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Spanish Fort Town Center - Mobile Bay, Alabama


Spanish Fort Town Center - Mobile Bay, AlabamaMoving 4 million cubic yards of dirt on a 260-acre site is not an easy feat. Designing and constructing a multi-use town center located in the area of greatest erosion hazard in the continental United States, increases the challenges and complexity.

Compound these existing site conditions with the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Hurricane Ivan hit the undeveloped site just prior to grading the site.

The development is Spanish Fort Town Center in the city of Spanish Fort, on the east side of Mobile Bay, along Interstate Highway 10 in Alabama.

R.A. Smith National began providing due diligence and site design services in 2004 for developer Cypress Equities. Four years later, the site has successfully been developed for mixed uses including retail, hotels, apartments and the potential for offices. Current tenants include Bass Pro Shops, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Circuit City, and La-Z-Boy. A grand opening celebration was held in fall 2008.

R.A. Smith National was awarded the site design contract for Spanish Fort Town Center after winning a grading design competition. Grading design was a significant challenge for the entire development as there was 170 feet of relief across the site. A distinguishable aspect of R.A. Smith National’s services was the ability to figure out how to get more developable area out of the site, keep the live creek and access both sides of the project. R.A.Smith National’s grading plan accommodated an additional 20 acres of developable area on a steeper portion of the site. This area was considered undevelopable for anything other than roadways by the competing firms, who also wanted to install culverts and fill the valuable creek-wetland area.

Obtaining regulatory approval to proceed with the development was contingent on the ability to provide extensive erosion control, based on soil types and a high level of precipitation in this area. R.A.Smith National responded to the challenge by preparing an extremely comprehensive Erosion Control and Best Management Practices (BMP) package that was easily understood and quickly approved by Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE). The initial submittal required an 85-page plan set that provided the specifications to ensure the site could be safely disturbed and graded. ADEM was very complimentary concerning the BMP package and said it was the best in the area.

Wayne Hooton, former construction manager of Cypress Equities, LLC, said, “The project was quickly approved by the reviewing agencies because of the environmental practices put into place by R.A.Smith National. Additionally, R.A.Smith National quickly gained the confidence of the local utilities i.e. gas, sanitary, tele-com, water and power and the permitting authorities by providing exceptional plan coordination and responsiveness.”

Other challenging aspects of the project included the preparation of an extensive environmental Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan; preservation of a creek, wetland and surrounding trees; design of seven stormwater detention ponds; and a water tower site.

R.A. Smith National’s ability to incorporate the preservation of a wetland into their site design was instrumental in gaining the City of Spanish Fort’s project approval. Hooton said, “R.A.Smith National proposed the design of bridges over the existing wetlands, preserving the stream that runs through the site. Other consultants that initially reviewed the project recommended that the wetlands be filled – a practice that would have been unacceptable to ADEM and USACOE.”

Extensive regulatory agency coordination further included Alabama Department of Transportation to perform grading work within interstate right-of-way and the Riviera Electric Cooperative for the relocation of high tension electric power lines through the middle of the site.

R.A. Smith National also provided visualization services in the form of numerous line-of-sight studies. Due to the grading challenges that the site presented, a comprehensive digital terrain model was created and used to assemble a series of line-of-sight animations and renderings that depicted the visibility of the various retail sites from a driver’s perspective. These exhibits helped the client make informed decisions on grading options and alternatives, which in turn helped to provide the best visibility for potential retail tenants. 

R.A. Smith National was able to address the client’s needs in a timely manner by quickly turning around site plan changes. John Farrow, senior project manager, Cypress Equities, said, “Due to the nature of retail development, there were numerous site plan changes. R.A.Smith National made changes on the fly to help stay ahead of the ongoing construction operations. They also provided valuable design suggestions that helped make the changes more economical.” Hooton said, “R.A. Smith National’s responsiveness on the Spanish Fort Town Center project was remarkable. I would certainly work with R.A. Smith National again and highly recommend their services.”

R.A. Smith National has provided site design services for more than 90 shopping centers nationwide including lifestyle centers, town centers and regional malls.


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