birmingham and seems to have found a niche in redeveloping older properties like Pepper Place.
“Cathy does that kind of stuff, real estate wise, that I want to do for the rest of my life,” Walker said. “My goal is to help Sloss turn into a company that is outfitted for what I think real estate is going to look like for the foreseeable future.”
With the recent passage of the Historic Tax Credit bill by the Alabama Legislature, a law that reestablished a state tax credit for rehabilitations, opportunities both urban and rural could abound for Walker for years to come.
“I think Birmingham has a very large inventory of buildings that need to be put back into service,” Walker said. “Ten years ago, that could have been a curse, but now it seems to be a bit of a blessing because there seems to be so much interest in all of these products coming back online. “
Walker said the trend toward urban revitalization seems to be driven by demand from businesses who want to locate in the city center.
“That’s what the tenants want,” Walker said. “That’s what the tenants are looking for. I think if you talk to real estate brokers around town, it’s hard to find brokers who say ‘I’ve got a tenant looking for 10,000 square feet in an office tower and they don’t want to look at anything else.’”
Walker said the opportunities do not just lie around the Central Business District, but also in areas that stretch to Fairfield, Five Points West and Irondale.
“The good news is that they (buildings) are here today and they are ready to be improved,” Walker said.
Even with all of the opportunities out there for redevelopment, Walker said Sloss’ own backyard is still ground zero for investment.
“I would remiss if I didn’t mention the area most primed for redevelopment is Lakeview,” Walker said. “When I say Lakeview, I mean everything from University Blvd. all the way up north to Sloss Furnaces…It seems like all of the pieces are there, now it’s just a matter of putting them all together and turning it into what its highest and best use can be.”