The site of the former Hickory Lakes apartment complex sits on Old Concord Road off Windy Hill Road and was purchased by the city in 2010. The city has spent $16 million purchasing and clearing the property they have dubbed Smyrna Grove.
Now, the Smyrna Grove Redevelopment Task Force is looking at what industries should be targeted. The task force is made up of council members Wade Lnenicka, Susan Wilkinson and Doug Stoner along with representatives from the city’s community development agency and Downtown Development Authority.
Lnenicka, who chairs the committee, says he wants to leave no stone unturned in searching for the best use of the property. He says the committee has seen interest from some potential buyers and informal offers have been made, though none have been discussed openly. Members discussed offers Monday in a closed session with representatives from NAI Brannen Goddard, the firm that has been hired by the city to market the property, but took no action.
“We’ve had a conversation with a very wide range of folks,” Lnenicka said.
Though he was the only council member to vote against purchasing the property, Lnenicka says he wants to help the city find a way to make the property more appealing.
“I didn’t get us to the situation we’re in and I wish we weren’t here, but I can’t sit around and say, ‘I told you so,’” he said.
Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon says the council chose to purchase the property, which was annexed by the city years before it was bought, in an attempt to better define that section of Windy Hill Road.
“It was one of the worst (apartments) at the time when we purchased it,” Bacon said. “It was in real bad shape.”
The city has undergone an effort in recent years to raze troublesome apartment complexes. More than 10 percent of Smyrna’s apartments have been removed.
There’s nothing wrong with apartment living, Bacon said, but when apartments age and are not maintained, they can deteriorate and attract crime.
The city of Marietta has voted to place before voters in November a similar vision for a stretch of Franklin Road that includes aging apartment complexes that a majority of the council would like to see razed.
Task force members in Smyrna are considering an array of uses for the Hickory Lakes site, from turning the lot into a city park to inviting industry to purchase the property.
“We may not break even on the sale, but we will change Smyrna,” Lnenicka said.
A buyer, like a nonprofit hospital, may not give the city the money it’s looking for, he said, but it could have a higher return on investment.
When the city opened its Market Village, a pedestrian-oriented shopping center that aims to have a downtown atmosphere, in 2002, council members saw 51 rezoning applications in the year after by nearby business owners that wanted to become part of the village community.
Referring to the redevelopment, Lnenicka said, “We know what the halo effect can be.”