In perhaps their safest investment strategy since Nick Saban's last contract extension, the University of Alabama is leasing land in the heart of Tuscaloosa to develop a new Chick-fil-A, the Thread has confirmed.

As we reported earlier this week, crews have begun demolishing the old Alabama Fire College building in front of Bowlero and between Snow Hinton Park and the University Mall.

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The property is owned by the University, and at their request, the city rezoned the lot for Business Use last year so UA could lease the land to a developer for a new restaurant there.

On Tuesday afternoon, the University's assistant director of communications Shane Dorrill confirmed that the space will soon house a new Chick-fil-A.

"In Feb. 2020, the UA System Board of Trustees approved a lease agreement with Chick-fil-A, Inc., for a new restaurant with a drive-through to be built at the site of the old Fire College on McFarland Boulevard," Dorrill said. "Now that the city has rezoned the area for business use the old building is being demolished so Chick-fil-A can begin construction."

News of the lease slipped through the cracks at the time and progress on the project came to a screeching halt -- a few weeks after the Board vote, COVID-19 arrived in the US and changed everything.

UA's executive director of land development Rob Cooper wrote about the property before the vote in 2020.

"Many considerations for this Property have been contemplated by the University of Alabama but location and required investment have been a deterrent due to lack of adjacency to the University," he said. "As the property is adjacent to a major arterial corridor with high vehicle traffic volumes, the highest and best use for this Property is commercial or retail investment and most beneficial to the University as a ground lease."

Cooper said then that Chick-fil-A will pay to have the existing structure removed and this deal will allow UA to earn more than $100,000 a year in rent payments without investing any of its own money to improve the property but still maintaining ownership of a premium piece of real estate.

The lease agreement the UA System Board of Trustees approved allows Chick-fil-A to rent the property for 15 years with renewal options for another 40, which could see the restaurant use that space for 55 years and generate $8.5 million in revenue for the University.

The 2020 documents say the new development will be a full restaurant with a drive-thru window.

UPDATE: A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told the Thread Thursday afternoon that the location in development will be a relocation of the existing drive-through-only restaurant across the street, not a separate additional location. 

For updates on the new store and other exclusive restaurant and retail development stories, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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