ROSWELL, Ga. — The Roswell City Council burned the midnight oil June 10, poring over plans introduced to revitalize the East Village Shopping Center on Holcomb Bridge Road.
Though council members ultimately voted 4-2 to defer the item to the June 24 meeting, they spent nearly five hours considering why the retail center failed in the first place and how it could be made to prosper in the future.
The shopping center once housed a Super Target, which closed at the end of 2016. Why it failed was the first question on everyone’s mind.
“Target closing did not cause this center to fail,” said Darin Collier, president of the property management firm The Worthing Companies. “This center never worked.”
Referencing two reports on the subject, Collier said the site is not viable for any type of destination development because of its geography and competitive disadvantage to nearby activity nodes, like Avalon and Roswell’s Historic District. It’s in the middle of an already well-retailed area with lack of proximity to any major thoroughfares, he added.
It’s been a known problem even before the Super Target failed, Collier said.
The revitalization plan under consideration would introduce a more neighborhood type approach that would service existing customers and neighborhoods. It would thrive with this kind of approach, Collier said.
“I know this, because we’ve done this before,” he said. “We had a very similar situation with Brookleigh in Brookhaven.”
Collier and his team asked the City Council to remove conditions from the 2006 rezoning approval and add conditional use to allow multi-family residential units. The lot would stay zoned as a commercial corridor.
The plans, a $75 million investment, call for 76 townhomes in the middle of the property and 350 multi-family residential units in the rear. About an acre would be allocated for green space that could be used for pop-up activities, like farmer’s markets or art shows.
It would also contain 75,000 square feet of commercial, some of which already exists, said Planning and Zoning Director Jackie Deibel.
Staff recommended approval with five conditions, including upgrades to the Champions Green Parkway roundabout, pavement marking refurbishes and a photometric evaluation of existing lighting.
Roswell Inc, the city’s economic development arm, has given its support for the project, the applicants said.
Councilman Mike Palermo said he was concerned because the property plans look like it is not integrated, when it is one of the largest properties in East Roswell.
“Why would this council settle and ignore that it’s not truly integrating the uses?” he said. “Why would this council go above and beyond to also grant the 350 apartments?”
Some members of the public in attendance also spoke of their concerns with the plan, raising questions about residential density and what might happen if the development failed. Several mentioned that East Roswell is full of housing with no real destination place.
Other residents, including those living near the property, said they were worried that if the city did not work with an investor and do something with the property, it would remain vacant forever.
Palermo suggested a deferral so that the developer could work with the community to make the plans more integrated. It would create a win-win for the developer and residents, he said.
Councilman Sean Groer said he supported the project and that a deferral would send the wrong message to developers about investing in Roswell.
Collier said the applicant supported a two-week deferral for the city and developer to discuss possible project suggestions and conditions.