After 13 people spoke at the special meeting, the Kennesaw City Council approved 5-0 the conceptual designs for a $20 million mixed-use development off Dallas Street across from City Hall.
The Dallas Street development will house 178 one- and two-bedroom rented apartment units located within 24 free-standing buildings, as well as 12,000 square feet of commercial space etched into three city blocks of Kennesaw’s Central Business District.
A crowd of more than 50 people attended the discussion. A couple voiced specific concerns, but most gave support for what they said is a needed step to bring residents, shoppers and diners downtown.
Mayor Mark Mathews started the meeting by pointing out the large public interest in the project that has also caused “a lot of inaccurate information being passed around.”
To dispel any rumors, Mathews stated the mixed-use development does not have any code variances or tax incentives from the city. It is a “basic, straight-up” and “textbook” case, he said.
Mathews also stressed what the council was voting on was a preliminary, conceptual plan. Any exact building locations or road design will require more review and approval.
Pace Halter, president of The Halter Companies out of Atlanta, said his company has been acquiring several tracts of land for the 7.5-acre project to be built around existing residential properties just east of Adams Park, which houses ten baseball and softball fields.
The Dallas Street development could be completed within 15 to 20 months, Halter said.
Halter presented the design plan to the council a few of times before Wednesday night’s special meeting. At the beginning of May, council members voiced concerns about the increase in traffic going to and from the future apartments.
A traffic impact study from Croy Engineering said one way to address the increased flow would be to install a roundabout at the intersection of Dallas Street and Watts Drive, which would calm the speed of drivers navigating the circle.
The traffic study was initiated in response to a request by Halter’s company to close a portion of Lewis Street from North Main Street to Dallas Street.
The angled road is often used as a shortcut, with cars traveling 5 to 15 mph over the speed limit, according to the traffic study. The report stated more than 650 vehicles travel on Lewis Street on weekdays, with half that amount on weekends.
A transforming city
In previous public meetings about the development, Mathews and Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons said the Dallas Street development fits with the city’s long-term revitalization plan to fill pockets of land downtown with residential and commercial properties to bring in more activity to the area.
For instance, the Main Street development, composed of more than 250 “luxury” rental apartments and 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, was approved by the council in February. Construction on the site has already begun.
Atlanta-based developer South City Partners, which is overseeing the project, is the same firm that designed the West 22 apartment complex on Cherokee Street that targets Kennesaw State University students.
For the Dallas Street project, Halter said the target market for renters are office professionals, not students, who earn between $50,000 to $100,000 per year.
“There is tremendous demand out there,” Halter said.
The residential buildings will mimic a house, with six to 12 apartment units inside.
“The product is designed to look and feel like a single-family home,” Halter said.
Still, Jacque Cullins who lives off Twelve Oak Circle, was the first to address the council, saying she has been fielding calls from concerned friends and family who want the proposed project to have townhomes or condos with less density.
“What are they going to do, change the name of Dallas Street to Franklin Road?” Cullins gave as an example of questions from worried residents.
Still, most other speakers said the apartments are great for young adults who cannot afford to buy a home or senior citizens who no longer want to maintain a yard and want to cut back on driving places.
“I would love to cut the noose of the suburban life out from around my neck,” said Tracey Vars, who sits on the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority. “Personally, I am ready for a vibrant downtown.”