Hargrove Controls + Automation has announced the beginnings of a major renovation project centered on the former WALA building, located at 208 Government St. in downtown Mobile.

The city of Mobile and Mayor Sandy Stimpson will hold an unveiling of the architectural rendering Thursday, Feb. 16, at 8:30 a.m. — in conjunction with Hargrove, Cummings Architecture and the Downtown Mobile Alliance — at Government Plaza, across the street from the WALA building.

“As one of the first buildings seen upon exiting the Bankhead Tunnel, this project will improve the overall aesthetic of Government Street and will breathe new life into the entire corridor,” Stimpson said.

“This effort is a crucial catalyst for investment in downtown Mobile that will spur economic activity and improve our quality of life. I am thankful for the leadership of Hargrove Controls + Automation as they continue to work alongside us to make downtown Mobile a hub for innovation and technology jobs.”

Courtesy of Hargrove Engineering | The new facade of the WALA building on Government Street will include a balcony.

The WALA building renovation will significantly expand Hargrove’s campus in the area. After receiving a new façade in 1970, when it became the home of WALA, Hargrove said the 23,500-square-foot building has been abandoned for the last 15 years. But Bill Shields, who claims his family firm owned and actively managed the property for many years, said the building had a small medical office in the facility at the time of the sale to Hargrove.

The new office will utilize 19,000 square feet of space, leaving the remaining 4,500 square feet for potential lease.

Hargrove Controls + Automation will also add a gallery, or balcony, facing Government Street, reminiscent of old Mobile and similar to the structure of adjacent streets. This will become one of the largest balconies on the parade route and provide an additional covered walkway for those traveling parallel to the courthouse.

The four-year-old Hargrove Controls + Automation division that will occupy the new site is responsible for developing computer systems that operate industrial facilities such as paper mills, chemical plants, power plants, refineries and manufacturers.

“This newly restored building will accommodate our rapid growth and initially house 65 teammates,” Matt Burton, corporate director of automation technology for Hargrove, said. “By relocating the panel shop and automation business units to a common location, we will improve our capabilities, quality and overall customer experience. As our business grows, this new location will allow Hargrove to continue hiring top industry experts in the heart of downtown Mobile.”

To date, locally owned Hargrove has assisted in helping revitalize the downtown area by restoring historic buildings to serve new purposes. The company is heavily involved in the Port City’s restorative efforts to make downtown Mobile a hub for innovation and technology jobs. Hargrove’s controls and automation division plans to host both domestic and international client visits to the new downtown site, with an expressed ancillary goal of helping contribute toward tourism foot traffic in the surrounding area.

Hargrove Controls + Automation is one of few multi-service automation groups in the country focused on safety systems, industrial IT and plant automation. Since its inception in 2013, it has grown to include control systems engineers and specialists in all of Hargrove’s 11 offices.

Founded in Mobile in 1995, Hargrove is a full-service EPC (engineering, procurement and construction), automation, life sciences and technical services firm. For more information visit the company’s website.

Commercial real estate moves
Scottsdale, Arizona-based Grimaldi’s Pizzeria recently announced the opening its newest location, and the first in Alabama, inside Mobile’s Shoppes at Bel Air on Feb. 20. This will be its 49th location nationwide.  

According to a news release, the location will be an upscale, seated-style eatery accommodating up to 163 guests, occupying a 5,075-square-foot space inside the mall that includes a 1,075-square-foot exterior patio.

“Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is very excited to be opening its first location in Alabama, as part of the expansion of The Shoppes at Bel Air,” said Joey Ciolli, company CEO.

Named one of the top 50 fastest-growing restaurant groups by Restaurant Business magazine in 2013, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has since added more than 11 locations to its roster in various states, including Florida, Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina.

Papa Murphy’s recently leased a 2,000-square-foot restaurant space in the Hellenic Shopping Center, located at 3764 Airport Boulevard, according to Amber Hightower Dedeaux with Vallas Realty, who represented the landlord. John Delchamps of Merrill P. Thomas Co. worked for the tenant. Plans are in place for the new eatery to open in late spring or early summer. 

Per Pratt Thomas with Merrill P. Thomas Co., the former Von’s Restaurant & Grill property at 12953 Wintzell Ave. in Bayou la Batre was acquired for $240,000 by local speculators. The site includes a fully functional restaurant and separate warehouse, each around 1,800 square feet in size. Plans are in place for a new eatery called Due South Grill & Barbeque to open in late March or early April.

A local investor purchased some 1,800 square feet of office/warehouse space at 19070 S. Greeno Road just north of County Road 44 in Fairhope for $215,000. Sue Knight with Urban Property worked for the buyer. Tracy Womack and Sharon Wright of White-Spunner Realty represented the seller.
Via Center celebrates 45th anniversary
Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center, located at 1717 Dauphin St. in Mobile, will be celebrating its 45th anniversary on Thursday, Feb. 16. The event will look back at the nonprofit’s local history and growth over the years and announce the winner of the 2017 Arlene F. Mitchell Volunteer Service Award.

Via is a 42,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility with a fitness center, gymnasium, café, auditorium, billiards room, library, art and ceramics studios, computer lab, woodshop, classrooms, card rooms, adult day services, emergency food pantry and administrative offices.

The independently funded 501(c)(3) organization offers more than 80 health, fitness and enrichment programs and community needs services and has served more than 230,000 older adults, baby boomers and youth through its intergenerational programs. For more information, visit its website. 

Updated to include information from Bill Shields and to clarify a statement provided by Hargrove.