The city of Marietta, Life University and Southern Polytechnic University, who together contributed $20,000 to the study, hosted a public information meeting for about 60 attendees with speakers from Norcross-based firm Jacobs Engineering.
Project Manager Jim Summerbell said the 1.3-square-mile study area, called the Marietta University Enhancement District, is an ARC Livable Centers Initiative.
“The objective of the study is to create more of a live/work/play environment,” he said. “That’s a standard LCI guideline.”
The study area extends east of Cobb Parkway and north of South Marietta Parkway, with South Cobb Drive as its southern border.
It includes the CCT bus terminal, the two schools, a park, baseball fields, the two colleges and 9,600 students.
“You’re not going to call Marietta a college town, but you can create more of a college atmosphere,” Summerbell said. “College towns can take different forms.”
He said no one knows yet if that is the direction the study area will take.
“What do the residents foresee? That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Summerbell said. “We don’t have any preconceived notions of what it will be. Everyone has their own idea. The whole goal for us is to engage the public, find out what they want and make it a reality if we can.”
The next steps in the process will be a design workshop Jan. 15, a draft plan presentation March 21 and a public hearing at City Hall on April 17, while the web site www.MU2LCI.com, which contains an online survey form, went live Thursday.
“We’ll be exploring more with the design workshop in January,” Summerbell said. “What kind of college town are we talking about? What would a mixed-use development look like, if that’s what they want? If there’s additional housing, what kind?”
Beth Sessoms, Marietta’s economic development manager, said the study area could become a revitalized destination, not just background scenery for the 35,000 vehicles per day traveling its major roads.
“Anything we can do to improve the quality of life, create jobs, a sense of place and a place for people to come and visit and explore, (we want to do),” she said.
During an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the proposed project, SPSU Civil Engineering Technology student Daniel Silver said some drivers are creating a trend — a reverse commute — that could work to the study area’s advantage.
“The commute toward Marietta is very strong,” he said.
Feedback at the meeting indicated South Marietta Parkway may be easier to redevelop due to lower property values, making the rents attractive to potential new shops, restaurants or other attractions.
Data provided by Jacobs predicted demand for retail space in the study area will double in the next 25 years from 500,000 square feet to more than 1 million.
Office space demand is forecasted to triple from about 3 million square feet to more than 9 million.
Demand for single-family detached homes will increase threefold, while renters seeking apartments will likewise drive demand from 2,200 units to 6,000.