ALPHARETTA, Ga. – It took longer than Avalon, but after nearly four hours of debate and questions, but the developers behind a mixed-use project on South Main Street won approval Monday by the Alpharetta City Council on a 5-1 vote.
Duke Land Group had petitioned the city for a change in zoning to allow construction of “Downtown Main,” a mix of retail, office, restaurants and residential on 12.9 acres at the corner of Main Street and Devore Road.
The land is the site of a long-empty shopping center and is zoned C-2. This designation allows a broad range of general commercial uses.
There was a healthy mix of sentiment from the crowd of about 100 residents who attended the meeting.
Some described the proposal as “outrageous,” and others characterized it as a possible salvation for a blighted area.
Following a negative vote from the Alpharetta Planning Commission last month, Duke Land brought a revised plan before the City Council Monday night.
Duke Realty sought 78 townhomes and 179 high-end apartments. It also included a 3-story office/retail structure, a 3-story office building, 2 restaurants and a brewery occupying 25,000 square feet anchoring the complex.
The proposal did not sit well with Councilman Jim Gilvin, who cast a lone dissenting vote. Gilvin said approval of the project betrays the city’s Downtown Master Plan and the hundreds of residents who contributed to its adoption.
The Master Plan, he said, was adopted allowing for a density of a maximum of 10 residential units per acre in the Downtown node. Under terms of the Master Plan, any greater densities in the downtown area would require City Council approval. The South Main proposal called for almost 20 units per acre.
After close to four hours of presentations from the developer, questions from city leaders and comments from over a dozen residents, the City Council voted to allow a scaled-down version of the residential request. It allows for 129 rental units and 68 townhomes on the property. The measure passed 5-1, with Mayor David Belle Isle absent.
Comments from residents varied. Most in opposition decried the traffic the development will bring to an already congested area.
“Density is going to add volume, and volume, with very little effort, can become congestion,” said Valerie Manley, representing the Windward Community Service Association.
Manley also said city leaders should reject “veiled threats” that, if the development is rejected, the property could be sold for a less-appropriate commercial use such as a drive-through restaurant.
But others argued that the project could provide a shot in the arm to a depressed area.
Dawn Tribble, who owns a home in the Alpha Park neighborhood directly across the street from the site, said South Main Street is in dire need of revitalization. She said she was excited to find out about the project.
The area south of City Center, has become a gathering point for vagrants, and some residential properties in her neighborhood have fallen into disrepair, said Tribble.
It stands in stark contrast to what is happening at City Center only a few blocks to the north, she added.
“I love what they’ve done to the downtown area, but it looks like it stopped [short],” she said.