Numerous local business men and women and the mayors for Foley and Gulf Shores, AL met this morning to discuss current issues and future plans for a variety of topics relevant to South Baldwin County. The meeting was intended to discuss topics ranging from current and future growth to existing problems involving traffic and infrastructure. The mayors each took turns at the podium to answer questions and explain plans outlined by Foley and Gulf Shores for improvement. The meeting has hosted by the Baldwin County Board of Realtors and sponsored by Baldwin Title.
Mayor Koniar of Foley started the conversation by discussing some of the businesses Foley, AL is currently working with that plan to open soon. The largest and most impactful current business is the Academy Sports which is under construction near Foley High School across from Wal-Mart. This is a growing area and already has fast food restaurants, hotels and the YMCA within walking distance. Academy Sports is a great addition to the Foley area and was originally planned for Daphne, but "they failed to get it in to the end zone" Mayor Koniar said laughingly. The new superstore is a great fit in our area which currently hosts a great number of sporting events and tournaments, like the NAIA National Track & Field Championships and the SEC Soccer Championships. Sports are big in our area and these types of businesses are a great indication of the popularity of sports along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Current plans for Foley are to enlarge the current sportsplex from 13 softball fields to 16 which is apparently the optimal number of fields for hosting a large championship-style event. There are also plans to increase the number of accommodations nearby with two hotels planned; Hilton Garden Inn and a TBD Marriot.
Another business in the works is Firehouse Subs. The sandwich shop will open near the Glenlakes golf club situated between County road 20 and County road 12 near downtown Foley. Two other businesses that have shown great interest in Foley are Rouses grocery and Roussos restaurant. "It's basically just a matter of which one opens their doors first" said Koniar. A new super armory was discussed briefly with unofficial plans to open circa 2019 and the possibility of an opening in 2017 is not out of the question. The super armory would be located approximately 10 miles from the beaches next to Barin Field's training facility. Features of a super armory typically include, aside from specialized training facilities, weight room, gym and a pool. The super armory has obvious applications as a training facility for guards around the region, but also an opportune potential staging area for relief efforts following hurricane. The super armory would offer over 100,000 square feet of space for a variety of practical uses. Mayor Koniar said simply, "the super armory would bring a lot of people to the area". For additional info on the super armory, please click here.
Next at the lectern was mayor Craft of Gulf Shores, AL. The mayor made several references to Gulf Shores being a little behind in actually devising a tangible plan for the future, but the steps are being taken to create a plan. Mayor Craft likened the progress to having a "vision for the plan" in his comments Wednesday morning. Mayor Craft's focal point was transportation and traffic that has been a hot topic of late. This issue is a result of the immense popularity of the Alabama Gulf Coast's booming tourism industry. This past year, the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area played host to over 5.5 million guests and the traffic was more noticeable this year than years past. "We can't have any more traffic, the beaches were full, so we know what to expect" mayor Craft eluded to when asked if he thought the addition of more sporting events would increase the traffic to an intolerable level.
One of the solutions to the traffic issue is to construct a 5-lane road that will run parallel to Beach Blvd. situated behind 2nd Ave. spanning from highway 59 all the way to Orange Beach, AL. This would be a large road to allow the current Beach Blvd. to be utilized as a pedestrian-friendly path allowing for downtown Gulf Shores to be suitable for tourists on foot.
This would offer an alternate route from Gulf Shores, AL to Orange Beach, AL and significantly reduce the traffic on Beach Blvd. According to mayor Craft, the Alabama Department of Transportation or "ALDOT" prohibits the use of many alterations to roads under their control, such as pedestrian walkways and excessive traffic lights. Because of these rules, Gulf Shores has been unable to make changes that would make Beach road safer and create a pedestrian-friendly downtown Gulf Shores. The plan for this service road, so-to-speak, will allow Gulf Shores the opportunity to completely change downtown Gulf Shores and create an entirely different feel to downtown. Another goal is to implement a trolley from Orange Beach to Gulf Shores (East to West) and then Move North. The proposed trolley would then operate from the intersection of Beach Blvd and highway 59 near the Gulf Shores Hangout and public beach area North about a half-mile to Windmill ridge road. This would make commuting to-and-from Orange Beach, AL much easier for tourists staying on the Gulf Shores beaches. The airport was brought up through the question of regional flights. Currently, the airport is able to handle large commercial flights. "The runway is long enough and the future of the airport will be based on supply and demand" says Craft. To accommodate commercial flights, a control tower will need to be implemented. This is completely possible, but there is not enough current demand for economic feasibility. This is however, subject to change and regional traffic is a distinct possibility.
Other topics of conversation for mayor Craft involved economic diversity. "We don't want all of our eggs in one basket" said Craft. In the past, after a hurricane or unforeseen oil spill, the entire economy shut down due to Gulf Shores' lack of diversity. One of the plans to prevent this issue revolves around the state park and convention center. Although there are some logistical issues with access, Gulf Shores is working diligently to complete a plan that will result in a convention center situated in the Gulf Shores State Park. "This will bring a lot of business to the Alabama Gulf Coast" says Craft. "Currently, people are going to Destin, FL, Pensacola, FL or Biloxi, MS and we want to offer additional options for these people". Some of the other things mentioned involved, health care, education and geographic diversity. All of these topics are under consideration and in the discussions as we strive to create and improve the conditions that make Gulf Shores a great place to visit and an even better place to raise a family.
One thing everyone took from these discussions is that both Gulf Shores and Foley, AL are working diligently to improve on an already great and thriving area. Like anywhere in the United States, these cities may have some issues to tackle and work to do, but these are good problems to have, if there is such a thing. We will continue to cover these and other topics relating to our area and provide info as it's received. In the meanwhile, if you're considering a trip to the area, we can help with information provision. All real estate for sale in the area is provided on this website. We also have info on hotels and restaurants and other Gulf Coast news. If you are looking for beach front condos on the Alabama Gulf Coast, try visiting Gulf Shores Condos to browse the most economical condos on the Gulf Coast, both in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL.