Orange Beach City Council Gives Thumbs Up to Riverwalk Proposal

Wed April 28, 2004 - Southeast Edition

ORANGE BEACH, AL (AP) Shark tanks, seal shows and other tourism activities could be part of Orange Beach’s proposed $85-million RiverWalk project, approved by the City Council.

The multi-use development is planned for 144 city-owned acres at the Foley Beach Express toll bridge’s northern landing.

Given City Council approval, the project will include 200,000 sq. ft. of retail space, a theater, go-cart track, water park, hotel and a Gulf World Marine Park, which features shark tanks, seal shows and swim-with the dolphins attraction.

Plans also call for more than 3.4 million sq. ft. of landscaping and preserved wetlands area, including a bird sanctuary. An environmental education center affiliated with Gulf World that will care for distressed marine mammals also will be on site, according to the plans.

Mayor Steve Russo said the project will allow the city to retain the sales tax dollars that are currently going to nearby resorts.

“The people here want something else to do other than go to the beach. This will provide entertainment for adults, for kids, the ability to shop,” Russo told the Mobile Register.

Russo also said RiverWalk would spur more development north of Intracoastal Waterway and along Canal Road, giving this Alabama resort more of a year-round economy like Destin, FL.

Developers of the project, headed by Joe Raley Builders, now must put the final touches on RiverWalk’s designs, complete traffic and parking studies and gain the necessary permits from agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before submitting final plans to the city.

Craig Johnson, a land surveyor with the Gulf Shores engineering firm Lucido & Oliver Inc., which is working on the project, said it would likely be three months before the final plans were ready to bring back to the council. At that time, developers would seek final approval to begin construction.