January 8th, 2015 – Below is a summary of comments made by Nathan Cox, CEO of Battle Plan Capital and Bellator Real Estate, regarding the development of proposed condominium buildings in Orange Beach, Ascension and Grace.
Ascension and Grace are 2 condo towers that are going before the Orange Beach planning commission on Monday, January 12th. The project began sixteen months ago, when investors associated with the Gulf Coast Opportunities Fund decided to look for ways to monetize assets that were purchased in 2012 during the Great Recession. The GCOF is a private equity real estate fund that has purchased land from Panama City to Baldwin County, and it is exploring development opportunities to utilize these assets and improve the local area.
The proposed site for the Ascension and Grace tower projects is located at the end of Hwy 161 in Orange Beach, and is considered the Crown Jewel of the GCOF portfolio and the gateway to Orange Beach. The developers set out to do something unique and amazing that would be a cornerstone of not only south Alabama, but the entire Gulf Coast as well. For this reason, they engaged Forrest Daniel, most well known locally for his design of Turquoise Place in Orange Beach. “Turquoise has been amazingly successful—Yates Construction and Larry Wireman have put together a beautiful project,” said Cox. Cox’s goal from onset with this new project has been to meet or exceed everything that the Turquoise team has done with their development… and he says that with absolute flattery and admiration.
Developers approached the Ascension and Grace project trying to do something that was a step above what you would normally see in south Alabama. They originally bought 2 parcels totaling a little over 1,000ft. Their first focus was on the 150ft on the east side, which came with a 30-day deed restriction (meaning units could not be rented for any less than 30 days at a time). So, they designed a first class tower for buyers similar to those owning units in Turquoise, who are willing to pay over $1 million—they named this tower Grace. This tower is for second homeowners who don’t plan to rent out their units, or for owners who plan to live in the units full-time. Grace will hold 77 units, a mix of 3 units and 2 units per floor. The top 2 floors will have only one unit, over 6400 sq ft, 5 bedrooms, an office and a 12-person media room. “It’s absolutely crazy,” said Cox, “like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
The second parcel came with a 7-day deed restriction, so units in that tower (Ascension) must be rented for 7 days or more. This building is tailored more toward owners who will use and enjoy their units, but who can also rent them out for a week at a time if they choose. Interior units are 2700 sq. ft., and exteriors are just over 3700 sq. ft. The interiors have a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath layout, and the exteriors have 5 bedrooms and 5.5 baths. All units are slightly larger than those in Turquoise Place.
From a design standpoint, one neat addition is that the balconies don’t block the view from the main living areas. The amenities are a step above, too. There will be 2-3 story slides in the outdoor pools, on the Gulf side, indoor water slides, and a wrap-around lazy river on the 6th floor complete with a swim-up bar. In addition, the lobby area will create an atmosphere where families and friends can meet in an informal gathering place to watch football and spend time together.
The larger tower, Ascension, will be developed first, pending approval from the Orange Beach Planning Commission and City Council. Cox and his partners have stressed that their sole motivation from the outset has been to make this a first class project that is an asset to the community, with no cut corners. Traffic, parking and height are the three issues they’re facing. At 36 & 35 stories respectively, the towers are currently at the height that was required to meet regulations, address the city’s concerns, and still make an aesthetically pleasing design. Cox is considering adding an extra floor of parking, which will be a considerable expense, but he stresses that the developers want to be part of the solution and not the problem. Traffic is another concern, but Cox is being proactive with ALDOT and adjoining property owners to move toward a solution daily. Especially with regards to parking, he plans to overcompensate to avoid any problems at all and to keep this project something that will enhance the community, not hinder it.
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