FOLEY – While Alabama 59 is part of the core of Foley and the main corridor to one of the Southeast’s major tourist destinations, the area is changing as South Baldwin and the economy evolve.
Foley planners are studying those changes and looking for ways to guide that development. The city is updating its comprehensive plan, Foley Forward. Planners have already conducted studies on the four quadrants of the city and are now working on the Alabama 59 corridor through the heart of the community,
Brandon Bias, a community planner with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, which is working on the study, said the highway area is a unique part of the Foley.
“We’ve done the four quadrants, now we’re looking at Highway 59 by itself,” Bias told a meeting of Foley city officials and planners Tuesday, Dec. 12. “ When you divide a city into fourths, into quadrants, you can’t really look at one side of the road or the other. You have to study them collectively together.”
He said Alabama 59 is important not only to Foley, but the entire region.
“When you think about Highway 59, you have a major road that runs through the middle of your community that serves arguably one of the biggest tourism destinations in the Southeast,” Bias said. “So, you’re part of a collective. How do you function within that group?”
He said 469 people have responded to the survey asking their thoughts on the corridor.
One change recommended by many respondents includes improving traffic and the road infrastructure. Safety and accessibility were other recommended improvements.
Bias said that while the road goes through the center of Foley, Alabama 59 is a state highway, maintained by the Alabama Department of Transportation. The city, however, does control the uses along the roadway, he said.
“Highway 59 is an ALDOT road. They are a partner as part of this process” Bias said. “They have control over the road itself, but, as a community, you have input specifically on the things that surround that road, the zoning, the land use, development regulations.”
Other recommendations by survey respondents included aesthetics and commercial development, local services and amenities – including encouraging more local businesses on the highway and protecting the environment.
Asked their vision for the future of Alabama 59, respondents said they would like to see improved traffic management and more beautification work.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety was another issue for many asked about the future needs of the highway.
Bias said that while Alabama 59 is one road extending through the city, the corridor is different in different areas of Foley. On the edges of the city, some areas are still rural agricultural areas. He said zoning and land use policies would be one way to keep that area from being overdeveloped.
The area around South Baldwin Regional Medical Center was recently designated a medical overlay district by the Foley City Council. Bias said the district could encourage the growth of medical development in that area and protect some nearby older residential areas.
“That helps encourage uses that are going to be consistent with what happens there at the hospital.” Bias said. “This was a really good step. The idea too uses that as a tool to help protect these neighborhoods over here in this northwest quadrant and kind of help encourage some of that medical development and stretch that across 59 to the other side.”
North and south of downtown are older retail areas that have changed as Foley has grown.
Bias said some of those areas could be candidates for development that might better use some of the available property.
The commercial area between Azalea Avenue and Michigan Avenue was developed with several shopping centers in the 1960s and ‘70s. Many of those original retail centers have been replaced by other stores that do not need the extensive parking lots constructed for the original facilities.
“You have some older evolution of retail, several of these early iterations of big boxes,” he said. “These parking lots are grossly oversized for what those uses are now. That’s a product of what we thought was needed to plan on parking for Black Friday years ago.”
Bias said one possible use for some of these sites would be to add additional buildings, including mixed commercial-residential developments, on some of the property that is now unused parking lots.
He said that when Foley respondents were asked about such a plan in one survey question, 75% approved of the proposal.
“I was not really expecting this level of response, this level of positivity about these, because I knew they were a little progressive, but we wanted to get the temperature of the community in understanding about how we think about redevelopment in the future,” Bias said.
Residents can still express their opinions about what they would like to see along the Alabama 59 Corridor in Foley. Comments can be made at www.foleyforward.com.
Wayne Dyess, Foley executive director of infrastructure and development, said city officials and planners want to know what residents would like to see in Foley.
“If you go to a place that you like and you feel comfortable in, look around and start trying to figure out why,” Dyess said. “It’s aesthetics. It’s a sense of enclosure. All these things that you might not identify right there, but as you think more about it, you start understanding more about why they’re nice and bring that here.”