$4M streetscape renovation stalled on Whitlock Avenue
by Hilary Butschek
June 05, 2014 04:00 AM | 5956 views | 9 9 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta teenager Jamon Sutton, 15, makes his way around orange barrels on Whitlock Avenue in front of the Burnt Hickory Road turnoff Monday at about noon. Walkers in the area have been forced to use the side of the road to cross a ravine because the sidewalks are not ready for public use. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta teenager Jamon Sutton, 15, makes his way around orange barrels on Whitlock Avenue in front of the Burnt Hickory Road turnoff Monday at about noon. Walkers in the area have been forced to use the side of the road to cross a ravine because the sidewalks are not ready for public use.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — Councilman Grif Chalfant said residents are anxious to see Whitlock Avenue undergo a $4 million streetscape renovation, although construction isn’t set to begin until the end of this year.

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.

Comments
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Jim Warren
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June 06, 2014
Is there/has their been any reasonable talk about what can be done to alleviate the traffic congestion on Whitlock during traffic peaks? It is really rather ridiculous (if nothing is being worked on to alleviate such)that the concern is about sidewalks and saving trees between Oakton and Marietta High school. I understand the need to be able to walk to the square safely (east end of Whitlock), but streetscaping for gridlocked car traffic? Directional lane that changes inward in morning and outward evening? Those can be dangerous, but it seems like the problem gets a collective "shrug" from DOT and state. Something needs to change.
better ideas
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July 02, 2014
Whitlock would be a whole lot better if those right side bubbleouts were removed. That way when a West Cobb Paudling person wants to turn left but has to wait, a gap would actually form in the never ending stream of metal and rubber such that we could get onto Whitlock or across it.

For the people living in West Cobb or Paulding, if you are not retired or a farmer, MOVE! You spend more on your car every year than your house will ever gain in value (assuming it ever gains in value).

You are underwater and sinking. Here's a pro tip: One day soon everyone out there will realize they are in a no-win situation. You have to get out prior to that day if you don't want to lose ALL the money you invested in your house.

When the real estate people told you to spend as much as you could afford on the biggest house you could afford no matter how far the drive was, they lied! They took advantage of you! GET OUT TODAY BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE AND YOU LOSE YOUR INVESTMENT!
timbabu
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June 05, 2014
So glad to hear about the Franklin Rd. development. The whole area is a crime ridden slum. Oh and while there. Raise those cheap hotels next to 75 N. They are nothing but crack houses and many people have been killed there. The area used to be nice back in the 80's what happened ?? !!!!
y walk whitlock
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June 05, 2014
Whitlock is constantly covered in a plague of hot smelly cars. Who in their right mind would want to walk it?

Polk Street a block north is a far better candidate for sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Polk extends the length from the Marietta Square to the Krogers, the very same length they are talking about, but has much less car traffic while having more space for sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

Maxwell Street a block south is also a far better candidate for sidewalks and bicycle lanes, if only a block long multi-use path would connect it through to the next neighborhood on Columbia or Brookwood, and if only a block-long multi-use path would connect that neighborhood from, say, Hillandale, over by the Laurel Park tennis courts on through to Manning. If these ped/bike connections were made, children living South of Whitlock could walk or ride a bicycle to Marietta High School without ever seeing Whitlock.

However, they want to usurp land on each side of Whitlock for sidewalks. Well guess what, soon as they're done and the land is owned by the public, those sidewalks will turn into lanes for motor vehicles to chauffeur people to and from West Cobb and Paulding, driving over the faces of the taxpaypers funding the expansion.

City of Marietta seems once again to be throwing its citizens under the motor vehicles of the folks who "bought bigger" out West in the country where you can barely get to. Why does Marietta work constantly to devalue its golden goose, its city homes, for the purpose of moving cars that belong to nonresidents?

It would be great to believe these Whitlock sidewalks will be around forever, but I give them 2 or 3 years max before they convert to motor vehicle lanes "due to disuse." OF course they will be disused: Whitlock is constantly plagued with cars, while parallel routes are far better for walking and bicycling!
Rick Z
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June 05, 2014
The part of this comment ranting about Marietta wanting to build sidewalks on Whitlock in order to later pave them over for car traffic is just bizarre. But I think the suggestions about accommodating pedestrian traffic on the quieter parallel streets north and south of Whitlock, instead of alongside the road with the heaviest traffic, have a lot of merit.
Rick Maher
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June 05, 2014
The above negative comments concerning the walks and projects underway on Whitlock, in my opinion, are silly. There will be no threat of creating new lanes on Whitlock. The initiative to build these sidewalks and street improvements was initiated by residents and business owners in and near the Whitlock corridor. The walks beyond Fitzpatrick heading into the square will be narrowed in order to protect the historic homes. Speaking for myself and many neighbors, we are very excited and will using Whitlock to walk and bike. Anyone with an alternate plan could have spoken up long ago.

In regard to the timing of the start of construction on Whitlock, our group ,WMCIG, is very anxious to see work get started, be realize the planning and permits required would do well to get all completed before mid to late f\Fall. Personally, I hope to see the project completed by this time next year.

I do agree that walks on both sides of Polk are a good idea, and it is a project the City should consider in the future.

Our WMCIG group would also like to sees walks/ multiuse trails on Burnt Hickory and Old Mountain Road.It Seems possible City, County, and the Federal Park Service could get together on that wish as it is a recognized safety concern.

New Marietta
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June 05, 2014
Nice try "Old May-retta" but we made the connection to your new name..

The argument about "the folks who bought out in the west" is old... time for a new rant.

Ciao!

take a walk
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July 02, 2014
Take a walk up Whitlock if you don't believe it's miserable! Sidewalks on Whitlock would be for the gain of about a dozen families living on Whitlock. Everyone in adjacent neighborhoods ALREADY use parallel (to Whitlock) routes for walking or bicycling to the Square, because Whitlock is a miserable walk! Everybody tries it once or twice then finds a different way. TRY IT! YOU WILL HATE IT!
whitlock walkers
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July 02, 2014
The regular Whitlock Walkers all live in those crime infested flood plain apartments at the end of Burnt Hickory across from where West Cobb people can't stop driving into the hole. Why do we want more of this, exactly? Instead, City of Marietta should be hiring their Franklin Road friends to "light a fire" (figuratively, not literatlly hire an arsonist, of course) to get redevelopment of those apartments started!

I mean seriously. How many times have you seen Roy Barnes walking to work? Once or twice, I bet. It's TERRIBLE walking along a smelly line of hot cars no matter how pretty the sidewalk.

Let's get rid of all the cars from Whitlock and then we can talk about sidewalks. How about making Whitlock into a linear park instead of a commuter cut through? Get rid of all the cars, make them go a different way. Add some benches, viola, Whitlock is the new Silver Comet Trail, or at least a few miles of it.
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