In June 2011, Smyrna City Council members unanimously approved a new zoning district that allows for additional density credits for the complete redevelopment of an existing apartment property. The RM-15 Redevelopment District ordinance increased the density of multi-family housing units from 12 to 15 units per acre.
“This was done to financially incentivize property owners to replace their aging complexes with a new and better quality product,” said Andrea Hall, city redevelopment coordinator. “This density credit would help to offset the substantial costs of tearing down an existing complex and building new.”
But 14 months after the ordinance took effect, no developer has taken advantage of the incentive offered by the city.
“Since this ordinance has taken effect, staff has had conversations with various developers who have expressed interest in using this tool, but to date we have not had a rezoning request,” Hall acknowledged.
According to U.S. Census data, 47.5 percent of Smyrna’s population (51,271) lives in renter-occupied units. City data shows that 30.8 percent of Smyrna’s residential units are apartments.
In his recent State of the City presentation, Mayor Max Bacon noted that two razed apartment complexes, Hickory Lakes and Smyrna Commons, which is now set to be the site of a new school, had represented approximately 10 percent of the city’s aging Class C apartment complexes.
The site of the now-defunct Hickory Lake apartments remains undeveloped after the city purchased and razed the property on Old Concord Road near Windy Hill Road. Hall said the city is “not making efforts to purchase additional complexes.”
And according to the city, any displaced residents living in an apartment complex slated for redevelopment should not look for much help in relocating from their local government, as had occurred with the demolition of Hickory Lake.
“Under normal circumstances, the city does not get involved in private redevelopments,” said Community Relations Director Jennifer Bennett. “We took a more involved role in helping Hickory Lake residents relocate because that property was purchased by the city.”
In total, there are now between 27 and 32 apartment complexes (3,600-plus units) that are categorized as Class C, which means they were built 30 to 40 years ago and have undergone little or no renovation. All but seven are located north of Concord/Springs roads, according to the city.
Officials have been concerned that a prior moratorium on the construction of new apartments had led to a large inventory of aging apartment complexes, built in the 1960s and 1970s. When the new ordinance was passed, then Councilman Mike McNabb commented that the moratorium had worked to artificially limit private investment in the area.
Following the example of the nearby Cumberland Community Improvement District, Smyrna officials are encouraging the construction of more Class A, or high-end, apartments that are typically occupied by white collar workers.
“Redevelopment of aging Class C properties with new, high-quality multi-family properties is the intent of the ordinance,” said Bennett.