As Troy University project draws near, Phenix City riverfront starts to take shape

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 23, 2013 

The puzzle that is the Phenix City downtown riverfront is about to take shape — and it is going to be dramatic and happen at a much quicker pace than it has in the past.

That was the message an educator, economic development official and real estate executive delivered to more than 100 people Tuesday night at the Chattahoochee River Club. Troy University, on the eve of opening construction bids for its new $10 million campus that will be across from TSYS, hosted the event to tell business and community leaders from both sides of the Chattahoochee what is about happen.

“This is not pie in the sky any more,” said Mat Swift, president of W.C. Bradley Real Estate Division. “You are going to see it happen, and it will change Phenix City forever.”

Construction has already begun on a 99-room, $12-million Marriott Courtyard hotel that will be just north of the revamped 14th Street pedestrian bridge. By October, the structure will begin to take shape and should open by late spring, said Mitesh “Matt” Patel, vice president and operations executive of Phenix City-based RAM Hotels.

The Troy campus will be built to the north, between the Marriott and the Riverview public housing project.

W.C. Bradley purchased the Phenix Plaza shopping center across Third Avenue just south of the 14th Street bridge. It has plans to redevelop the shopping center, which is where Whitewater Express, the lone commercial outfitter on the new whitewater course, is located. Plans call for a standalone store on the northern end of the property for Whitewater Express, Swift said.

The developers also plan to demolish the part of the center that fronts the river and refurbish the facade that fronts 13th Street and includes the Piggly Wiggly and Family Dollar stores.

But the Troy project is critical to pushing the revitalization, Swift said.

“All things relative, Troy’s commitment to the Phenix City riverfront is equal or better to that of Columbus State University to Uptown Columbus,” Swift said.

And today — when bids are opened and a contractor is likely selected — marks a new level of commitment from Troy.

There have been eight qualified bidders, said David White, Troy’s vice chancellor of the Phenix City campus.

“We are convinced all of the companies can handle the job,” White said.

The project will go to the low bidder. Troy’s only other option in the 44,000-square-foot structure would be to rebid, White said.

The building is the first of two phases that will move the entire Phenix City campus from its current location next to Chattahoochee Valley Community College off U.S. 431 South to the river. The second phase, which is four to six years off, will basically double the size of the building as it is extended on both ends, White said.

Troy plans to sell its current property next to CVCC to finance the completion of the riverfront projects.

Initially, Troy will relocate its college of health and sciences — which includes nursing, social work and human services classes — to the new campus. It will also bring its business school, which will offer a new bachelor’s degree in hospitality, sports and tourism management, White said.

“We think tourism here is going to take off,” White said. “And we are not talking about over the next decade, we are talking the next couple of years.”

Shaun Culligan, Phenix City’s economic development specialist, said the riverfront land between the 13th and 14th Street bridges is critical to setting the tone for what Phenix City is trying to accomplish. The northern most parcel of that is owned by the city and it is currently trying to put a restaurant on that property. The remainder is privately owned.

Phenix City is attempting to acquire land off the river for parking.

“We have multiple projects going on up and down the river,” Culligan said.

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