Mobile’s waterfront was always a feature kept at arm’s length from actual residents, who had to peer across railroad tracks, cranes, stacks of cargo containers and State Docks buildings to actually see boats moving up and down the Mobile River. They could go under it — using the Port City’s tunnels — or overlook it from a skyscraper, but save for a sliver of public space at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, access has always been at a premium.
That now looks to be changing, and the peaceful refrain of the Otis Redding classic “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” might have been on the minds of some Aug. 16 as developers broke ground for Meridian at The Port, a $51 million project to construct 267 luxury apartments and a variety of high-end, private amenities where the city began. It’s billed as a genuine game-changer and downtown’s largest private development in decades.
The site is pure Mobile, the longtime location of a former Delchamps grocery warehouse, sitting on 4 acres of land a stone’s throw from living, breathing operations of one the nation’s busiest ports. Its arrival coincides with city efforts to make downtown in general, and Water Street in particular, a more visitor friendly and walkable experience.
Stewart Speed, of Leaf River Group, and Sam Yeager, of Bristol Development Group, represented developers at the groundbreaking, joined by Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Mike Rogers of construction managers Rogers & Willard, Councilman Levon Manzie and Commissioner Jerry Carl.
Meridian at The Port is estimated to eventually draw about 400 residents to its studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rents could range between $1, 000 and $1, 800 a month, planners have said. Mobile’s last big downtown residential development, the 148-unit Tower On Ryan Park, was built in 1950. Seeing the economic value of more downtown residents, the Mobile City Council gave it a $4.5 million tax credit.
The residential component of Meridian at The Port will be complete in 2019.
Text by Dave Helms