Fairhope Working Waterfront plan nearing completion

Plan includes lift instead of ramp on South Beach bluff

By Guy Busby, Government Editor, guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 3/23/22

FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope City Council should vote in April on final plans for the Working Waterfront that include a lift to bring passengers up the bluff but few other major changes, planners and city officials said.

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Fairhope Working Waterfront plan nearing completion

Plan includes lift instead of ramp on South Beach bluff

Posted

FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope City Council should vote in April on final plans for the Working Waterfront that include a lift to bring passengers up the bluff but few other major changes, planners and city officials said.

April is the city's deadline to have bid-ready documents completed to be eligible for a $6.2 million RESTORE grant to finance improvements on South Beach and the Municipal Pier.

City Council President Jimmy Conyers said the plans reflect the opinions of many residents not to make major changes to the waterfront area and pier.

"I think the plans being presented is really taking this back to very similar to what's already out there," Conyers said. "I think that was the feedback from the community, not to change it, but it definitely needs to be updated some. We've got the bulkhead repairs that definitely have to be made and I think anyone who's walked down that sidewalk and knows the height change on the curbing. There's a lot of improvements that need to be made there."

Scott Hutchinson of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, told city council members on Monday, March 14 that plans are ready, but the council will need to make final decisions on some details.

"The overall plan here that we landed on several months ago was to keep everything very similar to what it is and not make any drastic changes and that's what we're sticking with," Hutchinson said.

A ramp on the South Beach bluffs proposed in earlier meetings to make the site more accessible for handicapped visitors has been removed. The new plan calls for a lift on rails to be placed near the South Beach bluff stairs.

"It's kind of an open-air gondola-looking thing, but it sits on a rail and goes up and down," Hutchinson said. "It's essentially an elevator laid on an angle. It's got all the proper equipment in it for public use, just like a public elevator would be and all the safety equipment and things like that. We're doing that instead of a ramp."

At previous meetings, some residents had objected to the effect that a ramp or other changes would have on the bluff. Hutchinson said the lift will not have as much impact as other proposals intended to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"It essentially takes up the same footprint that a set of stairs will take up," Hutchinson said. "It's on a rail system that will probably have a support on top, a support in the middle and a support at bottom and a very low impact as far as affecting the bluffs is concerned. This would have less impact than even a set of stairs would."

He said the council will have to decide what type of gondola will be installed.

Another decision for the council is the design for the entrance to the Fairhope Pier. Several proposals were placed on social media where residents were asked to express their opinions. Officials said opinions were split with no one design receiving a clear majority of votes.

Other changes to improve accessibility include modifications on Fairhope Avenue leading to the pier. The height difference between the sidewalk and street will be reduced, he said. Plans also call for work to improve traffic and pedestrian flow near the pier.

The fountain will be replaced. Hutchinson said the current brick fountain leaks and a new cast structure will be put in its place. The new fountain will be slightly smaller than the model now in place.
Hutchinson said the bulkhead south of the pier will be replaced by a seawall. "It's a real heavy block wall that will stay there through storms rather than a wood or vinyl bulkhead," he said.

Fairhope, Working Waterfront, plan. bluff

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