When the developers pitched the idea for a Southern Living-themed hotel on the banks of the Black Warrior River, it seemed like a fun idea at the time.
Billed as a $ 60 million project comprising a 120-suite hotel, a new restaurant developed by Birmingham restaurateur Chris Hastings and Tuscaloosa’s first TopGolf location, among other amenities, the response to the December 2019 announcement was largely positive and enthusiastic.
Then the world changed.
“When COVID hit everyone just took a deep break and breathed,” said Robert Blevins, director of the BAT Tuscaloosa development entity, “and then we decided to pivot.”
This transition led Blevins and his development team, which includes Tuscaloosa-based TTL Inc. as engineers and Ellis Architects for the design, to unveil “The Bend,” a multi-purpose project comprising traditional condominiums and spaces for families. retail stores, banks, restaurants and offices.
Overall, the estimated $ 90 million project is now expected to consist of seven separate buildings on nearly 13.5 acres with an overall expanse of 38 acres next to the Rice Mine Road Loop on the north bank of the river. Black Warrior.
“Every detail has been carefully analyzed to ensure The Bend improves Tuscaloosa,” said Mike Ellis, principal architect at Ellis Architects. “Professionals, empty nesters, families, retirees, alumni – all will find this community to be the perfect place, whether they are looking for a primary residence or a residence for the weekend and the holidays.
“The Bend will adapt to all needs. “
It will also incorporate the first privately funded section of the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk, the city’s multi-phase recreational trail.
Due to the topographical challenges along this section of the river, building the waterfront trail will prove too expensive, according to project engineers.
Instead, this section of the Riverwalk will line the eastern and northern parts of the site and follow Rice Mine Loop and Rice Mine Road, much like parts of the Riverwalk bordering Jack Warner Parkway now on the south side of the river.
“We are very excited about this property,” said Blevins. “We kind of think there won’t be anything like that in the city.”
While there are other mixed-use projects within the city limits, this is the first to combine high-end residential units – all 65 condos will sell for between $ 650,000 and over $ 2 million, according to government documents – next to a mix of shops, restaurants and offices.
Russ Taylor, director of BAT Tuscaloosa, said work is underway to identify commercial tenants, but construction approvals finalized by Tuscaloosa city council on Tuesday will help those efforts.
“What we are offering to the city, there is nothing like it in Tuscaloosa at the moment,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the company plans to launch development by the end of 2021 and have retail tenants in place by December 2022.
The 79 rooms contained in the 2 and 3-bedroom condos – which will not be marketed to students, officials said – could follow commercial spaces for around six months.
“These are definitely our goals,” said Blevins, “and one of the reasons we wanted to keep talented and local people involved.
“Now that it’s been approved, we’re taking care of it. “
This approval came at the request of City Councilor Norman Crow, who is in his first year representing this region of Tuscaloosa as part of District 3.
Crow said he particularly appreciates the developers’ willingness to incorporate the Riverwalk into their project and hopes it will serve as a catalyst for additional private investment nearby.
“This development is going to be really nice in the district,” Crow said. “It’s something that I really appreciate, the time you took to put together a really good project.
“It looks really good.”
Contact Jason Morton at [email protected].