On Tuesday, the Cobb County Planning Commission will consider a hotly debated proposal which would turn a dilapidated East Cobb strip mall into a mixed-use development featuring retail spaces, offices, and a national grocery store chain.
The Sprayberry Crossing development, spearheaded by Atlanta-based Atlantic Residential, includes 8,000 square feet of office space, 5,735 square feet of “neighborhood retail” space, and over 30,000 square feet set aside for a Lidl grocery. The property as a whole encompasses over 17 acres.
Also included in the development are apartments, condominiums, and senior living units. The number of each has been revised several times. The latest version of the site plan proposes to build 125 apartments, 125 senior units, and 44 townhomes.
The development effort has been in the works for years. It first entered the spotlight in 2018, when residents and members of the Sprayberry Crossing Action Facebook group held a packed meeting encouraging county development leaders to address the blighted property. Today, that Facebook group has over 5,800 members.
Home to a long-abandoned bowling alley, among other businesses, residents said the shopping center was a magnet for crime and nuisance complaints. Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said in 2018 that between 2011 and 2017, the location was the subject of 85 police calls and 42 county code enforcement calls.
Submitted to the county in September 2020, Atlantic Residential’s proposal has undergone a number of changes in the last eight months. Attorney Kevin Moore, who represents the developer, singled out a decrease in the number of residential units (bringing the height of the buildings down from five stories to three), and a common green space area as two of the biggest changes resulting from resident feedback.
“We feel that we have done everything that can be done for a top flight quality redevelopment,” Moore said. “What’s being proposed is exactly what is needed for a full redevelopment, and that is a true mixed-use to bring vibrancy and quality to a location that hasn't seen that in decades.”
Not all residents, however, are pleased with Atlantic Residential’s vision for the property. A petition against building high-density apartments at the location had over 1,300 signatories as of April 5, and argues the development “goes against the character of the community.”
“This will undoubtedly impact our traffic, schools, crime, and home values,” the petition reads. “We, voting residents of this community, sign this petition to show our elected officials we do not support the rezoning of Sprayberry Crossing with high density rental apartments.”
The proposal has also been highlighted in other online communities, including the Concerned Citizens of East Cobb and Residents Against Apartments at Sprayberry Crossing Facebook groups. The latter has urged its members to attend Tuesday’s meeting, either in-person or virtually.
Shane Spink is one of the moderators of the Sprayberry Crossing Action group, and has served as an intermediary between residents, county government, and Atlantic Residential. He says public opinion can be divided into roughly three groups: those who are vehemently opposed, those who are accepting of the development after its changes were incorporated, and those who just want the blighted area gone, whatever it takes.
“I do feel like the majority of the community is for the new development,” Spink said. “I think that the opposition is very loud. But I don't think they’re a high majority of people just based on what I've seen throughout the community over the last couple of years.”
Spink has tried to stay neutral on the proposal, preferring to help spread information and educate residents rather than getting dragged into the fight.
“That's kind of been our goal, saying, 'Hey, we're gonna give you the information … you guys take it and, and make the determination on your own,'” he said.
Moore, meanwhile, wouldn’t say how confident he feels about his chances Tuesday (“I don't offer predictions.”). But he promised one thing—he won’t be asking for any more continuances.
“This has been in the works for a very long time. To the applicant Atlantic Residential’s credit, they started this over a year ago, engaging the community. And it's time.”