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Orange Beach discusses Bama Bayou plans

ORANGE BEACH (AP) — Lawyers for Orange Beach and the 144-acre Bama Bayou project will discuss a revenue-sharing deal that could bring a convention center and hotel to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

The Orange Beach City Council has voted unanimously to pursue a 30-year arrangement with the Bama Bayou developers.

The deal would allow the city to recoup nearly half of the sales and lodgings tax collected at Bama Bayou and also to create a special district on the property so that additional taxes can be levied.

Bama Bayou, formerly known as Orange Beach Riverwalk, is an entertainment district being built on formerly city-owned land at the northern landing of the Foley Beach Express toll bridge.

The project is a collaboration between Orange Beach-based Joe Raley Builders and Mobile real estate conglomerate The Mitchell Co. Inc.

The developers plan to build hotels, condos, a Gulf World Marine Park, restaurants, shops, a convention center and marina on the property.

To finance construction, the developers have secured a $200 million allocation of the state’s low-interest Gulf Opportunity Zone Act bonds designated for hurricane recovery projects.

From the city, Bama Bayou’s builders want help paying off about $35 million of those bonds, which would be used for a 68,000-square-foot convention center, an affiliated 453-room hotel and another hotel with 208 suites near the development’s marina, according to a proposal from the developers.

The developers want Orange Beach to:

  • Rebate to them over a 30-year-period 2 cents for every dollar in sales and lodgings levies coming from Bama Bayou. Orange Beach collects a 3 percent levy on every sale and 5 cents on every dollar spent on lodging throughout the city.

  • Create a special district encompassing the development that will allow them to levy an extra 2 percent sales and lodgings tax there.

    Orange Beach deal

    Orange Beach has a similar 15-year deal, $25 million tax-sharing deal with developers of The Wharf, located across the Intracoastal Waterway from Bama Bayou.

    Though the city would be giving up about half the sales and lodgings tax revenue Bama Bayou would generate, city officials said it was a worthwhile concession if it leads to a successful convention center.

    “We’ve been looking at getting a convention center on this island for I don’t know how many years,” said Mayor Pete Blalock. “The majority of all the large conventions go straight to Florida out of Alabama. That is a crime.”

    The council looked into building a municipal facility next to City Hall that would serve dual roles as a convention center and civic gathering place, but the price tag — at least $38 million — was too high.

    The city also can’t put a hotel on the property, which city officials consider crucial, because of use restrictions placed on the land, Blalock said.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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