This week, the Cobb Board of Commissioners gave Northside Hospital its approval to move forward with a medical office facility it plans to build in east Cobb.
The proposed four-story, 80,000-square-foot building, which will be constructed at the corner of Olde Towne Parkway and Johnson Ferry Road, could open as early as fall 2016, according to Russ Davis, spokesman for Northside.
“The future campus will offer a wide array of medical services and specialties,” Davis said.
An estimated 400 jobs could be created when the project is complete, he added.
Sharon Gay with McKenna, Long and Aldridge, attorney for Northside, said the health care provider has “worked extensively” with the east Cobb community, including reaching out to East Cobb Civic Association, and has worked to “incorporate all the recommended and suggested stipulations and requirements that they have requested.”
Lee O’Neil, president of the ECCA, has said his group is in favor of the new development.
“They’re taking something that already exists and repurposing it to be more useful. That’s a good idea, as opposed to creating excess inventory of commercial space. They’re trying to invest in the community,” he said.
Gay said Northside designed the proposed facility with an eye toward existing properties on Johnson Ferry and will follow the area’s guidelines regarding landscaping, streetlights and signage.
“Northside tries to fit their office buildings into the surrounding community,” she said. “So, we’ve designed a building specifically for this location; it’s not just the same thing they did somewhere else.”
The proposed medical office building is about three miles from the new WellStar facility at the corner of Roswell and Providence roads. WellStar’s facility is expected to open in September.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Bob Ott lauded Northside’s community outreach.
“I think that this is a good use for this site. Northside has done a very good job of reaching out to the community. I appreciate your efforts in working with the Johnson Ferry Plan and design guidelines that the community has asked for,” he said.
Most of the complaints he has received were traffic-related, Ott said, adding he is working with businesses in the area to come up with solutions to the increased traffic.
“It is an issue, and I think if the shopping center was fully occupied, traffic would be a lot worse. So, one of things I’ve been doing over the last probably about 30 to 45 days is working with the area property owners — trying to come up with alternative solutions to the traffic,” he said.
Davis said he does not have a specific cost or timeline for the facility’s construction because Northside was waiting for the zoning decision from the commissioners before closing on the property, which currently houses the Fountains of Olde Towne Shopping Center.
Even after purchasing the property, he said the company must wait for the shopping center’s tenants to vacate before the buildings can be demolished.
“That’s why the timeline for that first building opening is as far out as it is.”
‘The end of an era’
Linda Fryer has owned the Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in the Fountains of Olde Towne shopping center for the last 18 years and spoke up during the meeting. She said while she is happy Northside is coming to the community, she “(wishes) they would consider a multi-use proposition because there’s not a lot of land left in east Cobb to develop.”
Fryer, an east Cobb resident for 25 years, said she doesn’t know when she will have to close her business, but thinks it will probably be in May or early summer. She said she is “actively seeking” a new location in east Cobb, but increased requirements from the Mellow Mushroom corporate office — a 5,000 square foot, free-standing building with a full bar — may make it difficult.
“That’s going to be an issue because right now, there is no space for lease that meets those requirements in the east Cobb area,” she said.
Fryer, who also owns the Mellow Mushroom at the corner of Shallowford and Trickum roads near Lassiter High School in east Cobb, said she hopes she will be able to open a new location around the time the current one closes so her employees — some of whom have worked with her for 16 years — won’t have to go without work.
“So, that’s kind of where things are at — a little depressing. The man wins,” she said. “It’s the end of an era. It’s been a great run.”