At its monthly meeting on Thursday, the CID’s board discussed gathering information to possibly recommend changes to zoning categories in the area to the Board of Commissioners. However, Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the district, said he does not think changes to the zoning code are necessary.
The board also voted to adjust the design of the upcoming $33.4-million Windy Hill diverging diamond interchange, expected to open by March 2017.
The adjustment is intended to echo the decorative structure planned for the Cumberland Boulevard Bridge near Cobb Galleria.
Board member Bob Voyles, a principal at the real estate firm Seven Oaks Company, suggested the CID consider advising county Chairman Tim Lee and the district commissioners about zoning restrictions for the area.
Midtown Atlanta has been very successful because city zoning ordinances give developers more freedom when it comes to a property’s density, he said.
As the Cumberland area changes with the arrival of a Major League Baseball team, Voyles said it will likely become more urban and the zoning restrictions should reflect that.
“I think we certainly need to have a voice and be part of the thinking about the future because Tim and his colleagues on the commission are investing huge amounts of money in this area. We’re all making a big bet on the Atlanta Braves coming here,” he said.
CID Chairman Tad Leithead said the recent growth in the area is the reason the CID is considering making recommendations to commissioners.
“We had $83 million in permits last month and another $100 million in permits this month,” he said. “That’s really unprecedented activity, particularly given what we’ve seen over the last few years. And what it’s doing is the market is changing the nature of the Cumberland Galleria area from a traditional suburban market to a more urban, … more dense environment. The question gets to be: Does it make sense to look at whether the zoning categories that are in place support the type of urbanized growth that we’re going to see in the coming years?”
“At this point, it’s worth taking a look at and seeing if there are some adjustments that the commissioners would make,” Leithead said.
Commissioners will likely look at the county’s zoning code and consider changes to it early next year, Lee said, so “it is absolutely the right time for the right people to sit and think about what Cumberland ought to be in 15, 20 years and come up with a couple of recommendations and let us kick it around.
“I agree it’s important to look at it holistically to make sure that we’re poised to take advantage of the change in the environment that’s going to occur over the next three years, how that might impact our future going into 10 or 15 years,” he added.
Ott, who was not at the meeting, said in a phone interview the area does not need any changes to the zoning code because it already has a significant amount of development and redevelopment.
“If development and redevelopment is being stymied by the zoning code, I would be totally supportive of changing it,” Ott said. “But it does not appear to me that that’s the case in the Cumberland area. Clearly, we’re going to have zoning cases that may not fit the exact zoning code, but I think those will be one-offs that can be easily decided by the Board of Commissioners.”
Ott added he is not aware of a zoning request for the area being denied.
“The current zoning code, although it may not be perfect, I think it easily has room to be worked within. There have been no zonings, while I’ve been commissioner, in the Cumberland corridor that have been denied.”
Gateways to the community
The CID board also voted to transfer funds to the firm that designed the Windy Hill Road diverging diamond interchange, Moreland-Altobelli, so the company can adjust the design to resemble the Cumberland Boulevard Bridge.
The firm designed the diverging diamond interchange, but not the aesthetic component of the bridge, Leithead said.
Moreland-Altobelli produced the design of the Cumberland Boulevard Bridge to have three blue, decorative arches resembling waves. Construction is expected to begin in December with a projected completion six months later. The $1.35 million beautification project will be 80 percent funded by a GDOT grant with the Cumberland CID paying the remainder.
Leithead said the two bridges are entrance points to the CID, so the board wanted to have continuity in the designs.
“Now we’re talking about Windy Hill, which is, arguably, the gateway to the CID if you’re coming from the north,” he said. “And it just sort of makes sense that if we can establish not an identical, but a similar design theme for both bridges, that we would welcome people into the CID from both directions with similar looking designs.”
The CID had a contract with Montreal-based DE Design and Environment Consultancy in the amount of $85,000 to design the aesthetic aspects of the Windy Hill Road bridge over Interstate 75. Leithead said the CID did not think the company “captured the essence of what we were trying to accomplish …” so the board decided to work with Moreland-Altobelli again.
DE Design did not exhaust its funding, so the CID will give the remainder of the funds to Moreland-Altobelli.
“Our proposal is to simply shift over that money. That amount is about $72,000. That $72,000 is not only going to pay for the remainder of the aesthetic design work and adaptation, but all of the other items that Moreland-Altobelli has been working on,” said Malaika Rivers, CID executive director.
The diverging diamond interchange will be funded by a combination of a $2.4 million grant from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, a $6 million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and about $5 million from the Cumberland CID; the remainder of the $20 million project will be financed with 2011 SPLOST funds. The Cobb DOT is hoping to break ground on the project in fall 2015.
The DDI is designed to allow vehicles to cross to the opposite sides of the road on the bridge when entering or exiting the freeway, eliminating the need for those drivers to make left turns.