Whitlock group turns sights to shopping center
by Nikki Wiley
March 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 4750 views | 15 15 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Maher of the West Marietta Community Improvement Group stands in front of what was formerly an A&P grocery store at 660 Whitlock Ave. Maher and his group say the building is a blight on the neighborhood in its current condition and want to see it change. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Rick Maher of the West Marietta Community Improvement Group stands in front of what was formerly an A&P grocery store at 660 Whitlock Ave. Maher and his group say the building is a blight on the neighborhood in its current condition and want to see it change.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — A group of residents who helped secure funding for sidewalks along Whitlock Avenue have turned their sights to a mostly vacant shopping center they say needs more focus from the city.

The West Marietta Community Improvement Group is made up of residents from the Carriage Oaks and Lee’s Crossings neighborhoods, among others, who think their part of the city needs more attention.

It all started because of a zoning request by QuikTrip to put a gas station near Carriage Oaks, said Rick Maher, a retired federal probation officer.

The group then led talks with city officials to include funding for a streetscape and sidewalks along Whitlock Avenue under the $68 million redevelopment bond approved by voters last November. Originally proposed to provide $1 million in funding, the group convinced City Council to raise Whitlock’s share to $4 million before the bond issuance went before voters.

“We all live along the Whitlock corridor and really sort of banded together to say ‘What can we do to improve the west side of the community?’” said Dave Burke, who moved to Marietta from Pittsburgh and works at an advertising agency in midtown Atlanta.

Now the group hopes to revitalize a shopping center on Whitlock Avenue they say is blighted. Though some businesses do operate out of the Westpark Plaza, including Dave Poe’s BBQ, it has no anchor tenant and contains an almost empty parking lot.

“I, like everybody else, drive through that shopping center and it’s a huge eyesore,” Burke said.

The property was appraised for tax purposes at just less than $1.5 million in 2008 but by 2013 its value had fallen to $882,920, according to the Cobb County Tax Assessor’s website.

The owner of the center, built in 1987, is listed on the website as HHH Properties LLLP of Marietta.

The ownership of HHH is split between several individuals, Burke said, and he’s had no luck contacting the landlords.

“I have called, emailed, smoke signaled trying to get in touch with the property owners and have had no luck,” Burke said.

Many residents have wondered if a grocery store or restaurant could locate in the plaza, Burke said, but there hasn’t been an organized effort to lead redevelopment.

“Everybody and their mother has said, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if there was a blank here,’” Burke said.

The group doesn’t have any specific ideas about what should go in the shopping center, but Burke says restaurants on the Barrett Parkway and Dallas Highway corridors stay filled and business could easily be brought

into the city of Marietta.

“I can’t believe that we can’t draw interest,” Burke said.

The group is made up of private individuals who do not own the shopping center they aim to improve and have little power, but Burke said its members can reach out into their personal networks laying the groundwork that could pique the interest of a developer.

Zach Poe, general manager of Dave Poe’s BBQ in the strip mall, is on board.

He said the shopping center could use more lighting at night, and if more people come to the plaza to shop, his restaurant could benefit.

“There’s so many people that drive by and say, ‘We’ve been driving by that shopping center for years and didn’t even know you were here,’” Poe said. “The whole area looks so empty.”

Maher said he knows the power of community involvement.

Before making his way to Marietta, Maher lived in the Candler Park neighborhood of Atlanta. Now its streets are lined with landscaped bungalows, but Maher said it was once crime ridden and home to several short-term rentals.

Maher banded together with his neighbors and began to slowly oust the neighborhood’s landlords, paving the way for revitalization.

West Marietta isn’t in that kind of dire need, he said, but still deserves attention. He hopes to landscape the shopping center and get permission to hold different community events in its parking lot to draw awareness.

“If people don’t get involved and start taking interest in their neighborhood, they could devolve into a situation that’s not so desirable,” Maher said.

Comments
(15)
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WayneToms
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August 07, 2014
my company has been trying to lease the property for years but they wont lease it to us! all they say is its not available?
girthbrooks
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March 29, 2014
You got your sidewalks, so enjoy them. Walk on over to Nick's and grab a gyro.

Why is it so hard for some Marietta residents to understand that there is more to the city than Whitlock Avenue?
Make up your mind
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March 29, 2014
The people in this area ran off Quick Trip, which was going to invest several million dollars in the only new construction in the area in years.

Now they say they want redevelopment.

Nobody is going to waste time trying to redevelop an area where the residents insist on picking and choosing which which business they " allow" to come in.

Dave Burke
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March 28, 2014
Thanks all so much for the great comments. We've been told that right now, the demographics don't support a Trader Joes, and i feel that with Harry's and the Whole foods opening in Kennesaw, that we're unlikely to see another. Alternate brands like Fresh Market, etc would be great as well.

I encourage you all to look us up on Facebook (West Marietta Community Improvement Group) and join the conversation.

Dave Burke
kevin james call
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April 09, 2014
I think whole foods whould work off there
The Lemons
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March 28, 2014
Trader Joes!
anonymous
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March 28, 2014
Harry's is a Whole Foods and is suffering from the same empty strip mall blight. I think a Trader Joe's would also be cool next to Dave Poes, but ultimately we need more than more Southern Food & Burger Joints to anchor Whitlock.

We have 3 Gas stations on Whitlock, 1 that perpetually fails and has been closed for over a year. Why build a QuikTrip across the street from a failed business?

Ultimately all the resident's of the Whitlock corridor need to support the local restaurants that exist to attract more businesses to the area.
anonymous
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March 28, 2014
Great spot for a Trader Joe's or even a Fresh Market.
Marietta Guy
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March 28, 2014
Just wait Cobb County will buy the property just as they have further down Whitlock and on Powder Springs Rd. Cobb County will renovate the buildings and then leave them as vacant county office space. Remember better things are coming I am sure the new Braves Stadium will bring in so much revenue they can buy the property and create more county offices. LMAO
Whole Foods
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March 28, 2014
A Whole Foods or Trader Joes would be perfect in that spot. There are no grocery stores like that in the area. If I want a Whole Foods or Traders, we have to drive so far!
Mike In Smyrna
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March 28, 2014
What exactly do you want to the property owners to do? They could demolish the site and rebuild. That does not mean a business is going to locate in the center. Grocery store?? Kroger is a half-mile west. Restaurants?? There has been a number of restaurants in the Kroger shopping that did not survive. You just got 4 million for sidewalks. You have Dave Poe's BBQ plus a Waffle House. Some people are never satisfied.
Dave Burke
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March 28, 2014
Mike- Thanks for the feedback. We're really open to anything that betters the community. Commercial, Residential, etc. to be clear, we're looking for private funding, not public. Dave Poe's is fantastic joint, and who doesnt like a waffle house, but those are two, in a community turning a page to a younger demographic, not just families, but Single folks, young couples without kids, and more. Folks that like to eat out, and get some variety. That being said, out goal is to help rally the community behind whatever we get. What would you suggest for a successful development?

Dave Burke
Dave Z
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March 28, 2014
I bet a residential developer could get a very favorable density rezoning if they chose to redevelop that site. This would reverse the usual development cycle, but a high-end, self-contained residential community would thrive at that location.

great idea
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March 28, 2014
Am tickled pink that a group of citizens are interested in getting rid of that eyesore!! Something should have been done years ago. What sounds concerning is the fact that no one can locate the owners. Something should be done sooner rather than later, and please, please, not another thrift store! (that hurt, not helped, our neighborhood).

C. Elmer
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March 28, 2014
We need a Trader Joes! It is unlike other stores we have on our side of town. The closest one to us is at roswell rd and johnson ferry. It would get alot of business and draw people to our side of town!

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