JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The new owners of Medlock Bridge Shopping Center are looking to turn the strip mall into a mixed-use village with more restaurants and boutiques, condos and office space.
WePartner Management, the Atlanta-based property managers that purchased the shopping center last November, held an informal public input meeting May 16 to share their vision with residents. The developers have not begun the formal rezoning process.
The shopping center at 6000 Medlock Bridge Road is home to Shoe Gallery, Mellow Mushroom, Route 66, several athletic schools and other small businesses. Just south of Wilson Road, its neighbors are Medlock Bridge subdivision, St Ives Country Club and other strip malls.
“Shopping centers like Medlock Bridge are struggling to survive in metro-Atlanta and around the country,” WePartner Vice President of Development David Versel said. “We recognize that in order for Medlock Bridge to remain competitive we must make major improvements.”
In lieu of strip malls, mixed-use villages that bring shopping, dining, office space and residences together in a walkable center have become a trend in north Atlanta, with developments like Avalon, Halcyon and Alpharetta City Center.
“Every surrounding city has their square, their Avalon,” WePartner Marketing Manager Jessica Galeese said. “That’s lacking in Johns Creek. It doesn’t have to be big, just something walkable.”
The preliminary plan includes 132,000 square feet of retail, 16,000 more than existing space, 45,000 square feet of office space and 57 condo units. There is no price point set for the condos, but Versel said it would be no less than half a million a unit.
“They would be luxury units that would be targeted to current Johns Creek residents who are looking to trade their single-family home for a walkable, low-maintenance, lock-and-leave lifestyle, while remaining in the community,” Versel said.
There would be 533 parking spaces, including a 156-space parking deck. At the center of the village, plans include a linear park with jewel box restaurant opening onto the greenspace.
Johns Creek’s comprehensive plan notes that shopping centers along Medlock Bridge have been suffering and proposes development of walkable villages as a possible solution. However, the plan also states that additional residential units would not be needed, and creating sidewalks to connect retail to existing homes would be preferred.
A crowd of neighbors and business owners turned out to hear the developer’s initial proposal. The response in the room ranged from support to skepticism. From the business community, there was largely enthusiasm.
“As a business owner, I’m all for it,” said Tina Newman, co-owner of Johns Creek Gifts and Books, one of the small businesses in the shopping center. “This place has had empty stores for 20 years, so I think we need a change.”
There are four spaces available to lease at the shopping center, according to WePartner’s website.
“It seems to me a community would rather have a vibrant shopping center than a dead shopping center,” the bookstore’s co-owner Anne Hamilton said. “As a resident I don’t always want to go to Alpharetta to shop or to go out to eat.”
Residents were more mixed in their views. Many said they would like to see more restaurants and high-end shopping, but there was skepticism that the walkable village model would work at this location.
“It’s too little too late,” Medlock Bridge resident Larry Fitch said. “Trying to make a walkable center without the rest of the shopping centers, people are still going to drive by. I don’t want to discourage them from making it more walkable and bikeable, but you can’t do it in isolation.”
Johns Creek Community Association President Marybeth Cooper said the development will face a long journey through the city’s zoning process. The condos will be biggest sticking point, with traffic and stormwater also being concerns.
“Here’s 57 condos,” Medlock Bridge resident Rick Szymke said. “Twenty of those [residents] will cut through our neighborhood guaranteed … If the price point is wrong, it will be young families with a lot of kids, and we can’t sustain that.”
Last year, the Medlock Bridge subdivision and its neighbors mobilized to oppose a proposed townhome development on State Bridge Road. Some residents remarked that the shopping center could face a similar fight if the developers don’t address their concerns.
“If they want to work with us, they’ll probably get support,” Szymke said. “If they try to bypass us, we’ve got a very active community. We can give them the problems, but they’ve got to come up with creative solutions.”