Avondale Estates City Commission considers proposal for town green commercial developmentThe Avondale Estates City Commission met on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at City Hall to discuss the commercial development of the town green and hear a presentation on the comprehensive development plan. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Avondale Estates, GA — The town green in Avondale Estates was always imagined as having a commercial development. The original scope of work included a mixed-use condo-retail development, although it was deemed infeasible toward the beginning of the year. Fabric Developers presented a new commercial development to the City Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 22.
The Avondale Estates City Commission broke ground on the town green project on June 30, alongside City Manager Patrick Bryant, Downtown Development Authority Chair Dave Deiters and some of the consultants who have worked on the project along the way. Construction is ongoing and work is anticipated to be completed in spring 2022.
The project includes the construction of four-acres of the land. About two acres will be a park and the other two acres will be an interim solution and potential commercial solution. The site is located along Highway 278/ North Avondale Road between Lake and Oak Streets.
The original scope of the project included the mixed-use commercial development, but Bryant said at the Feb. 10 City Commission meeting that the commercial element is not feasible at this time. In its place, the developers planned to construct an open-air green space that can be used as for things like food trucks or event platforms.
“We had hoped to be also constructing the commercial development at the same, but economic factors resulting from the COVID pandemic caused us to have to suspend the original idea and pivot to a new concept,” Bryant said.
Fabric Developers’ proposal has two parts — a canopy-covered multi-use pavilion and parking area, and a restaurant-oriented retail commercial development that will include extensive outdoor dining, sundry retail and office uses.
The developers wanted to relate the commercial development to the Tudor Village, as that’s what most people think of as Avondale’s downtown, Fabric Developers Founder and Principal Jerry Miller said.
“So we wanted to emphasize the connection between the Tudor Village and this new development and in doing so we felt we needed to have enough gravity in this new development to really create a bookend for the Tudor Village,” Miller said. “That in turn sort of opens up the meat of the downtown, the future of downtown, to further development.”
The multi-use pavilion area would be used as a community facility for use as a home for the Avondale Farmers Market, food truck parking and gravel parking for events, according to the proposal.
“We also wanted to incorporate a purely public aspect to this,” Miller said. “We conceive of this as a sort of canopy farmers market that could be used for other public activities as well, and maybe some short term parking that would apply both to the park and to the commercial development.”
The plan incorporated some original concepts into the plan, such as a pass-through from North Avondale Road to the town green. Sherri Locke, resident and architect and Stevens and Wilkinson, came up with the original design of the town green. She was adamant about maintaining the pass-through, Miller said.
The developers have expanded the promenade, a paved area, to provide generous space for outdoor dining and walking space. The connection to the playground was also important to allow parents to have a seat within eyesight of their children, Miller said. The current plans also call for public restrooms.
“This is an inaugural effort I think to build the downtown and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Miller said. “We wanted maximum impact for both the front door and…the town green.”
Fabric Developers plans to fund the project through a public-private partnership. The total estimated cost of the commercial development is about $8.15 million.
“What we’re doing here is not something that a private developer would do on his own. It’s more expensive. There’s a good deal of public involvement in it. It’s a true public-private partnership,” Miller said. “So we have proposed a structure that provides for [Fabric’s] contribution of 20% of the capital in equity, raising another 40% in private debt, and then using DDA subordinated debt for about 40% of the project. So that’s about $3.2 million, for a total cost of $8.154 [million].”
The City Commission was excited about the plans and is eager to begin constructing the commercial development. Mayor Jonathan Elmore said the plan checks a lot of boxes for him.
“I like this concept a lot better than the first one, frankly. I like that the buildings are a little bit smaller scale. I love the pavilion,” Elmore said. “It just opens up a whole lot of possibilities, and it makes you feel like you could be there. You can see yourself there. I think it’s fantastic, and I think financially…it’s a good strategy and that works for me as well.”
— Additionally, the board discussed the draft of the comprehensive development plan. The plan is updated every five years per state law. The comprehensive plan is a long-range action plan that guides investment, allocation of services and development. City staff, with help from the Atlanta Regional Commission, has updated the Avondale Estates’ comprehensive plan.
The ARC helps communities similar in size to Avondale Estates develop their comprehensive plans, Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell said.
The comprehensive plan highlights the city’s vision, goals, accomplishments and work plan. According to the goals, the city is working to capitalize on the qualities and values that have made for a successful community.
The city is accepting written comments on the comprehensive plan until Oct. 6, which can be submitted online. To view the plan, click here. To provide feedback, email Administrative Coordinator Shari Hillman. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Oct. 13.
There are a few things the city has to do when going through the comprehensive development plan process, and it varies depending on what cities do and what their responsibilities are, Powell said.
“For us, we revisit the vision and goals. We look at needs and opportunities,” Powell said. “We do a community work program that outlines a very specific tasks over the course of a five-year period, and oddly enough, we also look at broadband.”
The city started with the previous plan and made improvements from there. As Powell looked at what came out of the public comments, she noticed a desire for a focus on environmental and economic sustainability.
“The second piece is really around economic development, the walkability of downtown,” Powell said. “Those were part of it, but this goal statement really strengthens and builds towards what I think I’m hearing pretty repetitively from the community as well as [City Hall].”
According to the agenda packet, those goals that were added or changed include:
— Encouraging environmental and economic sustainability and resiliency,
— Strengthening existing businesses and driving sustainable economic development by leveraging the city’s unique identity and location in the region and continuing to develop a walkable downtown, and
— Promoting an active, healthy community with equitable and inclusive opportunities for recreation and the enjoyment of the outdoors.
Some highlights of the work plan include creating a public art program, implementing the stormwater capital improvements program, and exploring mechanisms to encourage and introduce green infrastructure.
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