Alpharetta council OKs downtown hotel project

Building plan draws some traffic concerns



ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Downtown Alpharetta will add another bright fixture to its growing list of stately buildings.

The Alpharetta City Council approved a plan by Mayfair Street Partners to build a 119-room boutique hotel on just under one acre at 21 Milton Ave.

The 6-1 vote came after nearly two hours of discussion in which residents and council members lobbed concerns over traffic, pedestrian safety and building height at the developer.

Mayfair partner Jason Joseph said The Cotton House will contain 119 rooms and 23,000 square feet of retail space that will include a restaurant, and exercise/spa facility. Parking will be on-site with a 122-space underground valet parking deck.

Joseph said the hotel will be a perfect complement to the growing downtown and would accommodate visitors who are becoming more interested in Alpharetta as a destination.

Mayfair’s original proposal called for a five-story structure with 120 rooms standing 60 feet in height. It also called for abandoning a portion of Canton Street to the west of the property. That plan was voted down, 5-2, by the Alpharetta Planning Commission at its Nov. 2 meeting.

The proposal presented Monday night before the City Council called for a four-story building with 119 rooms standing 56 feet in height. The developers also withdrew their request to have the city abandon a portion of Canton Street.

Attorney Don Rolader, representing the developers, said Mayfair altered its original plans in response to concerns expressed by the Planning Commission. He also said the height of 56 feet is still below that of nearby buildings recently approved such as Teasely Place at 60 feet and its next-door neighbor Liberty Hall on South Main at 67 feet.

But there were other concerns raised Monday.

While most residents said they liked the idea of a boutique hotel in downtown, they thought its height and capacity were too much for the area.

Alpharetta Business Association President John Ray said the Milton Avenue area is the site of many local street events, such as Taste of Alpharetta, Brew Moon Festival and the farmers market, which the ABA operates.

He said he worries the hotel operation may be reluctant to cede its street-front for such events.

Resident Alexander Williamson raised another issue.

“There’s an elephant – not in the room yet, but it’s on its way,” he said.

Williamson was referring to the Fulton County Schools new science and technology center just a block farther west which is scheduled to open in 2020. The school has an anticipated enrollment of 1,500 students and is expected to draw students from throughout North Fulton County.

Other residents pointed out that Alpharetta will see even more street congestion with the opening of City Center next year.

Rolader pointed out that traffic studies for the hotel show it will account for about 1,600 daily trips to the area. But that is considerably less than if the property were developed for retail and office, which is permitted under current zoning.

Rolader also noted developers plan to bury utilities and plant trees along the frontage. The project plan will also provide a landscaped civic space open to the public.

City Council members spent a good deal of time batting about conditions.

Councilman Jason Binder twice tried to add a condition that the building could be no more than 50 feet in height.

But in the end, the plan stood pretty much as presented. The city did add a provision that the developer sign an agreement with the city to accommodate street festivals.

Mayor David Belle Isle was unwavering in his appreciation for the plan.

Six years ago, Alpharetta did not have to worry about downtown traffic or parking, Belle Isle said. He said he knows residents have had and will continue to endure growing pains, “but the city is blessed.”

“Where we are going to be in 18 or 24 months is going to be an amazing place,” he said.

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