Alpharetta City Council approved a City Center site plan change designed to make more residents happy by saving what's been called the largest tree on site and moving parking access closer to the new City Hall and library sites.
Before the vote, the city's architect and landscape architectural firm updated City Council and residents on the latest proposals for the downtown site.
The actual vote was delayed after Councilman Jim Gilvin said he was not willing to vote on a plan he couldn't actually see before he voted. What was shown in a PowerPoint presentation appeared different on the screen than what he had seen earlier in the day, but the architect didn't provide a copy. After a short recess, the copies were provided and the site plan amendment was approved.
For a look at the actual site plan approved, view the black and white drawing that accompanies this story.
"We have reoriented the parking deck from when it was originally approved," said Jim Chamberlain with Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart and Stewart, the landscape architectural firm for the project. "It has a lot to do with proximity of the parking garage to the library and City Hall, and also to do with the tree that has attracted a lot of attention."
Alpharetta resident Deb Zimlock offered her thanks to the designers and City Council for the creative redesign work.
"I just wanted to thank you all for listening and taking time to hear the concerns of the citizens, and making an effort to look at options to preserving some of the trees," she said.
The parking garage was rotated 90 degrees, and had a "bit of a bend" added to it to fit its new orientation. That bend tends to make the building not look as large as it is by breaking down the mass of the building, he said.
"It still holds the 450 spaces that we have agreed to provide as part of the development," Chamberlain said.
As a motorist drives north into the project site, an entrance into the parking garage at its lowest level appears. The road climbs until the lowest level is underground, and the other entrance is on the far end at the second level. The pedestrian access – both stairs and elevator – also are on this northern end of the building.
Chamberlain said that colors and architectural designs for the parking deck have not been decided by City Council. But whatever is chosen for City Hall, the parking deck will have complementary colors and designs.
Councilman Chris Owens said the "watercolor" drawings for City Center were nice to visualize ideas, but could be misleading for residents and council members trying to understand exactly what is being approved at each stage. That's why he was supportive of the public design process.
Jean Aldy, also of Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, provided more details of the proposals for the 5.02-acre park and .89-acre town green planned for City Center – both slightly larger than the original site plan showed. For the town green, she is suggesting larger caliper trees to provide instant shade, something in the 8 to 10-inch caliper range.
"It's all in planning now, but our intention is now to get something that's in the 30-foot height range right off the bat," she said. to provide some mature scale in the space immediately and "provide some shade from the beginning."
To save trees when building City Hall, a chain link fence will be installed to keep even subcontractors away from critical root zones near the building site. And a crane will be used to move construction supplies into the site so heavy equipment doesn't have to drive over root zones.