A development firm with California ties has purchased the Wynhaven Apartments on Powder Springs Street out of foreclosure and plans to tear them down and redevelop the site with single-family homes and town homes.
San Diego-based Black Orchid Equity purchased the 19-acre complex, which contains 296 apartment units, on Sept. 6 for $1.9 million. The property has a tax value of $2.6 million, according to records at the Cobb Tax Assessor's Office.
"At that price, that affords us the ability to do a really quality product," said Blake Thompson, owner of Black Orchid. "The mayor and I have talked about a plan to tear them down and build single-family and town homes all on the golf course and create a new upscale community."
Thompson said he has been approached by L.A. Fitness and a few other quick-service food concepts for the commercial frontage along Powder Springs Street, but he is "weighing all of his options."
"This property should be the gem of Marietta," said Thompson.
Wild chickens and dilapidation
The apartments have been vacant since 2011, sitting like a black eye in the shadow of the city-owned conference center.
"When I last campaigned for City Council there were several wild chickens running around the complex," said Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who represents the area.
Thompson said he specializes in distressed properties.
Part of his game plan, which he said was successful in a similar but smaller project in Acworth, is to gain the public support of key city officials. In Acworth, it was Mayor Tommy Allegood. In Marietta, he's working closely with Mayor Steve Tumlin and Sinclair.
"I've been working in this business, my ninth year, and I haven't gone into a project with more positive people and more supportive people. Everyone wants to see something done with those dilapidated apartments," Thompson said. "What attracted me is I'm kind of a problem solver and I like to do deals that other people can't figure out. The property has been through foreclosure and no one lives there and it's boarded up and it's pretty ugly."
Current zoning is for a PUD, or planned unit development, with residential multifamily allowed at 12 units per acre, "so that gives us the ability to do essentially a whole host of things," Thompson said.
"But we're going to stay right down the middle, because we're up against the golf course, we want to do something with local Marietta builders."
He said he's already had strong interest from two builders with local ties, David Weekley Homes and Kerley Family Homes.
"Whether we do single-family, town homes, any configuration, hopefully we're going to have people that are already very familiar with the architectural standards of Marietta," Thompson said. "I want to build something that's very consistent with the neighborhood."
He said the homes would be similar to those being built by David Weekley Homes on the other side of the golf course, in a price range of $400,000-$450,000. The townhomes would be priced at around $200,000-$225,000.
The property will not need to be rezoned, but Thompson will have to present a new site plan to the City Council to approve.
"The mayor and Mr. Sinclair have both stepped out and said we're excited about what's going on here," Thompson said. "Those are the kind of people that make you really want to do business in a community."
In 2005, a site plan was approved for 399 townhome flats and condo units in six-story buildings.
Thompson said the new development plans don't call for anything that dense.
"For the record I have no intentions of building anything that wouldn't fit the character of Marietta now. That's not the appropriate play," he said. "I want to do something that's really well received and I want all the public support I can get."
In the 1960s, the Wynhaven site was home to the upscale Oxford Apartments, which former Mayor Bill Dunaway called the nicest apartment complex in the city. It lost its appeal in the 1980s, Dunaway has said, when public housing was added to the property.
"All apartments start out as nice and spiral downwards and that apartment complex certainly went through that same cycle," Sinclair said. "It's really a prime piece of property right next to the golf course."