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Trio of Developers Plan Huge Resort in Bon Secour

Aug 23, 2004 ...

A Birmingham developer is looking for Alabama contractors, subcontractors, vendors and suppliers to help build a $500 million resort community near Gulf Shores.

Near the tiny Baldwin County fishing hamlet of Bon Secour, made famous by legendary Meme's seafood restaurant, Bon Secour Village is a huge endeavor that will feature retail, homes, condos, a marina, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, resort hotel and conference center. It will be tucked into a 1,000-acre parcel of land, just east of where the Alabama Highway 59 bridge traverses the Intracoastal Waterway and leads into Gulf Shores.

The first phase, totaling $75 million to $80 million and projected for completion by mid-2006, includes a town center with 100,000 square feet of retail space, 400 condos and lofts, 200 houses and a 60-slip marina. The timetable for the community stretches over the next 20 years. Co-developer Clint Guthrie of Birmingham-based Guthrie Development wants his project in the hands of builders, vendors and suppliers who live in the state.

"This is a project that is foremost for Alabama and by Alabama," Guthrie says. "We're not bringing the national guys in. We want to keep it local." So far, he has chosen Birmingham general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie LLC to handle the majority of construction. But he is shopping for vendors and suppliers and contractors - large and small - that have Alabama in their addresses.

"We'll look at anything anybody has," Guthrie says. "You just never know. You may get someone who specializes in a little niche that gives the flavor national places don't."

The Alabama connection There's plenty of Alabama in the development team that comprises Harbor Bay Resort LLC: Former Alabama resident Rick Skelton, owner of Skelton Development in Atlanta, and Eddie Canady of Midnight Properties LLC in Cullman.

As an example of what they have planned, Guthrie cites Mt. Laurel, EBSCO Development Co.'s self-contained, walk-anywhere community in north Shelby County, which was designed by Andrés Duany, whom they hired for Bon Secour Village. Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. also designed Seaside and Rosemary Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Mt. Laurel and Bon Secour Village "are both traditional neighborhood developments where the town center, the retail and restaurants are in walking distance of the homes and condos," Guthrie says. "They are both walking, self-sustaining communities. Bon Secour Village is a much larger scale and will have a more active waterfront."

Guthrie, Skelton and Canady envision a town where residents and vacationers can stroll everywhere, wandering along sidewalks lit by gaslights reminiscent of New Orleans' French-accented architecture.

At the heart of the village is a stretch of homes along a boardwalk fronting the Intracoastal Waterway, with the marina, shops, cafes and restaurants nearby. Several two- to five-story buildings will have retail on the ground and condos and loft apartments above.

"We want it to look like an old town that grew up over time, like it evolved over the last 100 years," Guthrie says. "We don't want to make it look Disneyesque."

Dredging has begun

The marina, currently being dredged and with the first part of the project to break ground this fall, will accommodate 60 boats near the Highway 59 bridge. Construction begins this winter on homes, condos and the retail space.

Guthrie, 32, is no stranger to resort development. With a resume that includes experience as an investment adviser, a gas well-driller in Wyoming and a builder of cell phone telemetry systems, Guthrie joined Canaday of Cullman's Midnight Properties to develop the 30-story and 10-story Waterpointe Resort Condominiums in Panama City. In summer 2003, as Guthrie was crested the Intracoastal bridge while heading north from Gulf Shores, he spotted a handsome stand of hardwood trees.

He tracked down the owner of the land and found that it was not for sale - not then, anyway. A year later, Guthrie and his partners bought the 1,000-acre tract of land.

"I saw this as an opportunity to create something without all the riff-raff and bad side of some of Destin and Panama City, and create something more geared to families," he says.

Bon Secour Village isn't the first development announced for the Intracoastal Waterway, a canal about a mile inland from the Gulf of Mexico that allows safe passage of barges. The area is about to boom with similar projects. Birmingham-based developer AIG Baker plans The Wharf, 200 acres in Orange Beach that will include a marina, retail, hotels and a Rave movie complex. It will sit across the canal from RiverWalk, a 144-acre development that will include a Gulf World marine park, hotel, theater and other attractions.


American City Business Journals

Gilbert Nicholson Staff

Published: August 23, 2004




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