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Developers: Roswell Road revival needs catalyst
by Everett Catts
May 14, 2014 11:45 AM | 3415 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Everett Catts / From left, Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods First Vice President Trisha Thompson poses a question to developers John W. Lundeen III, Charlie Roberts and Hudson Hooks.
Staff / Everett Catts / From left, Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods First Vice President Trisha Thompson poses a question to developers John W. Lundeen III, Charlie Roberts and Hudson Hooks.
While much of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods’ annual meeting Tuesday at Heritage Sandy Springs focused on Roswell Road, Mayor Rusty Paul did mention he is forming an informal committee of both city and community leaders to meet with city center architect Rosser International to dis-cuss designs for the project.

“The Goody Clancy plan is going to have to shift a little bit because of things like finding the origin of the springs,” Paul said, referring to a site under the old Target building where the city center is being built. “I have not announced it publicly, but we’re going form a committee to sit down with the architect and see how this site will operate architecturally with performing arts, the visual arts. That process is about to start.”

The committee will have eight to 10 people including Paul, possibly other city officials and community organization leaders, he said. Meetings likely will take place quarterly and will begin in about three weeks, Paul said.

He spoke prior to a panel of three developers — John W. Lundeen III, president of Coro Realty Advisors LLC; Charlie Roberts, president of Roberts Properties Inc.; and Hudson Hooks, development partner, Southeast, of JLB Partners — discussed the meeting’s topic, Renewing Roswell Road, moderated by council First Vice President Trisha Thompson.

“Think of Roswell Road as a broken, worn tiara, and your job is to create the crown jewel in the middle that we will build the rest of the tiara around,” Paul said to the panel. “Roswell Road has the potential to be where we all gather.”

The developers were tasked with presenting ideas on how to properly develop the portions of Roswell Road both north from Abernathy Road to the Chattahoochee River and south from Interstate 285 to the city limits. Topics ranged from their favorite small cities to ideas on making large-scale changes to Sandy Springs’ main corridor.

Roberts said he has urged city officials to adopt a design overlay district along Roswell Road to give it some zoning guidelines.

“The city center starts that walkable thing the mayor talked about. … Every community that has built walkable communities has seen their property values go through the roof,” he said.

Lundeen said reviving Roswell Road wholesale is difficult because many of the businesses have leas-es that last up to 20 years and do not want to move, or the owner refuses to sell. He was asked by Thompson about possibly bringing to the city retail shops already at malls in surrounding communities.

“You don’t want the stores who are tenants in Perimeter Mall here,” Lundeen said. “What you want is an environment in downtown Roswell and not Perimeter Mall.”

In addition to the city center, one project residents are eyeing is Gateway, a $100 million mixed-use development of apartments, retail and office space JLB is building on the south end of Roswell Road near Windsor Parkway. Its retail portion is expected to open in about a year. Some see the project, like the city center, as another catalyst for revitalizing Roswell Road.

Thompson asked Hooks, “Why doesn’t Roswell Road reflect the city’s high household income aver-age?”

He said, “I grew up in Augusta and Roswell Road is a lot like Washington Road in Augusta. They have the same shopping centers but just move in new businesses in a cycle over and over again. … I think there is a great opportunity over the next 10 to 20 years to see Roswell Road reform.”

Roberts, who recently met with Greenville, S.C., economic development officials there, said, “The one thing Greenville told me is the city has to be the sparkplug. It doesn’t have to be the engine.”

Both Lundeen and Hooks said improving Roswell Road will require higher-density projects.

“Density is not something you should fear,” Hooks said. “But you should fear quality of development. ... That’s part of it.”

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