ROSWELL, Ga. – Lennar Southeast Division President Christopher Cassidy had a tough audience at the March 21 community meeting about his company’s plans to raze and rebuild the aging 152-unit Frazier Street Apartments complex with more than double the units and more than double the rents.
Proponents of the plan see it as a huge step in revitalizing the city’s downtown. Cassidy points to the city’s trendy Canton Street a half-block away as a major reason for building 318 units on 10.5 acres that front the City Hall complex on the Norcross Street side of the property.
The $14 million development would give the tax digest an enormous boost. Where the current apartment complex generates about $100,000 in property tax, the Lennar project would generate between $400,000 and $700,000 in property tax.
The proposed complex would attract a higher end tenant due to the new apartments’ concierge services, upscale appointments and finishings and most importantly, their proximity to Canton Street’s nightlife about 70 yards away.
It would also be built under the Groveway zoning overlay, so it would conform to architectural design restrictions and approval by the city Design Review Board. The plan would reduce the footprint to five buildings, but they would be three stories not the current two stories of the Frazier Apartments.
At the meeting, around 40 to 50 residents attended to find out how the redevelopment would affect their quality of life and property values.
Immediately, attorney Ralph Barker stood up to say he was representing 15 “refugee families” who live in the Frazier Apartments, including six people newly arrived from Iraq.
He said it was “not fair ethically” for these families to be forced out (it will be more than a year before tenants must move), and asked if Lennar planned to provide any rent subsidies for families or pay moving expenses.
“There is also an established Hispanic community that is being destroyed,” Barker said.
Cassidy said the company has not addressed that issue yet as it has not closed on the property. That will come after the city approves the rezoning.
“But I do know that all the leases for the last several years have a 30-day termination notice. They also provide forgiveness for half of the last month’s rent to help pay moving expenses,” Cassidy said. “But June 2014 is the earliest we can break ground.”
Barker also wanted to know if 20 percent of the units could be set aside for affordable housing clients. But Cassidy said the Lennar apartments will be mostly one-bedroom and designed for young professionals and empty-nesters.
“The current apartments are designed for families with two and three bedrooms. It would not be conducive to satisfy large families,” Cassidy said.
Others were concerned with the three-story structures. They were concerned these buildings would look down into their back yards. Cassidy said the Lennar buildings would mostly line the street frontage of Frazier and Norcross streets.
“We will push these buildings to the front of the property to give it true streetscape and allow for more curb appeal,” Cassidy said. “Parking would mostly be in the rear of the property where a vegetative screen would screen it from the neighbors.”
Residents also wanted to know if the streets were to be widened, but Cassidy said no.
“They will be widened only in the sense that we will have parallel parking in the front of the buildings. But the parking spaces will be carved out of our property. It won’t affect the width of the current streets,” he said.
A big issue on Norcross Street especially is traffic, and residents wanted to know how Lennar would handle around 500 residents leaving the Lennar complex each morning.
Cassidy said Lennar’s traffic study done by Kimley-Horn shows “negligible impact” to the current traffic patterns. While there will be twice the units on the property, the number of people living there will be about the same.
“There are about 450 people living in the Frazier Apartments now,” Cassidy said. “We won’t have much more than that because many of our tenants will be single. We don’t anticipate many children living there.”
The city will also review the traffic study and its conclusions on the effects on traffic patterns. That did not convince many residents.
“Most of the people who live there now don’t have cars,” one resident said.
At least one resident there was ready to praise the project. He said it was good to see the area get some revitalization. His concern was about the commercial property between Frazier Street and Atlanta Street (Ga. 9). He wanted to know if that would get a new look also.
Cassidy said that Lennar does not control that property. It is empty now, but its location between the proposed Lennar project and Canton Street’s vibrant success would have to receive a lot of scrutiny for redevelopment.
North Fulton Community Charities Director Barbara Duffy was in attendance. After the meeting, she said her concern was not about the new development that was coming in. Her concern was that this was a significant loss of affordable housing for the city’s workforce.
“This property has been proposed for redevelopment for many years and is in need of significant improvement. Our concern is that it reduces the amount of affordable housing options in the community without any current plan to replace those units,” said Duffy. “I’m not saying it is the developer’s responsibility for the 152 units that will be lost, but is the community’s responsibility.”
Duffy said there are other affordable housing units available, but their occupancy rate is around 95 percent, making it difficult to absorb these residents.
“I think it is a community issue. What do we want the community to look like? This is a population that provides great service to our business owners. These are our worker bees,” she said. “It behooves us to provide appropriate housing.”