Widening Canal Road spells bad news for the Tom Thumb at the corner on Alabama State Route 161 in Orange Beach.
But a south landing of the Wolf Bay Bridge within steps of its front door isn’t going to require a move by the iconic Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar, kitty-corner to Tom Thumb.
“Doc’s is an institution,” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said. “They’re not going anywhere.”
The ramshackle building that sits on a slab has had several additions during its storied life and can hardly be picked up and moved, even a short distance. Kennon said it won’t have to.
“We own the property behind it so we’re able to work out some trades and agreements so they can have parking in the back,” Kennon said. “Doc’s is going to be fine.”
Doc’s owner Richard Schwartz’s parking lot is directly west of the restaurant but the bridge riser will be between the two lots and will make it inaccessible for his customers.
Tom Thumb looks to lose its building as the Alabama Department of Transportation is planning a sweeping two-lane turn south so beach-bound traffic doesn’t have to stop at the intersection. Kennon hopes it can stay in the area, though.
“The question is Tom Thumb and that eastbound, southbound turn, and can we move the Tom Thumb and rebuild on the property just slightly to the west is what we’d like to do,” Kennon said. “We would have to take all of their property to make the sweep so it may work where we can relocate, because we do need a gas station for the inbound traffic.”
As far as actual work on the Wolf Bay Bridge, officials say it is in the early 12- to 24-month permitting phase.
“Burt-Kleinpeter, they are working [with us on] surveying, Geotech, all of that with the bridge,” Kennon said. “With the roadways, they’re doing all the design. They’ve been a big help to us. We’re in a holding pattern going through the process. Until we get the permitting and contractual agreements with [adjacent property owners] Mr. Barber and Mr. Lawrenz, but for the most part it’s just waiting on getting a permit.”
David Lawrenz and George Barber own land on Sapling Point where the bridge will land on the north side. Larenz’s property is already in the city limits and though Barber’s is not, an improved road on his property will be used to take traffic north to County Road 95 and eventually to County Road 20 or U.S. 98 to connect to the Foley Beach Express.
Kennon said he likens the bridge project to an economic development move he hopes will move some of the burgeoning development on the island to the north.
“We are not looking to annex anyone that doesn’t want to be annexed,” Kennon said. “We’re not going to try to annex Josephine, Pirate’s Cove or anything else except those willing landowners. The last thing we want is people in Orange Beach that don’t want to be in Orange Beach.”
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