Merchants Plaza, formerly known as Merchants National Bank, will hold an unveiling Thursday, July 27, at 10 a.m. in the bank lobby of the tower to share details of the 225,000-square-foot, mixed-use redevelopment in downtown Mobile, utilizing state-provided historic tax credits, according to a news release.

Plans for Merchants Plaza include renovated office space, commercial uses and conversion of the tower into residential units.

Speakers confirmed for the event include Mayor Sandy Stimpson, City Council President Gina Gregory, County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood and project developers from Heritage Land & Development.

The event is hosted by Heritage Land & Development, project architects The Crump Firm, cooperating property management companies and NAI Mobile. Other participants include McNair Historic Preservation.

Stirling Properties commercial real estate company announced last week in a news release construction will begin this fall on a new Class-A office building at 455 Magnolia Ave. in Fairhope. Jeff Barnes, broker with Stirling Properties, will handle leasing for the new development.

The 11,600-square-foot building is currently 63 percent leased, according to Barnes. Pre-leased tenants include Fairhope Title Services LLC, Kopesky & Britt LLC and Altaworx. The building is scheduled for completion in early summer 2018. Ground floor space remains available for lease as of press time. For more information, contact Stirling Properties’ Mobile office.

John Delchamps with Merrill P. Thomas Co. Inc. represented PRS Industries (Power & Rubber Supply) on a lease to relocate from Saraland to a 10,950-square-foot building at 1951 I-65 Service Road W. in Mobile. Mike McAleer with McAleer Tunstall Co. worked for the owner.

Local investors recently picked up a 4,400-square-foot multi-tenant retail building located at 4625 Springhill Ave. in Mobile for $622,500. The property is fully leased with an ABC Package Store as the anchor tenant. Jay Roberds and Heather Huffman of NAI Mobile managed both sides of the transaction. 

Bay Specialty Services Inc. has leased a 40,000-square-foot industrial building situated at 5301 Hamilton Blvd. in Theodore. Sam Marston Jr. with Marston Real Estate LLC represented both the tenant and the landlord.

Nolan’s Body & Paint has leased a 3,100-square-foot workshop at 8630 Bellingrath Road in Theodore for one year. Pete Riehm, commercial real estate broker with NAI Mobile, managed both sides of the transaction.

Report endorses restoring Gulf Coast rail passenger service
Last week’s delivery to Congress of the Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Working Group’s final report by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provided endorsement for the Southern Rail Commission’s recommendation that passenger rail service should be restored, spanning the central and eastern Gulf Coast region.

The report detailed anticipated capital costs of roughly $112 million, with an additional $5 million set aside for project development and planning. The study was the culmination of more than 18 months of work by Gulf Coast Working Group (GCWG) appointees, including Amtrak, CSX, FRA, SRC and more than 30 regional stakeholders.

GCWG was created by Congress to study rail service within the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Its focus was to evaluate the restoration of intercity rail passenger service in the Gulf Coast region between New Orleans and Orlando.

“The SRC is grateful for the unified political support the restoration of Gulf Coast passenger rail service has received, from mayors to governors. Since 2012, the base of this support has consistently expressed that daily passenger service is essential for the economic resiliency of America’s Gulf Coast,” Greg White, SRC chairman, said.

Among the GCWG recommendations was a daily regional train between New Orleans and Mobile with an estimated annual operating budget of $4 million.

The report outlined a number of capital improvements and operating costs associated with launching these services. Some of the funding could be acquired through new federal rail programs such as the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants program and the Restoration and Enhancement Grant program for operating support.

Also noted in the study was that the SRC and FRA will provide $1.3 million in grant funds to communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for station-area planning and rail safety improvements. Identified markets have contributed their own cash match, resulting in more than $2.6 million in projects underway in preparation for service restoration, according to the news release.

“Congress has identified this route as being of high importance and interest for the public,” White said. “Continued investments in our national passenger rail system are vital as our society becomes increasingly mobile and we look for ways to improve access to skilled workers, jobs and new opportunities for economic development. The SRC is committed to ensuring the Gulf Coast region of our country is not left out.”

BCBS of Alabama insurance rates among nation’s lowest
According to the federal government’s 2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Alabama has the third lowest family and single annual premiums among employers nationwide.

In 2015, MEPS reported Alabama as having the fourth lowest average family premium among employers. Previous reports also indicated that the state has experienced some of the lowest premiums in the country for the five years of 2011-2015.

States reporting the highest family premiums for 2016 are Alaska at $22,490, Wyoming at $19,617 and New York at $19,375. States reporting the highest single premiums for 2016 are Alaska at $7,886, Rhode Island at $6,665 and New Hampshire at $6,637.

“Our company has been serving Alabamians for 81 years, and we are proud to offer our members some of the lowest premiums in the nation,” Terry Kellogg, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, said. “We never lose sight of our customers and are grateful they continue to choose us to provide their health care coverage.”

To date, the Birmingham-based nonprofit provides coverage for more than three million individuals, employs nearly 4,000 workers and commands over 90 percent of the health insurance market across the state. For more information about BCBSAL, visit AlabamaBlue.com.