By Randy Southerland – Contributing Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Even in the midst of a pandemic, development in North Fulton is surging. Mixed-use projects are popping up throughout the region, bringing office, retail, restaurants and residential to the growing and affluent cities that make up this end of Fulton County.
The area has long been popular with developers. Between the second quarter of 2019 to Q2 of this year, North Fulton averaged 2 million square feet of commercial real estate under construction. The area garnered about a third of all commercial development in the core metro Atlanta region, according to Samir Abdullahi, deputy director of Economic Development at Select Fulton/Development Authority of Fulton County.
Development and redevelopment, particularly in cities like Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton, and Sandy Springs is being driven by an affluent population, plenty of talent and ample access to housing, parks, good schools and other amenities.
“There are pockets, places like North Fulton, across America, that just have high quality of life, which in turn draws a strong and interested talent base that wants to be in that high quality of life,” Abdullahi said.
Many of these new developments reflect a demand for “experiential quality of life amenities, and that’s what some of these newer developments are starting to reflect,” he said. A more urban, walkable feel with restaurants, and shopping in a mixed-use environment are prime characteristics.
Roswell’s Southern Post redevelopment of a 1960s-era shopping center is a reflection of this type of the approach. Situated on 4.28 acres on the edge of the city’s historic district, it will include 70,000 square feet of office, 35,000 square feet of retail, 128 multifamily units and 17 townhomes.
Construction has been delayed a few months by the pandemic, but work is set to begin in earnest around the first of the year, according to Jeff Garrison, a partner with S.J. Collins Enterprises, the site’s developer.
Along with work on the buildings, Southern Post will get a traffic light on Highway 9 to ease movement into the development by both cars and pedestrians and to better connect it to the rest of the historic district.
The old shopping center at 1037 Alpharetta St., which once included the Southern Skillet Restaurant, had been mostly vacant for years. When the last tenant moved out, it went up for sale and was eventually acquired by the city. With the development of new apartments nearby, local officials saw it as the last property in the historic area that needed redevelopment, according to Steve Stroud, executive director of Roswell Inc.
“Rejuvenating that whole area and putting life into it is what happened when the multifamily went in and that [raised the question of] what do we do with the shopping center,” Stroud said.
The type of mixed-use development is compatible with the rest of the area. The developer conducted “50-plus meetings with the various stakeholders in Roswell to create just the right project as far as scale and density and uses,” Garrison said.
The goal is to “create this village concept that really was conscious of its historical past and yet creating a new sort of vision for the future at the edge of this historic district,” he said.
Located in the heart of downtown Crabapple in Milton, Market District at Crabapple is another mixed-use development under construction on the east side of Birmingham Highway and just south of Crabapple Crossing Elementary School.
The development includes high-end residential development with restaurants and retail. Three of the project’s eight buildings are expected to be open in November.
“We’ll have phase two starting in May, which is another couple buildings over there, and then they have three condo buildings that should be coming up in 2021 as well,” said Milton Economic Development Manager Sarah LaDart.
Total build-out will likely take three to four years.
“All of the plans for Crabapple have been a vision of the city for over a decade, so it’s really exciting right now to see them coming up out of the ground,” LaDart said.
This development is driven by the area’s affluence and growing population.
Milton and Crabapple are getting looks from “restaurants and shop owners in Buckhead and Brookhaven that never really considered coming up to Milton before,” she said. “They’re seeing our demographics, this trend of people moving to the suburbs and taking a look at Market District in Crabapple.”
Alpharetta has long billed itself as the “Technology City of the South.” With an extensive fiber-optic network and business-friendly government, it is home to about 600 tech companies.
With that concentration of tech business, it’s no surprise office space is a big part of 360 Tech Village, set for construction at the corner of Ga. 400 and Haynes Bridge Road. The 60-acre site is being developed by TPA Group and will include 310,000 square feet of office, 26,000 square feet of retail space and 255 multifamily units.
The Alpharetta Development Authority approved a tax abatement of $8 million to $8.8 million over 10 years once the first phase of the project is finished.
The development will tie into the Alpha Loop greenway of multi-use trails which wind throughout the city. “It’s also adjacent to the North Point corridor revitalization effort that we have underway,” said Matthew Thomas, Alpharetta economic development.
“We’ve got a very strong base of technology companies and corporate headquarters,” Thomas said. This development will “continue to support that industry and attract the types of companies and the types of jobs that are looking for that kind of environment.”
In Sandy Springs, city leaders want to make sure its North End doesn’t miss the next development wave “because we didn’t really have our ducks in a row,” said Worthy. The city is consulting with citizens and property owners to frame the best uses for aging properties along Roswell Road.
“This whole process is really about the city trying to remove some of the barriers, some of the risk involved in encouraging redevelopment in the northern part of Sandy Springs,” said Andrea Worthy, Sandy Springs director of economic development. “That’s where the opportunity is. That’s where we have a more affordable type of real estate.”
The city identified four shopping centers along the busy corridor including North River, River Springs, Northridge, and North Springs. They each represent an older style of retail development popular in the 1970s and ‘80s.
“It’s all about redeveloping areas of town that may be coming close to the end of their useful life,” Worthy said.
With the city largely built-out, any new projects are going to be redevelopments of existing properties. There is also a pressing need for more green space, additional housing options, and restaurants and retail, according to Worthy.
This article was originally posted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.