Repost from Geoff Smith’s newsletter firstname.lastname@example.org
||November 14, 2014
Roswell Riverwalk Emerges in Wake of Avalon
Alpharetta’s game-changing Avalon development opened last week as the largest project of its kind under construction in the country. Rather than catch its breath, North Fulton unveiled another development — this time in Roswell, that will be of similar scope and size.
I’m not sure the ribbon had actually hit the ground yet at Alpharetta’s Avalon opening before Duke Land Group announced a mammoth project in Roswell initially called Roswell Riverwalk. The project will promote different uses than Avalon, offering more office space and a larger residential component. It will also be one of many large commercial projects on the docket for the Metro area. I was reading this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle and was surprised to see page after page of stories on new commercial developments. I know it has been a while since our economy tanked in 2007, and my memory is still hazy of everything prior to that year, but is it safe to say commercial development has officially taken off here in the metro area? Most of the projects over the last couple of years kind of looked like vacationers wading slowly into cold waters. I’m not totally sure the waters are warm now, but there are a lot of folks out there swimming in them.
The Roswell project will certainly be one of the most impactful. The site is on the southeastern corner of the GA400/Holcomb Bridge Road interchange. It is the same site where the developers of Atlantic Station pitched a project prior to the economic downturn. That project failed mostly because of the developer’s inability to successfully convince nearby residents of the merits of the development. That project also was much larger in size to the current project and deviated much greater from the site’s existing land use. That developer also didn’t own the property – Duke Land Group does.
The project includes a massive amount of office space, adding 1.7 million square feet to the area. According to local officials, North Fulton’s office space is currently close to, if not above, 90% occupied. So there is currently a demand for more of this kind of office space in North Fulton.
The project also would add 1,556 residential units including single-family attached, multifamily and active adult housing. There would be 490,000 square feet of general commercial including retail, restaurant, entertainment and a grocery story. They will top it off with a school and a 200-room hotel.
Property values and community impact: The project could very well be a key to unlock the property values of several large neighborhoods on the east side of Roswell – especially Martin’s Landing. This neighborhood has 1,964 homes whose property values have been held down largely because of its elementary school, and my alma-mater, Esther Jackson. The school has a high, 40% Hispanic population and ranks 1,136 out of the state’s 1,799 elementary schools. It has been very hard to sell houses to families with children in this school district.
Roswell Riverwalk will reduce much of that Hispanic population because the project will raze a massive apartment community that feeds into Esther Jackson. You could expect over the next year or so to see the impact as it begins the process of ending existing leases.
Aside from propping up Esther Jackson Elementary, the project will also add fresh infrastructure in an aged area. East Roswell along Holcomb Bridge saw most of its retail leave when North Point Mall was built in the 1990s. The commercial developments are dated and under-performing. Roswell Riverwalk will add a main-street to the area with a very walkable retail area – all situated around an existing small lake. The project will boast a significant amount of greenspace and could run walking and biking trails to the nearby Chattahoochee River. These trails would connect to Roswell’s existing bike trail system that runs along the river and could go a long way in connecting that system with Alpharetta’s Big Creek trail system. This is a big deal because bikers would then be able to bike the trail system from along the river at the Cobb County line all the way up through Alpharetta and into Forsyth County.
Community support: The previous project that failed was much larger in size with buildings above 18 stories. Roswell Riverwalk is pitching between 6 and 8 stories. Duke Land has already gotten ahead of the game in terms of reaching out to the community. Roswell’s citizens, especially on this side of town, are very vocal and very active. The project is likely to have to get a thumbs up from the city council, so it will be important for them to convince the nearby residents of the merits of the project.
Duke Land called a meeting recently and invited several city officials and community leaders. Former councilman and community leader David Tolleson was invited to the meeting.
Tolleson said there are a number of things he likes about the project including its significant greenspace and how, for a project of its size, it blends with the existing community. But he is still waiting for more specific details and commitments from Duke Land before taking an official stance.
It would be hard for the city to turn this project down because it does not deviate that much from the current land use. But, at the end of the day, we are talking about elected officials here.
Time tables have not been set for this project, but it would likely be several years before we could see a tenant move in. But this is a major project for East Roswell and will significantly change the landscape of that area.