Living, Working, and Playing on the Eastern Shore
story by Jim Hannaford
The Mobile Bay is a big factor. People want to live near the water, but not necessarily on the Gulf of Mexico itself, which poses a greater hurricane threat and has more tourists. “It checks a lot of boxes,” says Realtor Randy Niemeyer of the Ashurst & Niemeyer agency. “Low crime rates, good schools, and a warm climate as well as incredible arts and music. And property taxes are much lower than in other parts of the country. ”According to federal Housing and Urban Development numbers provided by the Alabama Center for Real Estate, Baldwin County saw 1,710 building permits in 2018 (for the months January through October), a 12 percent increase over the previous year. Other statistics for 2018 showed 6,845 residential sales in the county, up 4.3 percent from the previous year. The median sale price was up a bit, to $239,278, making Baldwin County the most expensive market in the state. And for good reason, says Sondra Blackwell of Blackwell Realty. “While most people think of our area as a vacation destination, there is so much more going on,” she says. “The Eastern Shore is alive and bustling, providing job opportunities, but it feels like a super-cool small town. People are not only moving here from all over the country, but from all over the world.”
For almost six decades, this triangular piece of property in the Montrose area was often swarming with people, but not since the iconic Judge Roy Bean’s watering hole burned down 13 years ago. The site’s new owners and developers hope to change that with an ambitious mix of commercial and residential development. Their vision is for Judge’s Square to become a new social hub. “Our hope is that it will be a gathering place, a destination that people will look forward to visiting,” says Ameri’ca Tickle, an accomplished artist who is half of the husband-and-wife team of developers known as Tickle Creative. Her husband and business partner, Jason Tickle, is a second-generation real estate developer who has come to embrace environmentally conscious New Urbanism practices.
A formation of shipping containers is a hip new attraction of casual restaurants and shops in Spanish Fort, and the operators say they hope it will keep folks on this side of the bay. The Fort opened recently at the top of the hill as the first “container park” in the area. There, purposed shipping containers now house the kitchens, prep areas, and a restroom for a funky mix of businesses. They include Beakers Coffee Shop/Sno Biz, Bleus Burger, Deuce Coop Chicken and Waffles, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Dragonfly Taco Bar, Happy Pizza, Soul Bowlz and Tap Station. Guests can gather in a comfortable common area with picnic tables. The hilltop setting offers nice sunset views toward Mobile Bay.