Roswell NEXT and Downtown Development Authority partnered to bring an update on Southern Skillet Plaza redevelopment on March 13.

The monthly breakfast meeting for Roswell NEXT members was at Variant Brewing Company and open to the public for a small entrance fee.

S.J. Collins Enterprises Senior Vice President of Development Jay Douglas gave an update and overview of the project, tentatively named "City Center."

"Some days it feels like this project is a marathon, but the good news is, we also feel like we are at mile 25 and we can see the finish line at the end," said Roswell DDA Chairman Randy Schultz 

Schultz emphasized the DDA is listening to the wants of this community in the planning phase, hearing a "strong desire for grocery establishment" and "the need for commercial space for businesses to locate in this area to, not only grow economic activity, but provide additional support for businesses that operate in this area."

At the project's end, the DDA is focused on finding a developer to Roswell who will ultimately "get the city's money back for this project." 

"Good things come to those who wait and this is absolutely the case," said DDA Treasurer Dave Schmit.

"A project of this scale allows economics to happen on a site like that. challenge in Roswell is 'how dense does something get?' 'how much space and stuff do we put on a piece of property?' The reality is, land and development is expensive, so what we put it on it, if it is the right mix and there is enough of it, helps to absorb cost of land and appropriate cost of development. It is economics, which is a really important piece. We can't just be thinking about what we like, but it is worth, from the economic side and what we want as a community.  I am hoping this hits the mark," said Schmit.

According to Douglas, the Southern Skillet redevelopment "has literally been a sprint for us."

S.J. Collins is the second firm selected to be at the helms of redevelopment after an agreement of a site plan could not be met with the Beacham Group.

"We just got into this in December," said Douglas, who describes the firm as "running full speed, 100 miles per hour" to keep the originally proposed time line.

"The city had the vision for this property, Roswell surprised me with that. We want to make something amazing out of this," he said.

Douglas is aiming for people to "see past what is currently there and what is going to be there," describing a "completely different area" in approximately two years. 

S.J. Collins is focused on this mixed-use development's "ability for people to get in and out, park, access it, utilize the project is vital."

"We are going to take a modern structure, make it look old, but have it be modern," said Douglas.

The redevelopment is proposed to encompass: "128 multi-family apartment units, 35 to 50,000 feet of retail and 70,000 square feet of office space," according to Douglas.

"The office component has continued to grow for us," he said. 

According to Douglas, "initially the redevelopment looked at 30,000 square feet, but it has grown because the interest has been so great."

"Offices are now becoming more caring about things similar to retail; visibility, access and how 'cool' they are," said Douglas.

He noted S.J. Collins are in talk with "fantastic retailers," including a grocer and are "moving in the right direction."

The site plan to date accommodates "retail needs to be front and center along Alpharetta street."

One main building will have first floor retail and residential above, the other with office above. 

"We want to do local deals, the more people from Roswell we can cater to, the better I feel about myself and this project," said Douglas.

A parking deck is also planned for the site, but in passing people "won't really be able to see the deck."

S.J. Collins is "in talks with about 4 or 5 retailers" at the time of the meeting, but "no commitments, yet, but 2 months into a project is not unusual."

Talks are also happening with "two or three co-working groups that have a strong interest in downtown Roswell."

"We don't have an anchor in the traditional sense, downtown Roswell is our anchor. People want to come here for what downtown is, so if we can't access that, it is detrimental to our development. We want to guarantee access and walkability," said Douglas.

The parking deck will accommodate approximately 400 to 450 spaces for retail and office component and approximately 200 for multi-family, but Douglas noted those numbers are not set in stone.

"What we really like about mixed use is the "breathability" of parking," said Douglas, who is focused on parking efficiency and "a flow of spaces in flux."

"We won't have gates, more of the Ponce City Market style of parking," he said.

Residents in attendance emphasized accessibility to Canton Street and parking.

"The more we integrate our project into Canton Street the better off we are. If we become the parking hub for people accessing canton street, i'm very much in favor of that. It depends on how we develop access from our project to Canton Street," said Douglas.

Schmit added "a new name is under consideration, but cannot be revealed yet" and it intends to "speak to the origin of the Skillet center and city history."

He described the goal of this redevelopment is to create an environment that is "conducive to the pedestrian."

"This focus is all about putting the pedestrian at the forefront of thinking," said Schmit.

Douglas added that a website will be designed and launched soon, to provide residents an outlet on "how to stay on top of project updates."

The site plan is intended to go before the Historic Preservation Commission and Mayor and City Council in April for approval.

The Neighbor will continue to provide updates on the redevelopment as details become available.

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