Last week the Final Envision plan was rolled out and some special people announced their plans and told of their reasons for investing in Downtown Foley. The process brought many groups and people together and helped to consolidate and expand on ideas and plans. It is a significant starting point— even if the directions contained in the Envision Downtown Foley document are only 70 percent on target, it’s enough to advance the discussion and narrow the range of possibilities dramatically. This strategy plan is a beginning, not an answer.
The entire Downtown Foley Strategic plan, the abbreviated strategic plan, the market study as well as the market survey results can be found on Foley Main Street’s website: FoleyMainStreet.com under the Business Development tab and the Library tab. Also created in the process were the Market Snapshot and a local survey called At a Glance.
MARKET SNAPSHOT GIVES A LOOK AT MARKET POTENTIAL
From the Market snapshot we can study the movement of people and cars within our area. The center of the area to measure drive distances was the intersection of McKenzie Street and Laurel Ave.
And the study reported what we all know that we have high volumes of traffic traversing downtown Foley offering exposure for existing and potential businesses, but also limit pedestrian movement, access, and interactions within the environment. The market snapshot can be found at https://www.foleymainstreet.com/resources-for-business-development/
Foley is experiencing dramatic growth. The market appears strong, and ideas advanced for downtown Foley shows potential to gain market share from a local base, from Baldwin County, from the workplace market, and from seasonal residents and visitors to the area.
Some key indicators of market potential, as captured for the five, ten and twenty-minute drive time areas, show or anticipate:
— Continued growth in population and households at rates generally four to five times higher than those projected for the state of Alabama.
— The largest increase in daytime population (20.6%) occurs within the five-minute drive time area.
— Overall, retail and food service establishments in the drive time areas are effectively “pulling” sales from consumers living outside the area, a likely reflection of the seasonal resident and visitor markets’ impacts.
LOCAL SURVEY RESULTS
The Envision Downtown Foley survey results offer some of the most valuable insights regarding market potential input from more than 900 survey respondents demonstrate demand and profile opportunities for new and expanding eating and drinking places and retail establishments for Downtown Foley. The top three choices for eating and drinking establishments were: Brewpub, Breakfast/Brunch and Full Service. The clear winner in retail was Specialty Foods garnering a 41.8%, with Vintage Market and Women’s Clothing coming in with each less than 20%. 44% respondents described recent trends in Downtown Foley as improving or making progress. With this survey being held the year after COVID, we were very encouraged with these results. We also found 44% of the survey respondents were people interested in living downtown. Overall, 78% of respondents surveyed are very or somewhat likely to recommend Downtown Foley to friends and family as a good place to live. The 64 page detailed survey results can be found on the Foley Main Street website under the Library tab. You can find the At a Glance Survey Results here: https://www.foleymainstreet.com/resources-for-business-development/.
DIRECTIONS – A Logical Starting Point
As a broad initiative lending energy to downtown as a whole, is enhancing the pedestrian environment for Downtown Foley: The 5-minute walk. Overlaying a five-minute walk radius on Downtown Foley shows that downtown, despite issues of traffic on its two major roads, can be quite walkable. Downtown is not intended to be a place to store cars. Finding a proper balance between human activity, buildings, and the utility of parking is key. Guides for an evolving Downtown Foley were identified:
— A downtown is the place where the greatest number of activities occur in the smallest geographic area.
— Traffic is the lifeblood of downtown but the experience of a downtown really happens once a car is parked.
— People will walk if the environment is made safe, interesting, and engaging.
— Downtowns need visible pools of human activity.
— Streets are the great public space of downtown; people and buildings are the two greatest factors in bringing them life.
— Like an ecotone, some of the most intense human activity in a downtown occurs at its margins.
— Downtowns are about evolution, not revolution.
The distance from the nearest non-accessible parking space to the front door of the local Target store is a 30-second walk—people do it every day. So people will walk, and a downtown is far more interesting than the Target experience. With even minor interventions—shade trees, flowers, interesting storefronts and signage, and street lighting at night—people will walk much longer than 30 seconds to reach their destination, even discovering new destinations along the way.
Projects were laid out in the plan depicted align with fundamental ideas, guides for an evolving Downtown Foley, and the broad initiative of enhancing the Downtown Foley pedestrian environment. Some of the projects included were: Courtyards and Gardens, Alleyways and Retail, Kiosks, the Rose Trail Extension, Housing, Social Streets, and more. Each project was framed using visuals and an outline of the project. Some of these projects have already been or are being worked on through previous plans and the city’s comprehensive planning. This process helped combine and define.
Supporting actions were identified and will serve as a good starting point and guide for discussion, planning, and next steps. The list of ideas and proposed actions is not prescriptive nor exhaustive. In the short term, other ideas, projects, and initiatives are likely to grow out of this planning effort. So, too, the scope and nature of downtown development, district enhancement, and business development efforts will undoubtedly change over time as implementation steps are taken, and as new opportunities emerge. To see the complete Envision Downtown Foley plan go to https://www.foleymainstreet.com/resources-for-business-development/ Sponsors for the Envision Plan were: City of Foley, Main Street Alabama, South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, Vita Bruno, C-Spire and Thompson Engineering.
After the rollout. Property owners shared their recent investments and dreams. Tim Lower bought the old Onlooker Building at 217 N. McKenzie Street. He has already leased it to the Southern Shores Coffee who are planning on expanding their hours and menu which will include beer and wine.
Frances Holk-Jones shared her pride in improving the old Foley Hotel on the corner of N. Alston Street and W. Laurel Ave. She has freshened up the hotel with new paint, clean bricks, new windows and beautiful black awnings. Daniel Cox and Marti Webster have been breathing new life into Scuttlebutts with a new air ventilation system, and some of the old fun. They have leased the rest of the building and have plans to open a non-smoking speakeasy with a wonderful patio on the side and in the back. With lights hanging from their oak tree. Daniel and Marti’s latest news is that they have a deal in principle to purchase the Foley Coffee Shop at 213 N. McKenzie and plan to keep the name and expand the business. Our newest family members are Tim and Alexa Lipe who have bought the lot next to the Fortis college property on Laurel Ave. in Downtown Foley and are in the design stages of their dream Brewery.
“There is so much happening in Downtown Foley,” Chad Watkins, Foley Main Street President exclaimed. “ Foley Main Street was accepted into a Community Growth Accelerator Program because of the work we did through the Envision Downtown Foley process. We have pocket parks and rose trail extensions, an alley activation and more property projects in the works. There will be more announcements soon. Stay tuned and join us!”