After years of public input and planning, the City of Gulf Shores, Alabama, is moving ahead with a $15 million, multi-phase initiative to transform the city’s popular public beach, Gulf Place, into a regional destination offering a range of age-appropriate activities. The City hired TSW to re-imagine the public beach area, with particular emphasis on improving its connection to the city, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle safety and designing new facilities and greenspaces to serve the visitors while protecting the environment.
There were a number of challenges including:
- Gulf Place’s lack of community-oriented public spaces
- The separation of waterfront and town by a five-lane highway
- Inadequate and poorly-located parking
- Restricted Gulf views
- Poor pedestrian access
TSW created a four-phase Master Plan featuring a new waterfront town green as the centerpiece. A range of programming around the green includes an interactive water feature, shade pavilions, restrooms, an amphitheater and a berm wave lawn for lounging and play. The beachfront is linked by a wide promenade for walking and biking with gateways where the town’s street grid intersects the beach, creating Gulf views.
Phase I focuses on the western end of Gulf Place and calls for a new parking lot, a lifeguard headquarters building, renovated public restrooms, the beach promenade, dune restoration, a shade pavilion and a palm court. Subsequent phases will address the adjacent highway, adding a series of pedestrian-oriented modifications. Roadway lane widths and speed limits will be reduced. New pedestrian refuge islands and upgraded crosswalks at intersections will further improve safety, as will a protected bicycle lane and multi-use path.
TSW’s Master Plan includes improvements to preserve and enhance the Gulf’s protective dune system and sea turtle habitat, minimize runoff by reducing impervious surfaces and improve water quality by treating stormwater runoff with rain gardens and bioswales.
When work is completed by summer 2018, Gulf Place will be transformed into a beautiful and accessible beachfront public park where families can safely enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational options including swimming, picnicking, festivals, concerts, and more. Gulf Place will be fully integrated with and connected to downtown Gulf Shores to stimulate additional retail, commercial and residential growth.