The owners of Branch Properties got a good deal when they purchased the CityWalk property out of foreclosure in 2012 for $24.5 million.
Now the City of Sandy Springs is considering a street map for its downtown redevelopment project that shows two roads going right through the middle of the financially-challenged retail development.
Branch is a bit concerned about how those roads on the map will look to potential tenants for CityWalk. Sandy Springs officials say they understand the concern, but said the street grid map reflects a long-term vision for the city.
Jack T. Haylett, Branch Properties Senior Vice President, spoke to City Council during its Nov. 19 meeting, when the council discussed a draft map of the proposed street grid.
“We are in discussions about redeveloping a good part of that center,” Haylett said. “It’s a slow process. We’re working through that. We’re in discussions with the retailer on that site and have developed elevations and all kinds of stuff for them, but your plan shows a road going straight through our property and then another one bisecting the property.
“If we go in to try to redevelop our property, my understanding is we are potentially going to have to dedicate those roads to y’all. I know that if we talk to this retailer and tell them that, they’ll have to take their shopping carts across the road. It’s just not going to happen.”
City Manager John McDonough said the draft map of the street grid is only the beginning of a longer-term planning effort.
“This is the start of the process,” McDonough said. “Council has indicated we have adopted this plan. This is obviously a matter of great importance. We’re here to talk about starting this process and we’ll take into consideration the issues that have been raised.”
Sandy Springs is in the middle of buying properties for its downtown redevelopment project. City Council approved a redevelopment plan in December 2012. Under the plan, future development will move the center of city life to what has traditionally been considered the heart of the community along Roswell Road between Hammond Drive and Sandy Springs Circle.
The plan seeks to make the city more walkable and provides for a mix of uses, expands green space and seeks revisions to the city’s zoning code to achieve the desired downtown aesthetic.
Nicholas Telesca, president of Branch Properties, said last year that the company wanted to be a part of the city’s efforts and was even contemplating adding luxury multi-family housing into his plans.
City Councilman Gabriel Sterling said the company should feel confident going forward with plans for CityWalk.
Sterling said the street grid is a long term vision for the city that will take decades to implement. He said the point of the plan is not taking property from private owners. It’s to engage those owners in the process of downtown redevelopment.
“This is like a 30-year plan,” Sterling said. “This is not a next-week plan. Over time a lot of the properties there are going to reach the end of their useful life and the owners are going to want to redevelop. The city’s looking for the fairest way to do it for everybody involved.”
Sterling said the council will take up the issue at a future meeting to clarify any misunderstandings.