FOLEY – A former convenience store site on U.S. 98 could become a key element in plans to develop the western section of U.S. 98 in Foley.

The city is sending out requests for proposals, or RFPs, on a public-private partnership to develop the lot on the southeast corner of West Laurel Avenue and Pine Street.

Wayne Dyess, city executive director of infrastructure and development, said the plan should extend downtown improvements to the west.

“We think it’s a good place to start with some revitalization on that side of town,” Dyess said. “Quite frankly, we’ve had a lot of interest in this. People who have heard about this have talked to us.”

He said city plans call for the building to fit into the Foley Historic District, which is just to the east of the property.

“The whole thought is taking a corner that’s been vacant with nothing on it and turning it into something that’s kind of an iconic building coming into downtown from the west and also producing property that fits in and also provides income and provides a sense of security because we’ll have more people in the area as well,” Dyess said.

The site is also across U.S. 98 from the city’s Pine Street Park, which opened in January. Dyess said having the building overlooking the site would provide additional security for the park. He said the proposal also calls for the new building to include public restrooms.

Dyess said one possible use for the property would be a mix of retail and residential development.

“The key thing is that we get a great project, but also one that fits in with downtown and blends with the current architecture and vernacular of the downtown area at the same time having new development, some fresh income-producing property there and also generating some foot traffic is important was well,” Dyess said.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said developing the site as a public-private partnership near the Foley Main Street District will be good for business and for the community.

“I think this is our western boundary of our Main Street and downtown,” Hellmich said. “Getting a viable business there overlooking our park with public bathrooms that would help us on that side of downtown I think would be really good to help that area and it might jumpstart some new businesses in the area.”

Under the proposal, developers would submit drafts of plans to Foley, Mike Thompson, city administrator, said. City officials would pick about three drafts and provide funding to allow developers to create more detailed plans.

The City Council would pick the best plan for the city. That developer could buy the property at a price that would cover the cost of the money paid to draw up the detailed plans, Thompson said.