City agreement will expand space for new downtown hotel

Published 9:15 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

The City of Andalusia City Council voted Tuesday to enter into an agreement that allows for expanding space for a proposed downtown hotel project.

A development company is considering the Timmerman Building in downtown Andalusia for a boutique hotel in the future.

According to Mayor Earl Johnson, a hotel company interested in locating in the Timmerman Building — or former First National Bank building — said more space is needed if their operation is to be successful there. Additional space is available, but it required the execution of a Declaration of Condominium, allowing multiple parties to join together in the project.

The Declaration of Condominium, approved by unanimous vote of the city council, will provide additional hotel space on the two top floors of the Andala Building where Big Mike’s Steakhouse currently occupies the first floor. The two buildings will be connected by a closed-in skywalk. Currently, the city owns both buildings. Big Mike’s holds a lease for its location with an option to purchase the property in the future.

In January 2022, the city council and Covington County Commission entered into a development agreement that included the Capital Improvement Cooperative District, Big Mike’s and Wood Properties, the company planning to develop the boutique hotel. The agreement passed at that time allows for a limited lodging tax rebate and property tax abatement for the developer. According to Mayor Earl Johnson, all three parties — the city, Wood Properties, and Big Mike’s ownership — have agreed with the plan put forth in the condominium agreement.

“We entered into a contract with Big Mike’s for him to lease the bottom floor for a certain number of years with an option to purchase. Big Mike’s has to agree to what happens on the top two floors,” Johnson said. “We have a company now that wants to locate a hotel in the old bank building, but there is not enough room there to make it profitable; they need more space. That company has discussed it with Big Mike’s and they have agreed to allow the hotel to use the top two floors of that building, allowing them to have more space.”

With the condominium agreement, the city remains the majority owner of the Big Mike’s building, at least until Big Mike’s exercises its option to purchase it. If Big Mike’s proceeds with purchasing the Andala Building, the city would be removed from the condominium agreement at that time.

Johnson added that the hotel project would be an estimated $8 million investment, providing the city additional hotel space, as well as saving a significant and iconic downtown structure.

“The only way to make this work is to do a condominium agreement where all three parties have ownership interest in all of it. This fits our situation and allows all parties to know what they are responsible for, taking everyone’s interest into consideration. It’s the only way to make this deal work as far as the hotel is concerned,” Johnson said.

“This will be a boon for our downtown and will support our new park, Candyland, and all the other events we are working on to make Andalusia a destination city. We also have a lot of business people who come here who would love to stay here instead of having to drive to Crestview or Enterprise because all of our hotels are full,” Johnson said.

Other items discussed by the council included:

  • approving the surplus of three lots of property on Church Street for the purpose of building new homes, similar to previous city projects. The city has entered into a partnership with a local realtor and contractor for the construction and marketing of the homes. The Church Street lots declared surplus are 405, 407, and 409.
  • approving to replace the roof on the 121 Historical Central Street building. The two-story building is located next to the current Historical Museum in Andalusia.

Andalusia Director of Planning and Development Andy Wiggins said the building is in good condition, just needing a roof.

The council approved the project at a cost of $98,000.

  • approving a measure to add a position for a second Animal Control Officer. Police Chief Paul Hudson said the additional officer will provide better coverage and response to animal issues.
  • approving the purchase of two garbage trucks at a cost of $484,000. The trucks will be financed for three years through CCB Bank.

The next meeting of the city council is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Feb. 20, with a workshop at 5:30 p.m. and the regular meeting beginning at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.