Orange Beach buys land for new public beach access, restaurant, bar, green space

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The coastal town of Orange Beach, Alabama is trading two planned high-rise condos for public beach access, green space, a restaurant and bar.

On Friday, the city announced it was partnering with two co-owners of Flora-Bama, a famed bar on the Alabama-Florida state line, to purchase 8.7 acres of beachfront property to create access to the beach for “residents” through Ala. Hwy 161 from the Publix to The Shoppes at Palm Pointe.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said in a press release that the deal was a “watershed moment and historic investment” for the beachfront town of about 6,200 people.

“This is a prime gulf-front property that beachgoers see first when driving south,” Kennon said. “Instead of a high-rise development, we will have this family-friendly beachfront to welcome visitors with a first-class low-rise restaurant with lots of open space, and also a town beach for our residents, who sacrifice a lot every summer.

Kennon told AL.com on Saturday that the finished project would be comparable to public beach access in Gulf Shores.

“I see it’s very similar to that,” Kennon said. “They’ve been fortunate enough to hold this property for many, many years, and we’ve never been able to secure anything of that nature in Orange Beach, but I see it working essentially the same way. “

Kennon also compared the planned restaurant and bar to some familiar coastal Alabama favorites.

“It will be something like Lulu’s, the Hangout, it will be the same type of restaurant,” he said. “It’s going to be nice, it’s going to be high-end and look really appealing, so I think it’s great gear for the city.”

Kennon said he hopes parking and beach access can be ready by next summer, with the restaurant opening in spring 2023.

Rendering of a CoastAL beach access and restaurant development project in Orange Beach, Ala.City of Orange Beach

No 30-story skyscrapers

The properties had been planned for two high-rise condos, which would have had 37 and 36 floors, the city said in a Press release announcing the purchase. The city’s waterfront already has several high-rise condominiums or hotels, and Kennon said the city is increasingly concerned about traffic and infrastructure.

“We were very scared with hundreds and hundreds of condo units in two 30-story buildings, it was just going to be a traffic nightmare,” Kennon said. “So it’s accomplished a lot of things in different ways, and I think that will make it better for everyone.”

According to the statement, the city completed its land purchase including 400 feet of beachfront on Wednesday, while the Orange Beach Land Company, LLC, owned by Flora-Bama co-owners John McInnis and Cameron Price, purchased the property. adjacent for a bar. and a restaurant which will be operated under the CoastAL brand.

The CoastAL development will consist of three single-level buildings: a 20,000 square foot restaurant, a 5,000 square foot retail building and a 3,000 square foot outdoor bar. The buildings will surround a 15,000 square foot outdoor promenade and green space, and the parking lot will have a shared use agreement with the city.

There will be a historic 40-foot tower built along the beach road, with “pedestrian-friendly pathways on the property,” according to the release.

The total cost to the city of the purchase was $13 million, with just under $10 million paid upfront and the rest due after improvements are made to the property.

As part of the agreement, the developers will construct all improvements on city property, such as paving the parking lot, lighting, constructing restrooms and an area for lifeguards, a boardwalk and boardwalks. in the dunes towards the beach, then the city will take possession of the improvements.

“We are excited to begin turning our vision into reality,” McInnis and Price said in a press release. “We love that the general public will have access to over 800 feet of beachfront and that Orange Beach residents will finally have free priority parking on the Gulf.

“What Gulf Shores has in public space on the beach is wonderful and now Orange Beach residents will have something very comparable.”

Proposed beach access and restaurant development CoastAL

Rendering of a CoastAL beach access and restaurant development project in Orange Beach, Ala.City of Orange Beach

Parking reserved for residents, restaurant customers

The two establishments will share a car park along the beach road.

Kennon said some of the parking spots will be reserved for Orange Beach residents for free use, with another allotment for restaurant patrons, though details have yet to be finalized.

“We haven’t determined what will happen with our out-of-town folks yet,” Kennon said. “We’re going to work with the private partners and come up with something where if they’re there for the day and they’re buying lunch or something, they’ll probably validate their parking.”

He said the restaurant and beach access also expect to see a lot of foot traffic from the beach and people parking elsewhere.

“We see it as a really nice gathering place, a place where locals and tourists can hang out during the day,” Kennon said. “And we just see it as great all-around gear.”

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