The very first site work on the 77-acre $350 million lagoon resort planned for Northport is meant to begin soon, their top elected official said Thursday.

Christy Bobo, the president of the Northport City Council, joined host Steve Shannon on 95.3 the Bear for an interview Thursday morning and offered one of the first updates on the notorious University Beach project since its scope was revealed in February.

As the Thread previously reported, the council surprised its constituents by suspending normal rules to hastily enter a public-private partnership with Texas developers that will transform what was originally pitched as a small, family water park off McFarland Boulevard and Harper Road near the existing Zaxby's, Big Lots and Tractor Supply store into something unrecognizably larger.

The new plans call for a water park with a lazy river and a slide tower, but add a standalone 12-acre beach lagoon that will allegedly offer a waterfall feature, cliff-jumping, a floating obstacle course, a concert venue, pickleball, paddleboarding and kayaking, rental islands, outdoor light shows and more.

A fully realized University Beach would also include around 64 single-family residences with a starting price point of $800,000 and higher prices for "beach"-front properties, two separate multi-story hotels and a slew of new-to-market boardwalk-style restaurant and retail options.


Basically nothing has been said about the project since the vote to enter the partnership passed. The silent spell is thanks in no small to the shocking resignation of former council president Jeff Hogg, who often presented himself as the architect of the water park idea, just two weeks after the council voted to grant a $60 million incentives package to bring University Beach to Northport.

Tuscaloosa Thread logo
Get our free mobile app

In her radio interview Thursday, Bobo said the city remains bound to the partnership they entered earlier this year and preliminary work on the resort may begin imminently.

"[Northport's] commitment does still exist and I have not spoken personally with the developer in weeks but the last thing I heard was that pre-construction would begin in June and we're right here around that corner," Bobo said.

She said that will include preliminary site work, including soil testing and surveying, and some work has already been done there.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

The council president said since she and her colleagues voted to enter the partnership in February, it's all systems go unless the developers change their minds or fail to meet contractually obligated timelines.

"I've looked over the contract I can't tell you how many times, countless times, and I don't see a way for the city to back out of it," Bobo said.

Bobo said she regrets how the council handled sharing information about University Beach but can't change how things played out.

"I think that the timeliness of the way that it happened is one of those things that I wish I could go back with my magic eraser and redo it," she said. "Unfortunately after we go through some things the first time we don't get a chance to redo them."

She said residents and constituents should have been better informed of how plans for the site grew and evolved over time and that moving forward, the Texas developers responsible for making University Beach a reality will hopefully be transparent about developments there.

"I would have liked to have had more information sessions but, you know, sometimes it's not possible when you're dealing with someone who is selling land," Bobo said. "The developer needs to and has committed to coming back down and having meetings with people who have questions."

Until then, Bobo said the city has its hands full combatting misinformation that often spreads on social media faster than elected officials can combat it.

"We have only received a preliminary presentation on University Beach from February 19th," she told the Thread. "Perhaps the most notable item that has been frequently mentioned, often inaccurately, is that a 'main entrance' could be built off of Harper Road. That information is not factual nor supported by the documents or plan that was presented to the city. The grand entrance is slated for the Highway 82 side of the project. According to our city code and the need for accessibility for Fire, there are three other access points on the Harper Road side of the project. Those are access points only and not main entrances."

President Bobo encouraged opponents of the resort project to learn more and give things a chance to develop.

For more updates on the resort as additional information is provided, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

Top Stories from the Tuscaloosa Thread (5/20 - 5/27)

11 of the Top Stories published by the Tuscaloosa Thread during the 21st week of 2024, which saw two children drown in separate cases.

Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

More From Tuscaloosa Thread