The Wharf Set to Transform Alabama Coastal Town

Tue August 16, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Beverly B. Nichols

With crews working seven day weeks since mid-February, construction of Phase I of The Wharf, a multi-purpose, community in Orange Beach, AL, is proceeding at a fast pace.

According to Beason Wilkes, director of development for AIG Baker of Birmingham, AL, the project’s developer, The Wharf will include 228 marine slips, four 11-story towers housing 741 condo units; 1 million sq. ft. (93,000 sq m) of retail shops; a 15-screen theater; a 10,000-seat amphitheater; restaurants; and a parking garage. The construction is planned in five overlapping phases.

“The Wharf will be a place that residents may never want or need to leave,” Wilkes said.

He added that the development, when completed, will cost nearly $1 billion.

Wilkes said the area’s building requirements are being met and that construction progress is of interest to the residents of that city.

Located at the juncture of Canal Road and the Foley Beach Express, The Wharf’s 223-acre site parallels the Intercostal Waterway, which runs into Mobile Bay to the west and Pensacola Bay to the east.

More than 50 pieces of construction equipment are currently at the site. Manitowoc and Case cranes hobnob with Cats, Kobelcos, Komatsus, Daewoos, Deeres, New Hollands and other machines and trucks, some in operation; others waiting in the wings.

According to Ralph A. Knauss, AIG’s senior project manager, the construction firm of R. P. Industries in Franklin, TN, is in charge of the site work. Site Supervisor Ricky Tipper oversees approximately 25 crew members. The various sub-contractors also will have staff and equipment at the site during their tenure.

An important aspect of Phase I was the excavation of the marina for which R.P. Industries was responsible. In addition to a Cat 235 excavator, 35 Cat artic off-road dump trucks were used. Knauss said the use of these trucks resolved a challenge posed by the excavation because they bend in the middle to receive or deliver loads. Also, the trucks move around the site quickly and maneuver well in small spaces.

Another early project involved the building of a sea wall which was sub-contracted to M&N of Alabama LLC. Robert Sherman, the company’s managing partner, said two 80-ton cranes — a Kobelco and an American —and a Case 6050 bulldozer were used for the installation, which took 27,000 linear ft. (8,250 m) of steel pile. M&N had 15 workers at the site.

Sherman said his company currently is capping the wall using 600 cu. yds. (459 cu m) of cement.

This company has completed a number of marine construction projects for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, including the Sportsman Marina in Orange Beach.

Another sub-contractor, Tennessee’s Ray Bell Construction Co, has begun work on the East Tower, which will house 190 condos. A Manitowoc crane holds the augers that are being hydraulically driven into the ground for the tower’s foundation. This tower is scheduled for completion in August 2006 and the West Tower in November of that year.

Another aspect of Phase I is the two-deck parking garage, which will have three levels, two elevators and space for 943 cars. Gary C. Wyatt Inc. of Birmingham, AL, will manage this project, which has not yet started.

Also, the contract for asphalt for the garage surfaces and roads has not been awarded. It’s estimated that 40 acres of that material will be required.

Although the construction is on schedule, Knauss said the weather had posed a problem, especially on a day in March when 23 in. of rain fell within a few hours.

“We implemented a plan which included digging drainage ditches to siphon off the water,” he said. “We were lucky to be able to excavate the marina and the earthwork required management techniques that helped us to maintain the schedule.”

Approximately 500,000 cu. yds. (382,000 cu m) of dirt has been moved, all of which will be recycled.

Knauss said the project is environmentally friendly. “We’re preserving 63 acres of wetlands. Nature walks will be included in the new community.”

Although construction of The Wharf is still in its infancy, the site already reflects a visionary image of the one-of-a-kind community it’s designed to become.

Work on Phase I is scheduled to be completed by Spring 2006. The development was designed by the firm of Volkert & Associates Inc. Foley, AL. Architects are Cooper and Carry of Atlanta, GA. CEG