And what it means for Mobile
The University of South Alabama Foundation’s mission is to support the University and its academic programs, through support of scholarships, faculty and academic programs.
The Foundation acquired 331 acres located between Mobile Bay and the Brookley Aeroplex in 2010. In 2012, we adopted a set of objectives for the property.
The objectives balance our legal duty to generate a solid return on the investment we made in purchasing the property with other important considerations that affect the Foundation, the University, the environment, and the Mobile community.
The objectives include:
- GENERATING a return on the investment
- PRESERVING wetlands that make up part of the site
- CONTRIBUTING to the economic development of the region
- PRESERVING positive relations with local stakeholders, like the City, the Chamber and the Mobile Airport Authority, among others
- DEVELOPING the property in ways that reflect positively on the Foundation and the University
- CAPITALIZING on the unique qualities of the Brookley site
- MINIMIZING future maintenance costs and capital outlays
From time to time, the Foundation has received indications of interest in the property from potential buyers.
Recently, a real estate development firm expressed a strong interest in acquiring and developing the property in an environmentally sensitive way that would further the economic development of the area.
The Foundation’s Investment and Audit Committee evaluated the options before it and has found that the objectives laid out for the property can best be achieved by entering into a Letter of Intent with a private developer who possesses the financial wherewithal to responsibly develop the property. That developer is 24/7 Development Partners of Alabama, LLC.
The Foundation’s Board of Director’s has accepted the committee’s recommendation. The buyer will conduct its own due diligence prior to an anticipated closing in roughly six months’ time.
Maximizing Return on Investment
It is our belief that, for a variety of reasons, the time has come to sell the Brookley property and realize a return on our initial investment. The purchase price of the property (less the 30 acres of wetlands and adjacent preservation area) is $45 million.
The sale of this asset, once it closes, will allow us to provide continued support to important programs at the University
Each member of the Foundation Board has a fiduciary duty to use all of the Foundation’s assets in furtherance of its mission to support the University and its academic programs. That means we are legally bound to achieve a good return on our investment in the Brookley property.
But we believe this legal responsibility does not preclude us from achieving other goals that are beneficial to the community.
Preservation of Wetlands
The Brookley property includes 30 acres of wetlands, directly adjacent to Mobile Bay. Such wetland areas are known to be important to the overall ecology of the Bay, inland rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Science has demonstrated that wetlands help purify water quality and mitigate pollution and other human effects. They also protect shorelines from wave action, protect fragile species, and reduce the impacts of flooding and sea-level rise.
We believe it is vitally important, therefore, that the wetlands be preserved and protected, whatever we do with the remainder of the property.
To further each of these goals, the Foundation will retain 30 acres of wetlands as well as about 10 acres on their periphery.
Both the 10-acre area and the wetlands themselves will be kept free of commercial development and could become the basis of a new, environmentally-friendly urban park in the future.
The prospective buyer of the Brookley property has also expressed their intention to substantially preserve shoreside wetlands on the property that lie outside the main Wetlands Preservation Area. Our combined efforts can ensure this significant and unique environmental asset is preserved and its important habitats protected.
Contributing to the Economic Development of the Area
The Foundation will contribute to the economic development of this area through the sale of the property to a qualified developer.
The developer with whom we are entering into a Letter of Intent is new to Mobile, but the principals have been actively engaged in Florida in significant development projects and throughout the United States. We believe that they will develop the property in such a way as to provide support to the Mobile Airport Authority in its ongoing expansion efforts.
The proper development of this property will bring new businesses to the Mobile area and encourage existing ones to expand. With light industry and a mixed-use approach, as envisioned by the prospective buyer, this 300 acre site can complement what is already a vibrant Brookley Aeroplex, located just seven minutes from downtown Mobile.
Preserving and Enhancing Relationships with Stakeholders
Because responsible development of the Brookley property provides opportunities for the economic development of the greater Brookley area, it will directly benefit the City of Mobile, Mobile County, the Mobile Airport Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and other stakeholders.
We are confident that, by serving as a catalyst for this development and by protecting the wetlands, the Foundation’s consistent history of positive relations with these key stakeholders will be maintained and enhanced.
Development That Reflects Positively on the University and the Foundation
The Foundation believes that the first-class development of the property and the strong commitment to preserve and protect the environmentally important wetlands will reflect positively on the University of South Alabama and on the Foundation, thus achieving another of the objectives we identified in 2012.
Minimizing Future Costs and Capital Outlays
By selling this asset now, the Foundation will be able to better support the students and academic programs of the University of South Alabama. The Foundation intends to explore possible funding mechanisms to enable any improvements necessary to best position the Wetlands Preservation Area to become an urban park, with public access to the adjacent area in the future.
Doing Our Duty and Helping the Community
The Foundation is confident that the path we have embarked upon, once it reaches its conclusion, can represent a win for everyone:
- The Foundation fulfills its mission and legal duty to maximize the return on its investment.
- The environment benefits from a Wetlands Preservation Area.
- The City and Airport Authority benefit from major private investment.
- The citizens of Mobile and the surrounding communities benefit from economic development, with new jobs and corporate tax revenues.