Sandy Springs’ Northridge Shopping Center could be remade as a mixed-use community ranging from 58 to 718 housing units and buildings three to 10 stories tall, according to redevelopment concepts presented by consultants in a virtual meeting on Aug. 13.

The presentation to the North End Revitalization Advisory Committee was the first of four such concepts for shopping centers along Roswell Road commissioned in December by the city as part of its quest to spark redevelopment of the North End. Major goals of that process are to see how mixed-use developments with residential, retail and commercial space could work at each of the sites. But consultants said with no demand for new retail and the effects of the pandemic, that will be challenging in the Northridge remake. 

The consultants and city staff, including Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy, agreed that the key to success of any redevelopment is to change Roswell Road as suggested in the city’s Next Ten comprehensive plan. Next Ten envisions Roswell Road as a pedestrian friendly route, tree-lined and with a landscaped median. Consultants from Blakely Edward and TSW agreed little demand exists for retail in the North End and the outlook for retail anywhere is changing faster due to the pandemic as retail businesses fail after a time with no customers and the slow return to public shopping by residents.

The committee’s reaction to the concepts was generally favorable, but several members said they wanted more time to study what was presented. The concepts will go online Aug. 24 for week of public review and comment at the city’s dedicated website at http://www.sandyspringsga.gov/city-services/urban-development/revitalization-initiatives/north-end-redevelopment

The rollout of concepts for the other three shopping centers will follow, including the former Loehmann’s Plaza (8610 Roswell Road); the North River Shopping Center (8765-8897 Roswell Road) and the Big Lots Center (7300 Roswell Road).

Northridge plans

The Northridge Shopping Center at 8331-8371 Roswell Road was the first to get the conceptual treatment. The 10.5-acre property at 8329 Roswell Road has 13 retail tenants, including restaurants, a barbershop, nail salon and a Goodwill donation center and thrift store. It has 359 surface parking spaces and access to both Roswell Road and Northridge Road. The center sits far back from the roadways with no retail frontage on either road.

The property does not include the corner parcels occupied by a Circle M convenience store and a Waffle House, nor does it include the small commercial building just east of that on Northridge Road, which is home to Oasis Café & Grill and Him and Her Grooming Lounge.

Three concept plans were shown to the committee, starting with a plan that followed existing zoning and ending with a plan requiring extensive zoning changes. All concepts are for mixed-use redevelopment, with varying amounts of commercial space. As the residential units increase, the retail space decreases. A new street grid would be required for each plan, with narrower widths sought to increase the developable land. Green space, primarily in buffers, would line at least three sides of each plan.

After seeing the presentation, North End committee member Tamara Carrera said a developer would need to build affordability into the sites.

Committee member Ken Dishman said he hoped requiring affordable housing is incentivized, rather than killing a project.

“I hope that we have the people to really dig into that issue and probably a few others, building heights and so on, so we don’t come across as being draconian and turn away the development,” Dishman said.

Concept 1: Existing Zoning

Commercial retail – 26,425 square feet (ground floor)
Multi-unit over retail – 40 units
Townhomes – 18 units
Total: 58 units

This plan follows existing zoning requirements.

It keeps the Goodwill store at the request of the property owner, 8371 Roswell Realty LLC.  Ryan Snodgrass of TSW said zoning requiring ground-floor commercial to face all streets may lead to too much commercial space. In the two stories above the commercial, 40 units of residential would be built.

The 18 townhomes overlooking the creek on the northern side of the property would have their own garages.

Existing street width and design requirements limit how much land could be developed, Snodgrass said. And the three-story building limit would make a parking deck difficult.

Concept 2: Neighborhood Center

Commercial retail – 14,000 square feet (ground floor)
Multi-unit – 284 units
Townhomes – 13 units
Live/Work – 9 units
Total: 306 units

Zoning changes would be required for this concept to allow a reduction in commercial space. That would include allowing stand-alone multi-unit buildings with no ground floor retail, allowing the live/work units to count as ground floor commercial. Live/work units allow residents to conduct business – retail or office – within the units. The concept  would need zoning changes to let developers construct buildings up to five stories tall. Reducing the lot size requirements for the multi-unit buildings and townhomes also would be necessary, as would removing the restriction to wood framed buildings and allowing steel and concrete construction.

The increase in residential units and a smaller commercial component gives this concept its neighborhood center designation. The retail would either have frontage on Roswell Road or be close to it. A parking deck would be more economically feasible with the taller buildings. And the parking spaces created would help increase the developable land. Greenspace buffers surround three sides of the property, with landscaping features along the streets and the retail buildings.

Concept 3: Multi-unit Village

Commercial retail – 7,800 square feet (ground floor)
Multi-unit – 718 units

Major zoning changes would be required for this concept, starting with allowing building heights of up to 10 stories. A reduction in street width and design requirements also would be necessary, as would allowing steel and concrete construction.

A mere 7,800 square feet of retail is proposed in this concept, with four small retail buildings fronting Roswell Road and another small retail spot behind them. The site would be dominated by 10- and 8-story multi-unit residential buildings extending from behind the retail to the back of the property on its easternmost side. Roads would only be built on the southern side of the property. An eight-story parking deck would be surrounded by the largest multi-unit building in the center of the property. Four much smaller, three-story, multi-unit buildings would be constructed south of the tallest buildings, with roads wrapping around them. Like the neighborhood center concept, greenspace buffers would line the northern, eastern and southern sides of the property, with the streets having landscape features.

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