Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Questions are being raised on Renaissance project - density goes up and meeting planned for Thursday

As a member of the Dunwoody City Council who has been in numerous executive sessions on real estate transactions, I have the obligation to keep those discussions secret, out of the public eye and therefore purposely non-transparent.  Whether I fully agree with the "will of the council" or not, the discussions are not for me to disclose.

Monday the City of Dunwoody entered into a Letter of Intent with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods which outlines the agreement in which we may move forward with the project.  This LOI has minor tweeks and edits based on negotiation between the two parties so a careful reading still needs to be done on my part in the coming days but I see the number of units has already creeped up to a possible 125 units; I also see that siding is out, brick is preferred and the multi-use trail is now 12 ft wide.

Is this the perfect plan for the development for this site? Maybe / maybe not? Is it risky if the units don't sell as we believe they will?  Yes.  Under current economic conditions, this is the best I have seen for positive change with in the city in a long time but we the city council need to hear from you.

We are taking the large hospital property that is zoned O & I for businesses and converting it to residential and open space.   The city needs a good mix of commercial and residential properties to be viable and if there was a proposal put in front of me to annex properties into the city limits, I would typically want a sufficient amount of commercial tax base to offset the costs of serving the additional residential units.  I am not sure we are doing that in the short run with this project but a government complex may bolster the area long term if that is put in.  I am very happy that we added the commercial node as it will not only balance revenue and deliver services to the citizens but the hope is that over the long term it will raise the quality of the other commercial properties along Shallowford.

The Georgetown North Shallowford Master Plan (pg 31 - 33) discusses quite a bit on the properties involved and the main ideas approved by the community at the time were Civic / Institutional uses as well as Park Land.  Adding 125 residential units were not discussed nor approved in the March of 2011 Georgetown plan but this low density concept may now be agreeable to the community in May of 2012.

The new 1.4 acre park on the 16 acre pipe farm site will serve both the neighborhood, the people visiting the commercial node and be a stopping point along the 12 ft path from Brook Run.  Though on the surface it may appear to some that this park is being built for just the new community, my hope is that it will be the "beach front amenity" that will make that commercial district different from all others within the city.

The new 5 acre park on the 19 acre site may not be developed for active recreation like soccer leagues and baseball games.  The discussion has not been had but the proposed drawings don't convey a sports use to me. The previous Council voted (over my objections) to prohibit "active recreation" in the 102 acre Brook Run Park and now with the Renaissance project overtaking any thought of a sports complex in the Georgetown area; the city may not be moving any closer to implementing this aspect of the Parks Plan.

Many residents believed the pipe farm could be used for sports and that the parks master plan could be implemented over time even if the proposed parks bond initiative failed.  Now because of this proposed development the items in the original parks plan will be moved down the list in order to make this residential project a reality.  I like what I see as I believe these park amenities will serve some aspects of the community but does this give us a big improvement in active recreation opportunities? No, but it does improve walk-ability / bike-ability, playground space and over all open green space that could be used for various functions.  Changes to the Parks Plan were expected to take place over time and the parks plan was meant to be fluid.  That being said, I need you to be aware that this one project affects several other plans that you the citizens met and discussed many times previously.

The possible municipal building locations on the 19 acres are now occupied by a large vacant building and doctor's offices which can not be forced to move until possibly in 2022 because of a ground lease. Will getting these doctors offices out by that date be problematic especially if only several tenants refuse to go until that date? 

I am looking at the positive potential of re-development opportunities for every corner of the City that needs help but at the same time I am also looking to follow the vision of the citizens as stated in the various master plans, with acceptable changes to those plans being based on personal conversations, City public meetings, open public comments, emails, DHA meetings, blogs and various other places where I discover what people are thinking.

I haven't heard much negative on the Renaissance project specifics but below are a few published items that are critical, if not of the purchase, then in the manner in which it is being transacted.

Bob Lundsten - Welcome To the World of Land Speculation

Greg Crnkovich - Transparency, openness a must for the Georgetown project

Bob Lundsten - I am Stunned, Shocked,

The City Council will be voting this project up or down at the end of May so please become informed and vocal as to your wishes as there may be at least one council member who is truly sitting on the fence looking for greener pastures of redevelopment but also wants to be sure that this is the communities desire to move forward.

The City and John Wieland Homes are hosting an open house regarding the proposed Project Renaissance redevelopment on Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall (41 Perimeter Center East, Suite 100). Attendees will be treated to a brief overview presentation and then have an opportunity to ask questions and hear directly from John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods as well as City staff.

I hope to see you there.  Thanks


Sight Edman said...

Good to see you back in the saddle with a meaty piece.

I certainly have questions:
1. how does a "government complex" address the imbalance between commercial and voter/resident tax base? Will that property generate tax revenue?
2. it seems someone within the city has significant influence over the developer, at least to go from siding to brick--is it possible to influence them to ensure there are significant firewalls between units (see Fairfield Condominiums -- home of "Santa on the Roof")?
3. have height restrictions been waived? 3 floors with an attic and 9-10 ft ceilings on the main seems likely to close in on 40ft ground to chimney.
4. who is handling the commercial aspects of this project, including generating the RFP, pre-screening applicants and developing a general set of guidelines? Is this being done in-house or contracted out?


John Heneghan said...

Thanks for the comment - my stats are telling me that they are being read by people of influence as per your last blog.

1. No direct revenue but residual effects of having activity in the area. Employees and visitors eat and other properties near new city hall may rise with new development in the area. Probably a Stretch?
2.& 3. Don't know, I'll ask.
4. City anticipates commercial going forward in several years. We own it and will hold tight until it is in our interest to move. No immediate plans.

John Heneghan said...

Video of the public meeting looks to be up.