Buckhead-based Branch Capital Partners has asked for a re-zoning to develop Jonquil Village, an 11-acre site at the corner of Atlanta Road and Spring Street in the downtown area.
The development was first introduced in 2006 and was intended to be a $181 million mixed-use project, including 20,000 square feet of office space, 160,000 square feet of retail space, 300 luxury condominiums and an underground parking deck. The property has changed hands several times since the first proposal.
That plan has evolved into one that includes 288 apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail space to be distributed through two free-standing buildings and on the first floor of apartment buildings. It’s ultimately expected to cost $40 million.
Members of Smyrna’s planning commission on Monday unanimously recommended denial for the project that city staff said should be approved. About 100 residents attended the meeting on Monday voicing their opposition to the project.
The development will go before the Smyrna City Council on Dec. 2 for final approval.
Between now and then, Garvis Sams, an attorney representing Branch Capital Partners, said the company will revisit its plans in an attempt to calm concerns of residents.
Resident: ‘Worst possible plan’
Jean Martin, who has lived in Smyrna since 1965, is one of many residents who wants to see more shopping and dining.
“We’re mainly upset about the thing that it is going to be gated apartments and very little commercial,” Jean Martin said. “If we want to go out to eat or go shopping, we go to Marietta. We just don’t have the commercial.”
She wants to see people move in who “want to be a part of Smyrna” not renters who may be “just going to come here to sleep.”
Her husband, Red Martin, agrees.
“There’s too much transition. Here today, gone tomorrow. We don’t need that. We just got rid of that,” Red Martin said.
Smyrna got rid of that by buying up aging apartment complexes, razing them and marketing them to developers. It took millions of city tax dollars to do.
“After the city spent all the money it’s spent on tearing down apartments, we won’t need any more apartments,” said Red Martin.
Al Graves, a 60-year resident of Smyrna, called it the “worst possible plan.”
“There has never been a heavy apartment complex presence in downtown Smyrna. This is supposedly going to be the commercial gateway to the city,” Graves said.
He pointed to problems city law enforcement and code enforcement officers had controlling the apartment complexes Smyrna razed.
Targeting high income renters
The property has been vacant for seven years, and waiting for the right development for another year or so won’t hurt, said Denny Campo, a planning commission member who represents Ward 6.
The proposed development in question lies in Ward 3.
Larry Jones, planning commission member, and Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz, who both represent Ward 3, did not immediately return phone calls on Wednesday afternoon.
Campo said the original proposal that included more commercial space is “exactly what Smyrna needs” and the current proposal “just didn’t meet the long-term goals for Smyrna’s planning.”
“I guess the way we looked at it is, does Smyrna at this point in time need more apartment complexes or do we need more families?” Campo said.
Sams, attorney for the developer, thinks there are misconceptions about the proposed development.
“What we’re proposing is actually a down zoning of what’s there now,” Sams said, referring to the smaller scale of the development.
Smyrna needs more residents to support the retail and commercial business it has now, Sams said.
“More importantly, it brings mass and density to the downtown area which is sorely needed to support the retail that’s already there.”
And these apartments aren’t like those the city spent millions to raze.
“We can’t call them affordable,” Sams said.
The gated community’s one-bedroom apartments will rent for about $1,000 each month and the development targets young professionals making between $75,000 and $125,000 annually.