Like so many others communities on the coast, the City of Fairhope suffered economic injuries as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill, and the awarding of the RESTORE funding for our Working Waterfront project was contingent on economic development, resiliency and sustainability. This money had a very narrowly defined use, and our project was one that could benefit from and justify that usage.
We were excited to finally receive the grant award and start work on the project in Spring 2019. That process included convening a Selection Committee, the members of which were designated by a Council Resolution in September 2018. The extensive, three-month-long selection process ended with a recommendation to the City Council in August 2019 to hire a team helmed by engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood.
Work from September 2019-January 2020 centered around engaging the public in the process, a task started at the State of the City event the first week of February and followed up the next day by a community survey that was distributed to all residents for nearly six weeks. The survey was promoted through social media in which we received 25,000 views as well as a biweekly digital newsletter and Everbridge alerts.
The results of both of those efforts, combined with the results of a design charette in late February, to begin defining the scope of the project based on the input received. In early March as the COVID 19 pandemic became more of a factor, discussions with city leaders regarding the concept were unable to happen. In order to continue progress forward to meet grant deadlines, the concept was presented to the City Council for their input and feedback at the April 27th work session. That presentation was to go over a schematic for conceptual ideas based on community input and priorities as related to the Scope of Work for which the grant was awarded.
To speak directly to the Scope of Work: as defined in the approved grant application, that entails all project work related to improvements to the shoreline and bluffs along the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Fairhope, Alabama. The main criterion involves “improvements to the bay shore to insure resiliency, sustainability and human interaction of the City of Fairhope’s most precious resource: it’s waterfront. More specifically, this Scope of Work concentrates on the First Phase of the overall Working Waterfront and Greenspace Project –Fairhope Municipal Pier and South Beach Park Improvements.
The general project location can be described as the Fairhope Municipal Pier, the area containing the pier landing at the foot of Fairhope Avenue and the area to the south along the shoreline know as South Beach Park. The pier landing area is approximately 4 acres of land containing buildings, parking, a large circular drive, walkways, hardscapes, landscapes with a center oval median containing a prominent fountain surrounded by English styled rose gardens. This landing is the access point to the Fairhope Municipal Pier, a 1500-foot-long precast concrete pier projecting westward into Mobile Bay. This pier houses a marina on the northside, a popular restaurant at the midpoint, bathrooms and other amenities. Fairhope Municipal Pier host tourists, visitors, recreational fishermen, citizens and serves as the “Town Square” for all important activities in the life of the City of Fairhope. This landing is protected by a precast seawall along its shoreline radius.
South Beach Park is roughly described as a 5-acre linear park along the shoreline of Mobile Bay immediately south of the Fairhope Municipal Pier landing. Geographical elements of the park include approximately 600 linear feet of shoreline on the westside and the terraced green space along the center. There is 32 vertical feet of elevation difference from the east property line to the toe of the bluff. Most of the gradient (fall) is along the face of the bluff. The shoreline is comprised of 450 feet of bulkhead and 150 linear feet of sandy beach at the southern end of the property.”
This opportunity for economic and environmental resiliency related to the shoreline is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Where we are now in the conceptual process is a vision that was created with the input of the community. Everything we are doing has an opportunity for community input. We will never all agree 100% on what we want but if one chooses not to participate, I hope you will support what the community does.
In the vision for this park, an underutilized area of the park was identified and provides ADA access and ensures that the park will be there for generations to come. Most of the concerns have been parking, but none of the concepts reduce parking rather add at least seven extra spaces including more wheelchair accessible spaces.
This is one of the four RESTORE projects proposed in 2017 and approved in 2018. The money is not coming from the taxes, City & Utility or you the taxpayer. The projects will be paid 100% by RESTORE funds and can only be used for this purpose.
The Working Waterfront was awarded and will be funded by a $6.2M RESTORE Act Grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury out of the Economic Development bucket of funds. As the unofficial Town Center, this iconic location has been an active part of Fairhope’s history since its inception.
The purpose of the project is to make safe and user-friendly improvements to the 10-acre South Beach Park and Municipal Pier area to further enhance citizens’ use of the waterfront park facilities while ensuring the park’s long-term resiliency and sustainability.
When the grant application was developed in 2017, it was created with bluff stability, interaction with the bay, pier use for all citizens, and easier, safer accessibility for pedestrians as well an increased visual experience in mind.The other three RESTORE-funded projects totaling ~$12M focus on Comprehensive Land-use Planning and Sewer System improvements.
The $6.2 million grant award allows for the money to only be used for the Working Waterfront project. This grant is part of the RESTORE Act Direct Component Funds and is restricted to activities that promote tourism and economic development. The funds, though restrictive in nature, will provide invaluable assets to our City at no cost to citizens. The City recently received two additional RESTORE Act grants that are part of the Spill Impact Component. One grant for $10 million will rehabilitate the City's existing sewer system. Another grant for $650,000 will create a community-driven comprehensive land use plan for the City to address our rapid growth. The City is awaiting notice of award for a fourth RESTORE Act grant for $1 million to develop a plan to significantly reduce SSO’s on the entire Eastern Shore to improve the water quality of Mobile Bay.
Because of the project funding and location, there are certain environmental permitting requirements for this project. As the project transitions from conceptual to an agreed upon final design, an understanding of the level of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation will be determined. There are several variables in making this determination, along with other environmental permitting requirements, in conjunction with all applicable local, state, and federal agencies.
Based on the requirements of the grant funding for bluff stabilization and shoreline stabilization, the conceptual plan was developed with proposed improvements based on community input.
The improvements proposed to be made at the site were determined utilizing public input gathered at the State of the City meeting through a preferences exercise, a City-wide Project Input Survey and a weeklong design charrette with focus groups.
First and foremost, these are federal dollars administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The City of Fairhope had to follow the Code of Federal Regulations (2 CFR 200.317-326) as well as applicable State and City procurement policies. This process has been reviewed and approved by the U.S. Treasury and State subrecipient, Alabama Department of Conversation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).
By act of the City Council a Selection Committee for the RESTORE Act of 2012 Grant Project Contracts was established. The Committee was comprised of the Mayor of Fairhope, a City of Fairhope Council Member, the Public Works Director, the Planning and Development Director, the Public Utilities Director, and the Director of Economic and Community Development. Additional Support Staff included the City Treasurer, Purchasing Manager and Purchasing Administrative Assistant. The process was as followed:
- RFQ PS010-19 Engineering Services for Working Waterfront and Greenspace Project ADCNR Grant # M1A14-FHWW (RESTORE ACT) was advertised (see details below).
- Responses to the RFQ were distributed to the full Committee with associated Score Sheets based on advertised criterion.
- Committee met to score and rank all respondents. Committee confirm top half of the scoring respondents and Purchasing set up in person interviews/presentations.
- In person Interviews/presentations are made by 4 highest scoring respondents. The CFR200 requires for Engineering Services a discussion of professional fees and that will be a consideration in the final selection.
- Committee scored and rank 4 interviewed respondents. Purchasing tabulated scores and the Committee selected a final candidate for Engineering Professional Services to recommend to City Council.
- City Council authorizes by Resolution the Mayor to execute the Contract for Engineering Professional Services to the selected Firm.
- Contract is executed and Services (Project) begin.
The RFQ was publicly advertised from June 3, 2019- July 9, 2019.
Total Phase 1 Project Grant Funds - $496,766.00
Engineering Design Fees - $418,766.00
Other Engineering Fees - $78,000.00
The team includes GMC, Christian Preus Landscape Architecture, South Coast Engineers, LLC, Barter & Associates, LLC, Ephriam Environmental, LLC, The Nature Conservancy.
Main components of the proposed activities include stabilization of the steep bluff which will make the majority of the bluff a use-able part of the park, a new sand beach area with jetties for storm protection, rehabilitation of the existing parking facilities and circular drive, improvements to the pier, the addition of green-space terraced steps and gallery style seating, new restroom facilities and pavilions, and intersection improvements at the park entrance.
As of May 2020, we have finalized the conceptual plan for the project which has involved the expertise of professional engineers from a variety of disciplines, key city staff and elected officials, an independent steering committee representing a cross-section of the community, and state and federal funding agency representatives. The City of Fairhope is proud to be the first municipality in the State of Alabama to be this far along in the implementation phase of a RESTORE Act funded project. Under the direction of Mayor Karin Wilson's leadership as an active member of the Alabama RESTORE Act Council, Fairhope has received nearly $17 million in RESTORE Act funds and has received the most awards of any municipality so far.
No. The parking in the conceptual plan actually increases the parking at that site while also increasing the walkability of the site, making it more pedestrian friendly and ADA compliant.
The configuration has been changed to maximize human interaction with the park. Future parking is arranged to maximize the useable green space along the water’s edge north and south of the pier entrance for people. The new plan places a greater emphasis on human environment rather than the automobile, better fitting the goal of the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation to allow citizens access to the water and greenspace.
The new plan improves without any obstruction and makes more parking spaces available for sunset views.The booth that is currently at that site will be relocated to the north of the parking area if park fees remain for North Beach.
There will be more handicapped parking that is fully compliant with ADA Standards in the new plan, making the entire setup more accessible for all. The new plan includes a safe drop off area at the entrance.
For more information, contact the City of Fairhope at 251-928-8003 or email workingwaterfront@FairhopeAL.gov.
“We hear you and want to assure citizens that you will be a part of refinements and additional input until the vision and mission is adopted by our community. The goal from the beginning and continues to be community- engaged plan to ensure this iconic park is enhanced and protected for generations to come.
I hope everyone can look at this as an opportunity to come together as a community to discuss what we love, ideas to improve and come together in a positive manner to put together the very best plan to serve citizens and protect this iconic park for generations to come.
The money funding four projects totaling $18M is not coming from the City, Utilities, or you. All four are being paid 100% through RESTORE funds and can only be used for this purpose.
Most of the $18M awarded will be used for sewer rehabilitation to improve the health of our Bay. Our future must include your voice and my door is always open.” -- Mayor Karin Wilson