A new mixed-use residential and retail complex is being considered around the state’s planned bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) east of the Gulf Shores airport.
Coastal Resort Properties, which is still awaiting a court date over how much the state will pay for land it is taking for the project, asked the Gulf Shores City Council on Nov. 12 to rezone 218 acres on the north bank of the waterway. The new bridge would be on the eastern portion of the project area.
“We’ve really seen it as kind of a second opportunity for waterfront activity secondary to the beachfront,” Director of Planning and Development Lee Jones said. “In 2006, the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers approved an environmental impact statement for 15 mixed-use projects on the northern shore of the Intracoastal Waterway. This is one of those 15 projects. It is approved for three marinas and 3,175 condominium units with some light convenience retail.”
Other amenities planned include swimming pools, tennis courts, a clubhouse, 27,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, green space with parks, lakes and boardwalks and 318 boat slips.
Even with the rezoning, the applicant is asking for a planned unit development that would be less dense than the current zoning allows. Buildings of eight stories could be built, but the current plan calls for the tallest buildings to be six stories. The developer could build 42 residential units per acre, but is only planning on building 21.
Mayor Pro Tem Philip Harris said this is the result of years of work between the city and owners of Coastal Resort Properties — which includes prominent real estate developer and investor James Mattei — giving the city a right of way across their property to extend Waterway Village Boulevard North to connect with the city’s Business and Aviation Park.
“We appreciated the relationship,” Harris said. “It’s not often you get a request to downzone property. This is a big deal in right of way and strategic roadway placement. It gives really an opportunity to manage that growth and align that growth with the city’s vision.”
In the wake of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, Gulf Shores began looking for ways to diversify its economy to add something to its main business of the beachfront.
“We’ve seen the threat to our economy with Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina we really took a hard look at the north corridor over there and that is where this ICW zoning came from,” Harris said. “An opportunity to incentivize the change and hopefully build a second frontier that would include some vacation destinations and a second source of revenue.”
An economic downturn in the mid-2000s squelched many of the plans for the 15 initial projects that received approval from the Corps of Engineers in 2006. Attorney Richard Davis said those approvals are still valid.
“The EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] permit is still in place. It has a life of a couple of years yet,” Davis said. “We’ve applied for a five-year extension.”
Davis also represents Coastal Resort Properties in its lawsuit disputing the state’s offer for 29 acres from the company for use in the bridge and road project. The state’s offer of $943,150 for the land is being contested.
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