I support North American Properties' proposal per their requested stipulations including the 'for rent' units. I feel that the argument for or against the project should not be reduced to a renting vs owning debate as it was framed in Planning. Avalon has too much to offer the city to be reduced to this oversimplified analysis. The current 2030 Comprehensive Plan suggesting an 85/15 split between owned vs. rent is largely pie in the sky wishful thinking. The city's own report states that it would take 35 years to achieve this ratio. You risk killing a mixed use, smart growth concept over a proposition that may not happen in our lifetime. We all know the ratio is out of reach so to base your decision on an unobtainable goal is nonsensical. You need to judge this proposal based upon its overall impact to the city, which is incredibly positive.
The intent of the 85/15 goal is to prevent stand alone apartment complexes, which in that vein, I support the goal. Stand alone apartments are for a single use and purpose and are not destination driven like Avalon. As a consumer, I'm not going to go to an AMLI complex and buy something. The discussion should be centered around competition – competition between us and surrounding communities that fight to lure businesses here, and the competition for our residents and their dollars. Your decision next week should be based upon, “Does this project improve our city?” Does it make us more competitive? Does it improve upon the original design of Prospect Park? Does it improve upon what is there now? Clearly, I say yes to all. It does make us better. Your vote will determine if Alpharetta supports a live-work-play community, not whether you support an ownership vs renting ratio. Do not be lured into the trap of that argument.
Although disparate in appearance and appeal, Avalon will complement the new Downtown Plan by its proximity and uniqueness. Via Thompson St they are half a mile apart. Just yesterday, our family rode bikes from our house, which is near Cogburn Park, down Westside Parkway to Avalon and across Thompson St to the heart of what will be our new downtown. How is that for connectivity? We may eat, drink or shop at Avalon or may opt for “Downtown Alpharetta” because it is quaint, more affordable or has an old world character. We may do the reverse, eat/drink/shop in downtown and then take in a movie at Avalon's new Regal. But one thing is for sure. Between the two options, all of us will be less inclined to go to Canton St in Roswell to experience the energy and excitement of being involved in something “cool”. That is what North American's plan is about. Returning an excitement, a feeling to Alpharetta that you want to go out here and have a good time whatever that means to you. It is about competition and it is about winning the hearts and pocketbooks of our own residents.
Also regarding competition, we need to address the North Point Mall protection clause. It is absurd and UNAmerican to include this provision. Regardless of what comes out of Washington these days, we still operate in a free market, capitalist society. If General Growth Properties begins to lose tenants, to anybody, Avalon or otherwise, it is up to them to compete to improve, to provide an environment for their tenants to thrive. It is not up to the City to select winners and losers.
Finally, Westside Parkway. If I was Mark Toro, I'd be reflecting on one of my favorite sayings, “No good deed goes unpunished.” North American could have held out, like Stan Thomas, and made the city capitulate to their desires by holding the Westside Parkway hostage, in other words, extortion. Former Mayor Letchas' exact words, “North American's representatives understood the importance of Westside Parkway to the community, they moved very quickly to get the property into our hands so that the roadway could be completed.” That gesture shows a spirit of partnering, a spirit of doing the right thing for the overall community. Don't you think having Westside Parkway as an Ace in the hole would have made this process a lot easier for North American?
Now the city needs to do the right thing. Approve Avalon with the conditions North American has asked for, not the watered down version the Planning Commission has sent to you.