Wintzell’s construction contract OK’d

Published 1:45 pm Monday, March 31, 2014

The Greenville Downtown Redevelopment Authority awarded a nearly $1.4 million contract Monday to a Mobile-based builder to construct a Wintzell’s Oyster House along Interstate Drive.

Rogers & Willard was awarded the contract and will have 140 days to complete the construction of the restaurant, which will be located on the site of the former Timberland Log Homes cabin. The completion date is contingent on the completion of the realignment of Interstate Drive to create sufficient room for the construction of the restaurant.

Rogers & Willard has previously constructed two other Wintzell’s Oyster House locations.

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Bill Lewis, chairman of the Greenville Downtown Redevelopment Authority, said the construction of the new eatery is another example of Greenville’s continued growth.

“Greenville is in a great spot between Birmingham and Mobile, and I think we’re going to continue to see growth,” Lewis said. “I believe the construction of Wintzell’s is another indication of that.”

In December, officials with the City of Greenville announced the Greenville Downtown Redevelopment Authority would purchase Wintzell’s Oyster House CEO Bob Donlon’s property along Interstate Drive for $325,000 and then construct the restaurant, which it will lease back to Wintzell’s Oyster House.

“Wintzell’s will pay monthly rent that is sufficient to pay the debt,” city attorney Richard Hartley said.

The city has also agreed to give Wintzell’s an incentive grant. It will allow Wintzell’s to keep 50 percent of the city sales tax the restaurant generates until it reaches $320,000.

“In this day and age, you’ve got to give people something to get them to bring their business to your town,” Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said. “That being said, I don’t really feel like we’re giving anything up. We’re going to own a very valuable piece of property. We’re going to own the building, and they’ll be paying for it. To start with we’ll be giving up 50 percent of the sales tax, but at some point we’re going to be getting all of that. I think this is a good move for the City of Greenville.”

In July of 2012, Donlon said he was looking for a developer to purchase his property along Interstate Drive, develop the site and construct the restaurant with the goal of leasing the property back to Wintzell’s Oyster House.

It’s a model Donlon said he has used with all but one of his 10 restaurants.

Wintzell’s Oyster House, which was founded in 1938 by J. Oliver Wintzell, has locations throughout Alabama and Florida. The eatery is know for fresh Gulf seafood, and was named in Willard Scott’s All-American Cookbook for the best oysters and crabs.

According to Donlon, Wintzell’s Oyster House would likely employ 125 workers at its Greenville restaurant.