Developers of an entire city block in Gulf Shores that will be anchored by Embassy Suites are again asking for a change in the timeline for getting the construction underway and the project completed.
DD Partners, the original developer, partnered with Woodbine out of Texas earlier this year and in May the group asked to delay construction until January 2020 from the original start date of July of this year. The most recent request, passed unanimously by the City Council at its Dec. 2 meeting, is for a July 2020 groundbreaking and for full-on construction to begin in September. This would get the project done by May 2022, said King Scovell, managing partner and chief development officer of Woodbine.
“The schedule tells us we start Sept. 30,” Scovell said, “but ideally, we start in July to make the summer season. We’re going to be moving full speed ahead given your approval to meet that July 4 [groundbreaking] date so that we can open in May for that summer season. About 22 months from breaking ground.”
The delay was requested because of some changes made in the building to cut costs but still maintain all the features the partners agreed to in its pact with the city.
“We currently exceed all of the attributes,” Scovell said. “None of what we’ve done compromises the look or the feel or the offerings of the hotel. What we’re proposing is to maintain, at the very least, that program but we’ll likely exceed all of the square footage and room counts that were required in the initial development agreement.”
One of the main attributes the city insisted on was meeting space to attract seminars and conventions to town in the off-season. Scovell said the slightly scaled-down version will still have more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 7,800-square-foot ballroom from the original design.
Gulf Shores offered a tax incentive to the developers to recoup money from the extra cost of including the meeting space in the original design. The city will give Embassy Suites a tax rebate of 42 percent during the first three years of operation and 35 percent every year following until $6.5 million is reached, the basic cost of including the meeting space in the plan.
Changes coming include lowering the building from 10 stories to eight and making the outside pool area originally planned for the roof from about 23,000 square feet down to 10,000 square feet.
“We were 229 rooms on 10 floors and now we’re a total of eight floors with 254 rooms,” Scovell said. “We had a mini-deck of two levels and a rooftop. Now we’re at one level plus a rooftop and still provide the same program.”
Local residents said parking in the area is already a nightmare during the busy summer and expressed concerns a new hotel would make it worse. Part of the agreement with the city is that the developers will give the city $1.2 million to add 150 public parking spaces in the beach district to help with parking there.
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