The Auburn City Council approved a term sheet for plans to redevelop the North Gay Street parking deck and the surrounding lot into a hotel, an urban grocery, a retail development and a larger public parking deck.
The multiple-use development will be planned and constructed through a public-private partnership with development firm Blackwater Resources, which is headquartered in Birmingham.
The term sheet is a nonbinding, preliminary agreement that outlines the intent of the project. It sets the groundwork for a future final agreement between the City of Auburn and Blackwater Resources.
According to economic development department documents, the existing municipal parking deck and the surrounding parking areas would be demolished to make way for the new development.
A 30,000-square-foot urban grocery and a national hotel with 90-130 rooms would anchor the development. A restaurant, office space and 3,700 square feet of additional retail and restaurant space would accompany a larger, five-level parking garage touting 730 parking spaces.
The current parking deck and its surrounding lots house only 345 parking spaces, more than 100 of which are leased parking. There are currently 738 metered public parking spaces throughout downtown. The new parking deck would add more than 400 additional parking spaces, raising the total number of public parking spaces downtown to 1,145.
The anchor hotel will likely be boutique-style and upscale. Possible tenants include Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott or Loews hotels, according to an article from the Opelika-Auburn News.
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The urban grocery would be located on the first floor of the complex, and its footprint would measure in between 29,000-31,000 square feet. Possible pre-approved tenants include Kroger, Publix, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market or Sprouts, according to the article.
"We're excited about it because we think it will fill a niche downtown," said John Abernathy, president of Blackwater. "An urban grocery is something that will be needed, and it will be beneficial to what's going on downtown. We think there is a niche as well for an interesting national hotel."
The building housing the hotel and grocery would be 80 feet tall and six stories, according to initial plans. The first two floors would be 20 feet, and the remaining four floors would be 10 feet apiece. The front facade of the building would attempt to match existing downtown architectural styles with red brick and glass.
"Being a graduate of Auburn and living on Gay Street, I'm aware of a lot of the thoughts about downtown," Abernathy said. "We wanted to be sensitive to the architecture and the facade."
Preliminary plans from Blackwater include numerous improvements to the streetscape and alleys surrounding the parking deck to make it more attractive and pedestrian-friendly. Plans include the possibility for a waterfall, kiosks and a decorative wall near The Hound.
"We would have the majority of people outside, walking, just to create a sense of place," said Rich Wingo, senior developer for Blackwater. "I think it will be something special."
Blackwater Resources was responsible for constructing a popular development located in Orange Beach known as the Wharf, as well as numerous other properties throughout the Southeast.
A more detailed final agreement must go before the City Council later this year to be approved before the project can begin.
The term sheet designates the City of Auburn would maintain ownership of the property. Blackwater Resources will build, manage and lease the property.
During construction, the project would operate under a ground lease between the city and Blackwater. Once the parking facility is completed, it will remain under a ground lease for 60 years.
In other City Council news:
- Next week the City Council will discuss the possibility of increasing city-regulated wheel-locking fees from $25-$50. Councilman Brent Beard proposed the change, which is intended to make wheel locking a viable alternative to towing from cramped apartment parking decks.
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