As the city continues buying property along Roswell Road north of I-285, it’s also shopping around for someone to turn its downtown dreams into a reality.

In August, the city published a draft request for proposal for a “master developer” to partner with the city for its downtown revitalization project.

City center plans will take nearly a decade to implement and will cost upward of $100 million, according to city estimates.

When finished, the project will transform a 14-acre block north of I-285 into a mixed-use city center. The boundaries are Johnson Ferry Road to the north, Roswell Road to the east, Mount Vernon Highway to the south, and Sandy Springs Circle to the west, according to a draft of the Request for Qualifications to find developers for the project.

The city’s announcement says it wants comments from potential developers before unveiling the formal RFQ at the Sept. 17 City Council meeting.

“Goals for the project include the creation of a unique, vibrant, walkable city center, which incorporates mixed-use development introducing new dining, high-end residential living, amenity retail and entertainment options,” the city’s announcement says. “The project also will create an appropriate setting for a new civic/cultural center that will contain multiple uses such as city offices, a performing arts facility and community activity center.”

According to the draft RFQ, the developer can be one person or a team of people with the right mix of skills.

Among the city’s preferred qualifications, according to the draft RFQ:

– Must have experience developing “open air, high quality, aesthetically pleasing” retail districts in metro Atlanta or the southeastern U.S.

– Must have experience developing a variety of projects, such as retail, restaurants and office condominiums.

– Must have experience developing a variety of residential projects, such as condominiums, high-end apartments, townhomes and single-family residences. “The city’s objectives include preference for owner-occupied housing, as dictated by market demand,” the draft RFQ says.

– Must have experience developing mixed-use projects in “multiple jurisdictions throughout the metro Atlanta region, particularly in urban locations” that resemble the city’s downtown.

– Most have 10 years’ experience or more in “leasing, management and operation” of residential or mixed-use projects.

The master developer would be responsible for project design, construction, identifying the financing, and implementing “lifestyle” elements like concierge services.

In the draft RFQ, the city notes it is undertaking several projects that will support the city center. City efforts include undertaking a parking study and providing infrastructure improvements, road extensions, a playground and parking spaces. The city still needs an additional $44.4 million to complete its project list, according to the draft RFQ.

Potential responders can view the draft RFQ by visiting sandyspringsga.gov/purchasing.

Recent meetings have shown City Council is willing to aggressively pursue its downtown plans. Council members have voted twice to authorize the use of eminent domain to take property from owners unwilling to sell. So far, the city has authorized the use of eminent domain for a Sherwin Williams store, located at 245 Johnson Ferry Road, and 6224 Roswell Road, currently home to Makara Mediterranean Restaurant.

The city has purchased most of the additional property from willing sellers. Under Georgia law, condemning property using the eminent domain process would restrict those properties to public use for 20 years.

The city has budgeted $19 million for property purchases, and the draft RFQ indicates the city will need at least another $6.5 million to finish buying parcels for the first phase of the project.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com