Thursday, October 04, 2007

Gulf Shores - Envision Gulf Shores

Article as published by the Mobile Press Register

Wednesday, October 03, 2007
By RYAN DEZEMBERStaff Reporter

GULF SHORES -- With a sluggish demand for resort real estate, developer Shaul Zislin told the City Council that he plans to wait on building a mixed-use tower at the city's main public beach and put a restaurant there until the market improves.
Speaking to municipal officials at the council's Monday work session, Zislin said he still wants to erect the buildings that are central to the city's Envision Gulf Shores plan, but that it may be up to five years before the real estate market will support such an endeavor.
Envision Gulf Shores is a plan that aims to steer the redevelopment of the city's central Gulf-front into a pedestrian-friendly downtown with open spaces, hidden parking decks and shops and restaurants filling the bottom floors of condo and hotel towers.

Zislin, whose property sits at the city's main public beach at the terminus of Alabama 59, had planned to build a 32-story tower there with bottom floors filled with 90,000 square feet of retail and eateries, five levels of parking and upper floors holding 225 condo units.
Zislin said his market forecasts indicate that it could be four or five years before there are buyers for the condos in that plan, and in the meantime, he'll put a restaurant and bar on the site with a swimming pool and cabana area. Though specific plans for the restaurant have not yet been filed with the city, he said he wants to be open by March to cash in on the spring break crowds.
The site, a city block known as Gulf Place, formerly held a motel, jewelry shop, two restaurants and a pair of bars. Those businesses, largely wrecked by 2004's Hurricane Ivan, were torn down in 2005 after Zislin and his business partners, working as Beach Place Development LLC, purchased the land. It has sat empty since then.
Elected officials indicated that they were pleased to see something built at the city's focal point, though they said they hoped Zislin would move forward with his high-rise plans sooner rather than later.
"I'd much rather do the Envision plan," Zislin said. "I just need a buyer, or hundreds of buyers."
No matter how successful the restaurant may be, it won't provide enough to pay for the property and it won't be nearly as profitable as selling high-end condos, he said.
Probate Court records indicate that Beach Place Development LLC borrowed $13.1 million to buy the property from various owners in January 2005, though records indicate that the investors paid more for the various parcels than they financed.
"It's just putting Band-Aids on some wounds," Zislin said. "The minute there's going to be other opportunities there, it's a no-brainer."
Council members also said they wanted to make sure that Zislin's restaurant, which the developer said he would lease out to a separate operator, maintained a family vibe.
"We wouldn't want to get back into a situation similar to some of the types of businesses that were down there before that actually would prohibit or not be a welcome to families and young kids down there walking around," Mayor G.W. "Billy" Duke III said. "We need something down there, don't misunderstand me. We just need to know where we're going."
Said Councilman Philip Harris: "This has got the potential to be a first-class asset to us down there, but it also, from a management function, could end up as spring-breakers gone wild at Gulf Shores and we'll be on MTV if we're not careful about it."
Though Zislin said the restaurant would sell alcohol and may feature live music at night, he wasn't looking to recreate the rowdy night clubs of Panama City Beach at Gulf Place. He noted his plans to include a sandy children's play area near the pool.


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