The city redevelopment project known as Project Renaissance is picking up momentum, city officials say.

On Sept. 9, the city sold six lots to the private developer working on the project, John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, so the developer could begin work on the first residences it will build in the 35-acre project, City Manager Warren Hutmacher told members of Dunwoody City Council.

Also, the city is considering an early purchase of 19 of the acres it has under contract in order save money on financing costs.

“The first two homes will start coming out of the ground in the next two weeks,” Hutmacher said on Sept. 9. “Over the last two years, we have been spending money. Now money is coming back in.”

Hutmacher projected the city’s land costs for the project, including financing, would total $11.7 million. Land sales by the city, including both sales to Wieland – which is to build 68 single-family homes – and future sales of property to be developed for commercial uses, should produce $7.64 million, he said. That means the city’s cost in the project would total about $4.1 million.

The city is building four parks on the land it will retain. Playground equipment has been installed and concrete work on foundations for other structures in the parks is nearly done, Hutmacher said. The parks are expected to open in November. “The site’s going to go from looking like a desert to looking more like a park,” Hutmacher said.

Financial summary for Project Renaissance

Land purchase costs

Purchase of 35 acres……….$10,700,000

Financing………………………400,000

Demolition…………………….600,000

Total land costs……………..$11,700,000

Sale of property

Sales to John Wieland Homes…………$6,370,000

Future sale of commercial site…………..1,265,000

Total property sales………………………..$7,635,000

Net cost of land acquisition……………..$4,065,000

Source: city of Dunwoody

At the same time, several unrelated development projects are being considered in the area. “We’re certainly seeing huge signs that the investment the city is making and Wieland is making are having an effect in this area,” he said.

By taking 35 acres off the market, the city has improved the market for developable real estate in the Georgetown area, city officials said.

“We’re very pleased at this point, but this is very early in the process,” Hutmacher said. “We’re in the first inning of a long game.”

Several council members welcomed word the project was moving forward.

“I think this is very good news,” Mayor Mike Davis said.

Councilman Terry Nall said the project gave the city a chance to spur development in the area and to add acreage to the city’s park system. He said it appeared the final cost to the city would total less than the amount the city had agreed to pay for the original 16-acre tract. Councilman Denny Shortal said it was “critical” to develop single-family homes in the area.

But Councilwoman Adrian Bonser questioned Hutmacher’s financial report, asking whether it included the costs of the lawyers who worked on the transactions. “These numbers are not accurate if [the report] doesn’t include legal fees we’ve paid,” she said.

She also questioned whether the development, when finished, would bring the neighborhood the sort of development residents wanted.

“I have not heard a lot of cheerleading from the residents in the Georgetown area,” she said. “They’re not happy with more residents. They want amenities. I believe you’re strangling the area. I’m disappointed, and I’m sure you’re going to hear about this from constituents.”

The city proposed the redevelopment project in the Georgetown community in March of 2012. The city purchased the 35 acres in Project Renaissance in two parcels, a 16-acre tract, and a 19-acre tract the city is buying through a multi-year purchase.

Hutmacher proposed Sept. 9 that the city buy the last portion of the 19-acre tract before the end of September in order to save about $60,000 in interest costs. The city had proposed closing on the 5.6-acre portion next August. “I’m recommending speeding up the closing,” he said. “I think it makes a lot of sense.”