When Mayor Steve Tumlin sat down with the Marietta Daily Journal to talk about the need for passing a $68 million redevelopment bond issuance last October, he said the sidewalk project would be a priority if the bond was passed. It has been stalled, he said this week, because it is hard to design how the sidewalks will affect the trees and the topography of the land.
Chalfant represents a portion of Whitlock Avenue, and he said a few residents are beginning to get restless waiting for work on the road to begin.
“I think everyone is very anxious to see some progress on Whitlock,” Chalfant said. “They do ask us, ‘When is it that we’ll see something happening?’”
The city has paid Netherlands-based Arcadis $378,498 for planning and designing the project, said Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development director.
A sub-consultant of Arcadis, JB+A, a landscaping company in Atlanta, is planning the landscaping and aesthetics for the streetscape project.
Tumlin said the plans won’t be ready for approval for at least another two months. Once approved, construction may begin.
“Getting to where the concrete meets the dirt is the hard part,” Tumlin said.
Even if the plans are finished by the end of summer, Tumlin said there may still be delays in building the sidewalks because the city doesn’t want construction to interfere with the start of the next school year.
Once plans to build the sidewalks are approved, Tumlin said, this project should be completed faster than most because all of the sidewalks will be on existing right of way already owned by the city.
The plan involves the 1.5 mile stretch of Whitlock Avenue between Oakmont Drive, which leads to Marietta Middle School, and Polk Street Extension, which is next to a Kroger.
Presently, 10 percent of the total stretch has sidewalks on either the north or south side of the street, said Charles Lance, the city’s acting engineer who is leading the project. The project will fill in the gaps left from the existing portions of sidewalk on both the north and south side of the street for the remaining three-quarters of a mile so residents could walk on paved paths from just east of Marietta High School to the Square, Sessoms said.
In addition to sidewalks, the Whitlock streetscape project will consider adding pedestrian crossing lights, trees, decorative signs and landscaping to Whitlock Avenue.
Another councilman who represents part of Whitlock Avenue, Johnny Walker, said he has seen workers from Arcadis surveying the road and thinks residents are excited for the improvements.
“I plan to hold a town hall meeting before they actually start digging to where (residents) can give me their input,” Walker said. “There has been some concern over how it’s going to affect some of the landscape with some larger trees. I just want to make sure that everybody is OK with what they’re going to do.”
Because the plans are not finished, the city would not specify how many trees might need to be cut down.
Walker said he drives on Whitlock Avenue every day and thinks it’s dangerous without sidewalks.
“Sometimes I see people running where there’s not walking paths,” Walker said. “I see people on the street — I see mothers pushing their strollers down there, and I cringe.”
The city also plans to use the majority of the $68 million redevelopment bond to buy aging apartment complexes, raze them and sell the land to new investors.
Sessoms said the city has already used $7.9 million of the bond money to buy the 348-unit, 24.32-acre Flagstone Village Apartments at 849 Franklin Road and $12 million to buy the 386-unit 25.2-acre Woodlands Park apartments at 861 Franklin Road.
So far, the city has spent an additional $250,000 on pre-demolition expenses and a soil erosion plan for both of those complexes, Sessoms said. But the date has not been set for when they will be demolished because it will depend on how soon residents can move out of the buildings.
The two apartment complexes are still about 20 to 25 percent full, Tumlin said. The city let people living in the apartments extend their leases to May 31 — the end of the school year — if they were set to expire before that, Sessoms said. But, some people living in the apartments have leases until January 2015, and the city will not make them move out early.
“We were hoping people with a lease might have found a suitable home sooner, but they haven’t,” Tumlin said.
Meanwhile, Tumlin said, “we’re starting to get nibbles” from buyers considering purchasing the land.
The city has acquired more than 50 acres on the east side of Franklin Road next to Interstate 75 from purchasing the apartment complexes, Tumlin said.
“Having this much control over 50 prime acres — over what to develop — we are encouraged not just to make a few bucks off it, but to do something that would jump-start the development in that area,” Tumlin said.