Roswell: Mixed-use plan OK'd

East Village to be city's second retail/residential project

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/21/07

Roswell's transition to high-density mixed-use development has taken a major step forward with the approval of East Village, a $100 million project in east Roswell across from the sprawling Horseshoe Bend neighborhood.

"The 40-acre project will have a Main Street feel modeled after the Canton Street shopping corridor in the city's historic district," developers said.

It will feature small retail at the front of the site along Holcomb Bridge Road, with the larger retail, and the parking for it, hidden from view at the middle and rear of the site. There will be a walkable corridor of small retail shops on both sides of Main Street, with offices above the retail.

Fifty high-end townhouses will be clustered along the western end of the property.

"It's not just a shopping center," said Rich Dippolito, a partner in Concordia Properties of Roswell, the developer. "It's a destination. It's a place to visit and sit down and have a meal."

And shop.

With almost 393,000 square feet of retail space, including a 182,000-square-foot big-box site (Concordia is negotiating with SuperTarget), shopping will be the main focus of the project.

Not everyone is happy with the scale of the project.

Several members of the City Council think Roswell already has too much retail, but they had to okay Concordia's plan because the site was zoned for commercial development by Fulton County before Roswell annexed it in 1999.

That meant Concordia could have built an unattractive all-commercial cement canyon, but it compromised with the city and the neighborhoods nearby.

"We have to look at what it could have been," Roswell resident Dale Nesbit told the City Council before Wednesday night's vote. "We're going to end up with a project that's a lot better than what it would have been in Fulton County."

The council agreed and voted 6-0 for the project.

It meant that Roswell's flirtation with high-density mixed-use development has turned into a full-fledged love affair.

The city has no mixed-use developments, but for the second time in five months it has approved a major mixed-use project in east Roswell.

Last August, the council approved the $100 million Centennial Walk project about a mile to the west of East Village, also along Holcomb Bridge.

Two other major mixed-use projects are still in the talking stages, including the big daddy of them all: Charlie Brown's proposed $2 billion Roswell East project, featuring high-rise towers along GA 400.

Roswell City Councilwoman Lori Henry, a leader on development issues, thinks Roswell is moving too fast with its mixed-use romance.

"I think we need to pace ourselves and take it slowly," Henry said. "We're not an urban city... My concern is that once one of these is built, the citizens might find that it's too dense for their liking."

Councilwoman Paula Winiski pointed out that Centennial Walk and East Village are so large that both are considered projects of regional impact by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

"They're huge; they're going to put an amazing amount of stress on the infrastructure over there," Winiski said. "We need to take into consideration what the impact of those two projects will be when we consider Charlie Brown's project."

Mayor Jere Wood did not share the view that the city is moving too fast with mixed use, which he considers to be the future of Roswell as it nears its build-out. He cited the success other cities have had with mixed use, including Snellville, Duluth and Suwanee.

"I don't think we need to take a wait-and-see approach," Wood said. "We're not inventing these projects. We're following a national trend."