The Kennesaw City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved final plans to develop its downtown Main Street.
“It’s huge. This is what people have been talking about for over 20 years,” Mathews said.
The construction of hundreds of apartments, a swath of commercial space and the addition of almost 500 much-needed parking lots are expected to begin by the end of January.
Bob Fox, the city’s economic development director, said the new development will include 250 apartments, between 12,000 to 14,000 square feet of commercial space and both a number of on-street and deck public parking spaces.
The project has been in the works for at least two years, and the city was going through a number of final formalities during multiple December meetings.
The last hurdle was having the council and mayor make final approvals to the project details Monday night, Fox said.
In various meetings and votes, spread out over years, the council has approved plans to pave the way for construction of a mixed-use development at the intersection of Watts Drive and Main Street.
The city’s Development Authority began attempts to assemble the roughly five-acre plot of land back in 2008, a long process that required negotiations with four different property owners over five different plots of land, said Fox.
With funds from a $2.8 million bond passed in 2009, Kennesaw’s Urban Redevelopment Agency bought the land and immediately began discussions with Atlanta-based South City Partners.
The firm wasn’t new to the city, as it recently developed West 22, a large student housing project on Cherokee Street that was completed in summer 2013, Fox said.
In 2012, he said the city entered into a contract with South City Partners to further develop downtown Kennesaw.
South city project
Caddy-corner to the city’s courthouse, on Watts Drive, sits an empty space, waiting to be developed, Mathews said. South City Partners is expected to buy the space from the city in the coming weeks for $2.9 million, Fox said, which will reimburse the city for its 2009 bond fees.
After the purchase, construction will begin on the new shops, apartments and parking deck.
The deck will be split between the apartment residents and visiting city residents. About 300 spaces are expected to be sold back to the city after construction to be used as public parking for court visitors and shoppers.
Kennesaw will issue a new bond to pay for the additional parking, Fox said, although a price has yet to be determined.
Debt service on the new bond will be paid for by court service funds the city accumulates annually, he said, as the city plans to offer the new spaces as free parking.
Construction is expected to last between 15 and 18 months, and Fox said Kennesaw residents could be parking and shopping by summer 2015.
The city is already in discussion with restaurants that want to move into the future space.
The drain plan
With the new development will be new space needed for storm water.
Because downtown Kennesaw was in place before adequate drainage regulations were put in place, the city is in desperate need to find a way to hold its storm water, Fox said.
The city has purchased and agreed to develop a roughly 5-acre plot behind the QuikTrip on Cobb Parkway into a regional detention drain that will hold the storm water of the downtown area. Fox said the city expects to have the construction complete by the time South City Partners finishes construction downtown. The city plans to then sell the drainage space to the firm, who will pay annual maintenance fees to the city.
“This will really help prevent flooding,” Fox said.
Mathews is ecstatic to see the downtown area develop.
For as long as he can remember, the city has been trying to develop its own “Main Street” downtown to rival Acworth and Marietta.
The city had to rewrite a number of zoning rules and jump through multiple development regulation hurdles before plans with South City Partners could begin, he said.
Mathews hopes this development will be one in a number of additions to the city’s downtown, and is excited to see the city grow.
“We’re finally to the point that we are ready to move forward … this will be a major catalyst for the development of downtown Kennesaw,” he predicted.