Kennesaw City Council approves downtown development designs
by Rachel Gray
May 15, 2014 01:40 AM | 4451 views | 6 6 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An artist’s rendering of a portion of the proposed development on Dallas Street.<br>Special to the MDJ
An artist’s rendering of a portion of the proposed development on Dallas Street.
Special to the MDJ
slideshow
KENNESAW — For two hours Wednesday night, council members and residents of Kennesaw negotiated a critical moment for the city: how its downtown will be revitalized.

After 13 people spoke at the special meeting, the Kennesaw City Council approved 5-0 the conceptual designs for a $20 million mixed-use development off Dallas Street across from City Hall.

The Dallas Street development will house 178 one- and two-bedroom rented apartment units located within 24 free-standing buildings, as well as 12,000 square feet of commercial space etched into three city blocks of Kennesaw’s Central Business District.

A crowd of more than 50 people attended the discussion. A couple voiced specific concerns, but most gave support for what they said is a needed step to bring residents, shoppers and diners downtown.

Mayor Mark Mathews started the meeting by pointing out the large public interest in the project that has also caused “a lot of inaccurate information being passed around.”

To dispel any rumors, Mathews stated the mixed-use development does not have any code variances or tax incentives from the city. It is a “basic, straight-up” and “textbook” case, he said.

Mathews also stressed what the council was voting on was a preliminary, conceptual plan. Any exact building locations or road design will require more review and approval.

Pace Halter, president of The Halter Companies out of Atlanta, said his company has been acquiring several tracts of land for the 7.5-acre project to be built around existing residential properties just east of Adams Park, which houses ten baseball and softball fields.

The Dallas Street development could be completed within 15 to 20 months, Halter said.

Halter presented the design plan to the council a few of times before Wednesday night’s special meeting. At the beginning of May, council members voiced concerns about the increase in traffic going to and from the future apartments.

A traffic impact study from Croy Engineering said one way to address the increased flow would be to install a roundabout at the intersection of Dallas Street and Watts Drive, which would calm the speed of drivers navigating the circle.

The traffic study was initiated in response to a request by Halter’s company to close a portion of Lewis Street from North Main Street to Dallas Street.

The angled road is often used as a shortcut, with cars traveling 5 to 15 mph over the speed limit, according to the traffic study. The report stated more than 650 vehicles travel on Lewis Street on weekdays, with half that amount on weekends.

A transforming city

In previous public meetings about the development, Mathews and Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons said the Dallas Street development fits with the city’s long-term revitalization plan to fill pockets of land downtown with residential and commercial properties to bring in more activity to the area.

For instance, the Main Street development, composed of more than 250 “luxury” rental apartments and 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, was approved by the council in February. Construction on the site has already begun.

Atlanta-based developer South City Partners, which is overseeing the project, is the same firm that designed the West 22 apartment complex on Cherokee Street that targets Kennesaw State University students.

For the Dallas Street project, Halter said the target market for renters are office professionals, not students, who earn between $50,000 to $100,000 per year.

“There is tremendous demand out there,” Halter said.

The residential buildings will mimic a house, with six to 12 apartment units inside.

“The product is designed to look and feel like a single-family home,” Halter said.

Still, Jacque Cullins who lives off Twelve Oak Circle, was the first to address the council, saying she has been fielding calls from concerned friends and family who want the proposed project to have townhomes or condos with less density.

“What are they going to do, change the name of Dallas Street to Franklin Road?” Cullins gave as an example of questions from worried residents.

Still, most other speakers said the apartments are great for young adults who cannot afford to buy a home or senior citizens who no longer want to maintain a yard and want to cut back on driving places.

“I would love to cut the noose of the suburban life out from around my neck,” said Tracey Vars, who sits on the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority. “Personally, I am ready for a vibrant downtown.”

Comments
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Michael Simms
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May 15, 2014
The lie is right there in this story. Look at two statements in the same article:

"For the Dallas Street project, Halter said the target market for renters are office professionals, not students, who earn between $50,000 to $100,000 per year.

and then this:

"Still, most other speakers said the apartments are great for young adults who cannot afford to buy a home or senior citizens..."

So which is it? Money earning professionals making 75K? Or broke students and old people? Or is it really the Section 8 refugees from Marietta?

This will be a Democrat voting district in the next decade. Find a "college town", or an area that has seen 300% African-American growth that isn't voting Democrat. Congratulations Kennesaw board.
Andrew Jacobs
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May 15, 2014
My concern with this type of development is the apartments. Kennesaw has enough of those already. A few years ago, city leaders were excited about Ridenour, a similar live, work, play community that was supposed to be transformative. It has failed massively to live up to the hype and promises. Instead of being a vibrant self contained community, it is merely another collection of high density housing units which prominently includes a Section 8 apartment complex (Walton).

Before the City subjects it's residents to more apartments of this nature, they should all be required to live at Walton for a month. While they may be seeking working professionals for the City's downtown apartment complex, that's what Ridenour was supposed to be too and it has turned into something very different and is not the asset it was promised to be.
Debra Williams
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May 15, 2014
As I said at the meeting, We would all love to get our utopia, but that's not possible. We will never get everything we want so we must stop, look and find within ourselves what we are willing to compromise too become part of the win-win-win. We each represent people who took positions on opposite sides of this development and needed to find a way to represent them all the best way possible, and we worked through that and I believe accomplished that. No one lost, no one won - OUR CITY WON!

We are 30,000 people who call this city 'my city', and for that reason alone, we must strive to live, work, and serve together to make our city the best it can be. The best way to do that is to listen and not just talk at our fellow citizens, get the facts, don't assume the what if's will actually happen - that's a crystal ball none of us can live under.

The only way to build our city for future generations and the one request I ask of each of us is to think and act - BEYOND YOU!
600 More Apartments
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May 15, 2014
I don't understand why the Mayor and city council are so blind to the potential for long term damage to the City that can be caused by too many apartments.

I would suggest they take a look at Franklin Road or Six Flags Parkway for examples of what happens long term to areas with excessive apartments. Kennesaw already has many complexes in the vicinity of Kennesaw College, along Barrett Parkway, at Ridenhour, there is Mountain Park Estates and the Ellison Lakes complex. The later of which I understand is already a problem for police. Yet, here they are giddy about approving 250 more apartments on this site and 320 more apartment units as part of their rezoning of the Barrett Parkway/Old US 41 project.

As a long time resident of Kennesaw, I would be thrilled to see the City developing with quality mixed-use developments that included a mix of retail and single-family homes but apartments tend to follow one trajectory. They are nice at first, attract quality citizens, then when a newer complex comes along those renters go elsewhere leaving the old apartments to cater to a different demographic. In time, they become a menace to the community. Single family neighborhoods usually don't follow the same path thus being a much better option for the long-term health of the City.

Some apartments are necessary for most communities for individuals seeking temporary housing but the City of Kennesaw and the contiguous area already has more than enough rental units to meet those needs; nearly 600 more apartments are the last thing Kennesaw needs.

I realize I am one lone citizen whose voice will be drowned out by the lure of tax revenue but I would humbly suggest that the city leaders go to the aforementioned areas (Franklin Road and Six Flags Parkway) and decide for themselves if that is their vision for Kennesaw in 2035 because that will be their legacy.
Cris Eaton Welsh
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May 15, 2014
No one is going to get everything they want, but if we as a community can communicate and are willing to listen to both sides we can find a compromise that we can all live with. I requested the audio from last night's council meeting and you can as well. I believe you should hear the conversations first hand instead of second hand. (Warning, it's two hours, but I believe worth your time investment).

Rumors an innuendo will kill a small town and there is nothing in the world worth dividing our people. I am excited for the path our community has chosen and I hope you will join us on the journey.
Steve Creason
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May 15, 2014
Agreed Cris. A town that pulls together grows together. No community can exist or grow that lives in a static state.
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