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Catherine Sloss Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate Company in Birmingham, kicked off the Fall 2022 CityBuilders guest lecture series August 18, with a presentation on the challenges and rewards of community renewal.
CityBuilders is an outreach initiative of Auburn University’s Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program, which is part of the Harbert College of Business and the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC).
Catherine Sloss Jones kicked off the Fall 2022 CityBuilders lecture series August 18.
A lifelong Birmingham resident, Jones is well known for helping revitalize the Magic City’s downtown through the restoration of historical buildings and construction of new buildings that complement surrounding historical architecture.
“For me, I really love city building,” she said, noting that Birmingham’s draw is exceptional food and a rich Civil Rights history. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to make neighborhoods that worked for everybody.”
Jones recalled how her friend and Civil Rights legend Fred Shuttlesworth told her that if you can connect the dots in Birmingham, Alabama, it will resonate all over the world.
“It has taken a lifetime for me to try to understand how Birmingham works and how to create successful projects that really can connect the dots,” Jones said.
During her talk, Jones shared a sampling of the projects she and her firm have completed, as well as some advice. Her company co-developed Park Place, Birmingham’s first HOPE VI project, which expanded six city blocks of 1960s era obsolete public housing into a twelve-block mixed-use, mixed-income community.
She and her firm purchased and renovated an abandoned Dr. Pepper syrup plant on the south side of the city, turning a once blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use district with more than 350,000 square feet of retail, office and workshop space, and a renowned farmers market.
“The best thing I ever did in my life and the best people I’ve ever met were part of the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market,” said Jones, referring to the nationally recognized market that supports Alabama small farmers and artisans.
In 2000, she started the market with seven farmers and 10 tents. Today, the market has 100 tents and 10,000 visitors every Saturday morning.
“[The market is] an integral part of our food system, and food is our common denominator,” she said.
Among the other projects Jones has been involved with are One Federal Place, a prominent office building and pocket park, and renovations of the historic Young and Vann Building and old Rust Engineering Building now known as Ridge Park.
According to Jones, she has embraced a set of guiding principles throughout her career. Those principles include honoring the history of a given place, setting a high bar for good design, creating spaces that build community, working for sustainability, and thinking in terms of visibility and accessibility.