Streetfront-oriented townhomes will replace an office park in a project approved by Sandy Springs City Council April 19 as a breakthrough residential development on northern Roswell Road.

Acadia Homes’ site plan for the Roswell Road property.

Acadia Homes got rezoning and most requested variances to replace the Emerald Office Park at 6870 Roswell Road with 18 ownership townhomes priced in the low to mid-$400,000 range.

Council member Gabriel Sterling praised the project as “breaking through the iron wall of redevelopment” on Roswell beyond Abernathy Road. It’s the first new residential development on that stretch since the 2008 market crash, he said, and the council hopes it will spark imitators.

The project also involves some units with porches fronting directly on Roswell Road—the kind of pedestrian-oriented look and feel the city is seeking to establish along the corridor in its “Next Ten” reworking of city planning and zoning.

Developer attorney Pete Hendricks described the current property as “blighted” and said the townhomes will help spread “gentrification” of the area.

Current business tenants, including Style Taxi, will be evicted within 60 days, according to the minutes of a prior community meeting.

The property has an unusual triangular shape that Hendricks called “almost like a piece of pie.” While the City Council liked its residential flavor, the approval didn’t come easily. The shape made for what Hendricks called “extreme constraints” and several setback-type zoning variance requests.

The current Emerald Office Park at 6870 Roswell Road in a Google Earth Street View image.

Mayor Rusty Paul and council members questioned the developers at length, and the approval included a detailed, last-minute appendix of conditions distributed via email. Developer team member Clint Walters said he hadn’t seen the list before. Council member Andy Bauman said the list came out of discussion among the councilmen and the mayor about assuring high-quality materials.

“Clearly, this is an improvement over the status quo,” Bauman said, but added that the council now also seeks to answer the question, “Is this the best we can do?”

One item that remained up in the air was whether the complex will be gated. The city is building pressure against gated communities as it promotes walkability and interconnected parcels.

“As you drive down Roswell Road, it says, ‘Don’t come in,’” city planning manager Ginger Sottile said of a gate. Walters, on the other hand, said that’s exactly the idea: “I just think, at this price point, people like a gated community.”

The project also had the conditional support of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, according to city staff and the developer. No one spoke in opposition at the City Council meeting.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.