Urbanization of Downtown Alpharetta

Last week I wrote about the renewed effort to urbanize the City of Alpharetta. This week we will take a closer look at the current transformation of downtown Alpharetta into an urban core.

Last week’s Alpharetta Herald contained a good article providing insight into the public discussion among our Mayor and City Council members about increasing taxpayer subsidies for the city center project in downtown Alpharetta. You can read the whole thing here.

The reporter, Pat Fox, accurately describes my comments as:

He said he also thinks the project has strayed too far from the image he had of a village-style development and become too heavily focused on mixed-use.

“I don’t believe this plan ever met the spirit of what was sold to the public in the original bond issue back in 2011

The illustration below was published with the article.

alpharetta-urban-collage

Do you notice the huge expanses of green space with trees that serve as the focal point for the development? Do you notice how the heights of buildings within each block of development vary as if they were built over time rather than all at once? It looks pretty good doesn’t it?

Unfortunately the picture above is not the development which our mayor and council just voted to further subsidize with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The actual proposal to be built downtown is shown below.

alpharetta-city-center-2016

As you can see the “village style” city center used to promote bonds for the development has now been transformed into something more resembling Bull Street in downtown Savannah. But even Bull Street doesn’t have a four story apartment building with more than 130 units covering an entire city block. The stark contrast between what was originally sold to residents and what is actually being built provides a timely illustration of the current urbanization taking place in Downtown Alpharetta.

Back in 2011 Alpharetta was mired in the depths of a severe recession. The top priority for our mayor and council at that point was getting Alpharetta’s economy back on track. I am proud to say that when we all worked together toward that common vision the results were overwhelming.

But this is no longer 2011. This is 2016 and today Alpharetta has a booming economy.

The size and density of the numerous development projects approved over the past five years are going to transform this community in ways we can only begin to appreciate. Avalon is only half complete and the developments along Old Milton Parkway and Thompson Street have just started. Thousands of apartments, town houses and homes have been approved but not yet built while nearly every week another large swath of trees is clear cut for more development.

Back in 2011 the people of Alpharetta and their elected officials could only hope for that day when we could face the challenge of how to manage explosive growth. That day is here now.

Mayor Belle Isle and our city council have shown what we can accomplish when we share the same vision. We brought tremendous growth back to this community and we can manage that growth to protect those qualities which make Alpharetta so special.

But when you look at the drastic differences in the two visions above it is no longer clear we still share the same vision. And until we agree on where we are going it will be impossible for us to agree about how we get there.

 

 

Alpharetta to hold public meetings on new City Center project

Last month the City of Alpharetta unveiled drawings of what they have planned for the new city center. At the time many people including this blogger were disappointed that all the city provided was some artist renderings and a number of $29 million that was apparently pulled out of thin air. The city was unable to provide any specific details about what they had planned but promised those details were to be provided soon. As of this writing there have still been no specific cost estimates for the project.

But on June 3rd the city did release a statement saying that they have scheduled 4 meetings to allow public input on the proposal. The excerpts below are taken from the city’s website:

“Our intent with the May 23rd unveiling was to capture the attention of the public,” said Alpharetta Mayor Arthur Letchas. “Now it is time to discuss details such as financing and timelines that have been identified and to hear from our citizens.” Letchas went on to explain that some details, such as architectural design and the types of uses residents would like to see in buildings proposed for future development by the private sector, have yet to be defined.

“Right now the conversation will be focused on the general vision, the costs associated with building the civic portions of the project, and how we can pay for it without increasing taxes,” Letchas said. “If the public supports the concept, we will hold additional public meetings to get their thoughts on what the buildings should look like and other details.”

*June 16 beginning at 5:30 PM
*June 30 beginning at 6:00 PM
*July 14 beginning at 6:30 PM
*July 25 beginning at 7:30 PM

All sessions will be held at Alpharetta City Hall and are expected to last at least one hour but may run longer, depending on questions and comments from the public.

I hope that the city will release the financial details of the proposal before the public meetings are held because without specifics my reaction will be the same as it is now: “Pretty pictures but not enough details to make an informed decision.”

 

Ta- Dahhhh! The new and improved Alpharetta city center is unveiled.

Unfortunately there isn’t much information available on Alpharetta’s website. All the city has posted so far is a few “Conceptual renderings” and a sales pitch.

That isn’t enough information to make an informed decision on the merits of the proposal but if you want to see them they are here: http://www.alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=501

Since the devil is in the details and the details aren’t online… I hope the city will be making more information available soon.

The new and improved Alpharetta City Center

There is an article on the Patch this morning that suggests the new city center project will be unveiled on Monday. Good. For at least a couple of years the city of Alpharetta has been assembling land downtown and it is about time the residents picking up the tab see what is being planned for their tax dollars.

While city council members have been hyping the project to me for months they have refused to provide any hard details so I have no idea whether the project will be worthwhile or not. I will reserve judgement until I have a chance to see what is proposed.

But if you are curious what may be coming I suggest you take a look at the changes the city has proposed for the downtown area in the new land use plan (that council hasn’t approved or condoned but submitted to ARC for approval anyway). The city of Alpharetta has been working on the new city center ever since the last one failed so I think it is safe to assume that they would not be proposing a new land use plan that did not conform with it.

Downtown changes

City Center

According to the proposed CLUP changes the area noted above as P-3 will be zoned as “central business district”. Since we aren’t privy to the city’s intentions yet let us assume that the area will include a new city hall as proposed before, the land that the city has already voted to donate for a new library and other such commercial uses.

Then note that the vast majority of land covered by the new city center is identified as P-4. According to the legend of the new CLUP that property will be developed as high density residential. We can’t know for sure but based on the failed city center proposal there will likely be a large condominium development surrounding an open space designated as a park.

The map above is a fact but there is always the unlikely chance that it doesn’t conform to the new plan to be unveiled soon. The rest is simply conjecture based on what the city tried to do before. The rumor mill says that the bond issue needed to pay for the new city center would cost between 25 and 30 million dollars.

I know the same people that supported the last city center project are once again lined up behind this one. And I know that there are others that didn’t like the last proposal that are already on board this time. I am glad the public may soon see what is being cooked up so we can make a decision for ourselves.