Sandy Springs’ North End redevelopment concepts should offer mixed-use developments with green space and should absolutely not have “poor-quality” retail, many residents said at a March 5 community meeting.
The meeting was hosted by TSW, an architect firm hired by the city in December to create redevelopment designs of four shopping centers in the North End.
Around 200 residents attended the meeting at City Hall, where they were assigned to groups of about 12 people to work on an exercise facilitated by TSW. The first activity had each group, which consisted of about 12 people, come to a consensus about what the top five priorities of the redevelopment concepts should be.
The final question asked groups to decide what redevelopment concepts must have, would be nice to have and what they cannot have.
The groups entered their answers into an online survey at the meeting, which TSW representatives said they will be using to begin the site planning. The presentation and questions will be open until March 19 and can be accessed at menti.com with the code 23 56 46. Directions for entering input can be found at spr.gs/north.
“The only thing we know about the sites is what they are today,” TSW President Tom Walsh said at the meeting. “We haven’t even done a site analysis.”
One input question asked where the meeting attendees lived, with roughly 4% saying in an apartment in the North End; 42% saying in a single-family home in the North End; 20% in a condo or townhouse in the North End; 25% in Sandy Springs but not in the North End; 3% in Roswell; and 5% in Fulton County but not in Sandy Springs.
Many residents said the redevelopment concepts should include connectivity, walkability and green space as part of the mixed-use plans. According to TSW, the sites currently have “walk scores” between 38 and 48. A walk score ranges from 1 to 100 and describes how easy it is for people to access entertainment, restaurants, retail and transit by foot. The area is already trending slightly higher than the city’s average of 27, TSW said, but Roswell Road needs to be safer to walk on to encourage residents to do so.
According to the results from the questions that were being played in real-time on projection screens during the meeting, most residents agreed the redevelopment concepts cannot have low-end or “seedy” retail because they are not sustainable in the long term.
“[The centers] have got to have redevelopment,” one resident said. “If we could redevelop first, we could add green space in the longer term, but first you’ve got to redevelop.”
Some residents said the area has to have affordable housing, while some said the area will not be able to maintain affordability once it is redeveloped.
“I think it would be nice to have, but I don’t know how it will happen,” one resident said.
At the annual retreat held in January, the City Council said the city would be studying housing affordability in the city and looking at what can be done to both provide and maintain it moving forward.
TSW began the meeting with a presentation that gave an overview of the project and the four sites they will be looking at, which include the former Loehmann’s Plaza at 8610 Roswell Road; the Northridge Shopping Center at 8331-8371 Roswell Road; the North River Shopping Center at 8765-8897 Roswell Road and the North Springs Center at 7300 Roswell Road.
TSW is required to design a total of 12 plans, three for each shopping center. One design will conform to the city’s Development Code, one will potentially require variances, and the third will be “unique” and would not be bound by any code requirements.
The firm also went over a brief history of the North End Task Force, a city-formed group that introduced the idea of redeveloping the shopping centers in December 2018. At the time, the task force ultimately deciding on six key proposals: build a multiuse trail; incentivize new mixed-use and mixed-income developments; make Roswell Road improvements; build new streets and pedestrian connections; create new access to the Chattahoochee River; and build a community center and swimming complex.
“Some of them may still be relevant, some of them may not,” TSW Project Manager Sarah McColley said at the meeting. “That’s kind of up to you. We’re looking for you to maybe build on this, but maybe also want new ideas.”
TSW will be holding two “pop-up” input meetings on May 2 at the Sandy Springs Farmers’ Market at 1 Galambos Way and the Community Assistance Center at 1130 Hightower Trail and another on May 9 at the Northridge Shopping Center. Times are still to be determined, according to TSW. A second round of pop-ups will be scheduled in June and July.
After that, the firm will begin developing the conceptual plans that will include three scenarios for each site, 3D imaging, cost estimates for each scenario and revisions based on feedback from pop-ups.
Another round of pop-ups will be scheduled and after looking at the feedback, TSW will create an implementation plan that will make revisions to the previous scenarios and funding recommendations.
After that, a public open house will be held that will show the draft proposals. Then the final presentation will be given to the council with all the recommendations.
“We’re going to be working on this over the next several months, so you will have lots of opportunity to give lots of input,” Andrea Worthy, the city’s director of economic development, said at the meeting.
TSW is also working closely with the North End Advisory Committee, a group appointed by the city to advise and review the forthcoming redevelopment conceptual plans. The committee met with TSW for its first meeting on Feb. 10. A second meeting has not been scheduled yet.