Tom Thumb is coming to The Wharf entertainment district, but project engineer Doug Bailey says it won’t be your typical convenience store.
“It’s going to have a different façade on it, so it’s going to have a little more upscale look,” Bailey, of Goodwyn Mills Cawood, said. “Inside it’s also going to be more of an upscale market side than your conventional, run-of-the-mill Tom Thumb.”
Because it is part of The Wharf complex, the project had to get the blessing of owners there before heading to the Orange Beach Planning Commission.
“In the PUD [planned unit development] modification we had them straighten the lighting plan, landscape plan and all that,” Bailey said. “The lighting and the landscape are going to be similar to what you see elsewhere in The Wharf so it ties together. The Wharf has control architecturally also, so they have reviewed and approved it as well.”
At the Planning Commission level, the project received a positive recommendation on a unanimous vote. Since it is a rezoning requiring an ordinance change, it will have to go through two public hearings and win a favorable vote from the City Council to proceed. In addition to a market, it will also include a carwash and a fast food restaurant.
Fast food outlets aren’t Mayor Tony Kennon’s favorite, but he says the project meets all the zoning requirements and developers are within city laws.
“I try not to get into what people do with their businesses if they meet zoning requirements,” Kennon said. “We have such great locally owned restaurants I hate to see fast food come in here and be a competitor. To me, it just reduces the experience of our community. It’s just a personal preference but if they want to build a fast food in that Tom Thumb and they meet the zoning requirements then they have a right to do it.”
Bailey said the restaurant part will be similar to those along interstate highways.
“It will have a drive-thru and some interior seating. Like you see the Arby’s up at Love’s or the Burger King up at the Circle K in Loxley and that kind of thing,” he said.
The first public hearing date is set for the Dec. 12 council meeting and Bailey said developers want to start the project as soon as possible.
“They are trying to get started with construction at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I haven’t heard a timeline on the completion. I imagine they are going to try and get it open by the summer of course.”
Wharf Entertainment Properties is listed as the owner of the 40-acre parcel, which straddles the far east entryway with most of the land on the west side of the road. The store is planned for the northeast intersection of East Wharf Boulevard and Canal Road.
“They are going to help us build a sidewalk there on Canal Road and we need the ability to get fuel on the way out of town,” Kennon said. “It’s a good tax resource for us.”
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