Atlanta’s Selig Enterprises has an option to purchase the former Armstrong and Dobbs property, situated between downtown Athens and the North Oconee River. Their proposed development includes 200 housing units, office space and 167,00 sq ft of retail space, including a 94,000 sq ft anchor tenant – most likely a Wal-Mart.
One of the goals of this website is to create a common vocabulary for laypersons to discuss the project on more than a visceral level. The website provides a summary of concerns, and recommendations for improving the design to work with the topography and community driven projects already in progress adjacent to the site.
It is essential that we understand that the proposed development is not a “done deal.”
Plans have not yet been submitted, much less approved, and the proposed plans fail to meet existing regulations.
- The proposed plans fail to meet existing design guidelines. Design guidelines require that 70% of street level parking be “wrapped” with leasable tenant space. Failure to meet the design guidelines requires, at the least, a public hearing before the ACC Planning Commission.
- The proposed plan does not accommodate the ACC Transportation Corridor Concept Map, which shows a future connector street extending along Hickory from Broad to Oconee. Failure to meet the requirements of the Corridor Concept map will require a Mayor and Commission vote to alter this adopted plan.
- A Transportation Impact Analysis has not yet been submitted. We provide a discussion of the potential implications of this analysis in the Transportation section.
Why is this important for Athens?
The development nearly doubles the retail space in downtown Athens and increases available parking by nearly 60%.
- The proposed development will include 167,000 sq ft of retail space as compared to downtown’s existing 187,000 retail sq ft. and includes 1,150 parking spaces as compared to 1,989 downtown public parking spaces (serving retail, offices, restaurants, government buildings, etc.).
- With change that quick and of such scale, it’s no wonder that many fear the effects this development may have on the small businesses that have become the heart of the Classic City.
The project focus is inward, thereby cutting it off from significant public investment - in volunteer hours as well as taxpayer funding – in the Greenway and the Rail Trail projects, both of which are intended to provide a signature interaction with downtown and her visitors.
- Development that expands downtown towards the Oconee River is inevitable and will hopefully be fully integrated with the Greenway (over $13 million in taxpayer investment) and Rail Trail (over $11 million), as each moves forward to completion.
A grocery store serving downtown and the immediate neighborhoods would be a good thing. However, a walkable grocery is not defined by location and its proximity to residents alone.
- If the design prioritizes cars, does not offer a pedestrian friendly streetscape and ease of connectivity to neighborhoods and downtown, it will not be a walkable destination.
- Easy parking generates car trips, not walking, cycling, or bus patronage. With 1,150 spaces (a suburban-style parking model representing a 60% increase in downtown parking) this project will dramatically increase congestion.
- Transportation and land use are inextricably linked: a suburban-style parking provision guarantees suburban-style traffic.
- The proposed design of this particular development is problematic because it is a major auto-oriented, suburban-style development placed in an already congested, urbanized area.
- If one of the key arguments made by proponents is that it will provide a neighborhood grocery, how do the neighbors feel?
- Rather than the identity of the anchor tenant, the focus of this site is on a better project design that will be scaled to and connected with the surrounding community.