EAST COBB — While plans for redevelopment are still being worked up at an east Cobb shopping center left dilapidated for years, one building sitting just in front could be revived as soon as this summer.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is expected to replace the former Burger King at 2716 Sandy Plains Road, less than a third of a mile north of Piedmont Road, which closed last spring.
It is unclear when renovations to the 2,614-square-foot building will begin, as the company is still moving through permitting stages, according to a Freddy’s spokesperson.
But franchise owner Jason Ingermanson said the location could open as soon as this summer.
“Once construction has started, we’ll have a better feel for the timeline,” he said in an emailed statement.
Ingermanson said the company chose to place its third Cobb location on Sandy Plains Road because of the steady flow of traffic and variety of retail businesses and restaurants in the area.
“We hope to be a popular place for area shoppers looking for a quick bite to eat, as well as for those who want to relax and enjoy a fresh meal and dessert treat with family and friends,” he said.
Freddy’s menu items include steakburgers, fries, hot dogs and various frozen custard desserts.
Ingermanson said the Sandy Plains location will employ around 65 locals.
County officials say they found out Freddy’s would be moving in when residents reported graffiti on the former Burger King building over the summer.
“It took us a while to track down the owner. Burger King was leasing from a company, I think in California. So when we finally got in touch with them, they’re the ones that said Freddy’s was moving in,” said County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. “It’s good that we’re getting a new restaurant and something to replace Burger King. We don’t like to see vacant, empty buildings.”
But vacant buildings abound just behind the future Freddy’s.
Sprayberry Crossing redevelopment plans still in the works
Birrell represents the district including the Sprayberry Crossing shopping center, a mostly vacant and dilapidated shopping center just behind the former Burger King.
Shop windows at the 16-acre site at 2692 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta, are painted with the word “closed,” and the wooden paneling on several buildings crumbles and bears holes.
Only a few establishments, like a thrift store on the property’s eastern border, remain active.
A bowling alley on the site has remained vacant for more than a decade, and another portion of the shopping center that once held a Bruno’s grocery store has been empty for twice that long, Birrell said.
The state of the shopping center led to the 2017 birth of a Facebook group aimed at pressuring the property owners into action.
Joe Glancy, who owns a handful of Allstate Insurance agencies, heads the Sprayberry Crossing Action group, which as of Thursday had more than 5,200 members.
Glancy said while the redevelopment of the former Burger King will hopefully mean one less eyesore fronting Sandy Plains Road, he and other members of the Sprayberry Crossing Action group have continued to communicate with developers to get a public update on the shopping center just behind.
“By far the biggest impactful property regarding property values in that area is the ... Sprayberry Crossing shopping center and its potential redevelopment,” he said.
A site plan presented by Atlanta-based commercial real estate company Atlantic Residential was posted to the Sprayberry Crossing Action page in September, but was later withdrawn.
The site plan proposed then shows 12,000 square feet of retail space, more than 250 residential units including 62 town homes, 15,000 square feet of office space and 140 senior residential units with 8,000 square feet of amenities, as well as pools and green space.
Glancy said he has been in discussion with Atlantic Residential and CEO Richard Aaronson ever since Aaronson took interest in the shopping center last year.
Glancy said Aaronson recently engaged a national retailer, as well as other parties, to be involved in the redevelopment, but he declined to share additional details.
“I don’t think Atlantic Residential has the freedom now to communicate however and whenever they want,” he said. “I think these other organizations involved also want to control how their name is rolled out. ... There are developments. It is moving forward. I hope to have the community some new information as soon as Richard and these other individuals involved are prepared to do that.”
Blight tax continues for portion of abandoned shopping center
Meanwhile, Birrell said the county’s own pressure on property owners, through a court order and higher tax bills under the county’s blight tax program, continues.
In August 2018, Cobb Magistrate Court Judge Jennifer Inmon ordered representatives with Sprayberry Crossing Partnership to take nine actions to repair and remedy a 3.4-acre portion of the property that includes the former Village Lanes bowling alley.
When property owners failed to bring the portion of the site up to standard by the end of 2018, Birrell said an increased tax was levied.
That means, beginning in 2019, the property owners were taxed seven times the normal county property tax, according to county spokesman Ross Cavitt.
Cavitt said the 3.4 acres are still listed as a blight property and will be taxed as such until the owners remedy the issues.
Should the property’s value and millage rate remain constant, the designation could increase the annual property taxes on the property from about $3,108 a year — its most recent tax bill — to an estimated $21,756, he said.
Birrell said she hasn’t heard anything more from the owners or developers after the withdrawn proposal late last year.
“They’re supposedly back at the drawing board, but I haven’t seen anything new,” she said.
Tom Garland, property manager for NAI Brannen Goddard representing Sprayberry Crossing Partnership, declined to comment, citing ongoing discussions in the purchase and redevelopment process of the property.
“The issues are complex. Nobody is as eager for redevelopment as we are, but there’s simply no comment at this time,” he said in an emailed statement.
Birrell said whenever it is that redevelopment plans are finalized, the developers will have to come to the county for zoning approval. She said she’d been told that could happen as soon as the next few weeks.
But Glancy was more reluctant to give a timeline. Real estate changes quickly, and sometimes things fall through, he said.
“So everybody’s being kind of careful with what they’re promising or suggesting or planning not to over-commit on anything,” Glancy said.
Aaronson and representatives from Atlantic Residential did not respond to request for comment.