A prime piece of bayside property both the city and the Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) had previously attempted to purchase is back on the market.
The development group 24/7 Development Partners of Alabama has backed out of the $45 million purchase of the University of South Alabama (USA) Foundation’s Brookley property, according to a statement. The foundation had signed a letter of intent with the developer in March to sell about 290 acres adjacent to the Brookley Aeroplex. The property was last used as USA’s golf course and had been discussed as a potential location for a bayfront municipal park prior to the agreement with 24/7.
“The University of South Alabama Foundation appreciates the interest shown by 24/7 Development Partners in certain property owned by the foundation,” Foundation Board Chairman John McMillan said in the statement. “While we are disappointed that 24/7 did not exercise their option to finalize the purchase of the property commonly known as the ‘Brookley Property,’ we will once again turn our full attention to marketing it for its outstanding development potential.”
In the initial letter of intent, the foundation agreed to retain about 30 acres of wetlands and an additional 10 acres around them.
That property will be kept free of commercial development and it could become the basis for an eco-friendly park, according to the foundation. The letter of intent also stated that 24/7 Development Partners has expressed intentions to “substantially preserve” the property’s shoreline as well as an additional 10 acres of wetlands included in the sale.
The property includes 290 acres on Mobile Bay. The acreage, all of which is within Mobile County, is located along the western shore of Mobile Bay, to the east of Brookley Aeroplex, near the Airbus manufacturing facility.
“This is a uniquely attractive property, located close to Downtown Mobile, the Alabama State Docks and interstate access,” McMillan said in the statement. “Its development by a qualified and responsible developer will greatly enhance the economic vitality of the greater Mobile community and will represent a win-win for the entire community and the University of South Alabama, which the foundation is chartered to support.”
In its statement, the board said it has a set of objectives for the property, which includes generating a return on investment; preserving wetlands that make up the site; contributing to the economic development of the region; preserving positive relations with local stakeholders like the city, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, MAA and others; developing the property in ways that reflect positively on the foundation and the university; capitalizing on the unique qualities of the Brookley site; and minimizing future maintenance costs as well as capital outlays.
Shortly after the letter of intent was signed in March, Mobile Airport Authority Board Chairman Elliot Maisel confirmed the agency and the city had made a “competitive” offer. At the time, he said the board would “keep an eye on the situation.”
Asked about the property last week, MAA President Chris Curry said the agency is always interested in expanding the airport’s footprint.
“We’ve always discussed ways to expand the airport based on our ability to purchase large, contiguous pieces of property,” he said. “We remain interested in purchasing property.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the city also remains interested in the property and plans to make an offer. He declined to elaborate.
In addition to the USA Foundation property, Curry said MAA remains interested in large pieces of property along Michigan Avenue currently owned by the Mobile Housing Board (MHB).
MHB voted recently to apply to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to allow the local board to demolish two complexes along that strip of land and to sell a third one.
The properties affected by the vote are R.V. Taylor Plaza, Thomas James Place and Boykin Towers. The board wants to try to sell Boykin Towers because of an issue with the elevators in the senior living facility.
Curry said MAA would like to try to unite all of the pieces of property that made up the old Air Force base before it was shuttered.
“Those are large, contiguous pieces of property that were all formerly part of the Air Force base,” he said. “We do have a desire to acquire both of those properties and join the property together. The use of both of those properties will be considered within our master plan.”
Until the plan is completed, Curry said there would be no specific plans for either piece of property.
“The master plan will provide options for their use,” he said.
Curry said the master plan should be completed by the summer of 2020.
As for the new commercial terminal at the Brookley Aeroplex, Curry said Airbus is expected to move out of its remaining half of the building by the end of the year. At that time, he said, MAA would determine the next steps and how best to expand the terminal and use the other 50,000 square feet.
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