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Will Alpharetta Make Avalon Too Costly to Build?

North American Properties' Mark Toro says the 83-acre mixed use development can't be built under the recommended conditions, but he's happy the application has moved forward.

Avalon can't be built with the conditions recommended by the Alpharetta Planning Commission, according to Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties in Atlanta.

But Toro said he was glad the application to amend the Prospect Park master plan had moved forward after the vote at It is scheduled to be heard by City Council on April 23.

Planning Commissioner Nancy Bristol took the lead on how the board approached the conditions suggested by staff on which North American Properties didn't agree. The biggest was allowing any rental units on the mixed-use development.

Avalon is planned to have 132 for sale units–mostly townhomes–and 250 rental units, all of which would be above the retail. Planning Commissioners didn't accept the argument that these for rent units were that different from apartments. Bristol added a condition that requires transferring development rights from other developments to build here.

"For rent residential units shall require and be limited to transference of existing approved for rent zoning from other Alpharetta locations and shall not exceed 250 units or the number of transferred for rent units, whichever number is smaller," Bristol said.

"I think this is an ideal place for apartments. And the reason I want to put that in there about the transference is because there is great concern about adding to the inventor of for rent zoning in the city of Alpharetta," Bristol said. "We have an 85/15 ratio, which we are completely over right now.

Bristol said regular residents of Alpharetta are against more for rent units in the city.

Toro wasn't happy with the conditions, but was glad to get a recommendation to approve the project.

"As Commissioner Bristol correctly points out, as she hopes that the City Council refines the conditions, we agree wholeheartedly. A lot of refinement is necessary for us to move forward," Toro said.

"And we're prepared. This is the next step in the process. We are excited to be past this step and on to City Council so we can get the approvals we need and go build it," he said.

"The challenges we have are relative to restrictions of uses and restriction of trade, that's the challenge," Toro said.

"We are ecstatic to have a unanimous approval," he said.

Bristol and other commissioners said the Avalon site plan went against city code in calling residential amenties "public space," as the Unified Development Code specifically prhobits that. She also pointed out the staff comment in the application report that the bike trail along GA 400 proposed by the city must be built and given to the city before that land could be considered public space.

She also added that sidewalks in front of stores can't be counted as public space, which would reduce the amount of public space for Avalon in its Plaza and the Boulevard areas. Both are close to the width and length of a football field, but this would reduce those dimension by 16 to 18 feet.

Commissioners Jill Reynolds and Will Gurley had problems with a staff condition that limits Avalon from adding more than 15 percent of its retail with stores moving from North Point Mall. Reynolds said she had problems with restraint of trade with the limitation. But both said before the vote that they'd probably accept Bristol's change from staff's 10-year limit to three years.

"Ten or fifteen years from now when this is not the latest or greatest, I would hope that we could protect North American Properties in some way so that they did not become a skeleton. We certainly do not want to have a skeleton mall that we have ot live with," Bristol said.

"I think that's a point well taken, said Commissioner Chairman Michael Tomy.

Reynolds said she would compromise on this point because, as Commissioner Francis Kung'u said previously, that it's protecting Alpharetta.

William Robert April 11, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Is there a master plan on-line?
Linda Persing April 11, 2012 at 02:00 AM
William, I found the zoning map on line at the City of Alpharetta website, you may find that of interest. I know the Master Plan (CLUP) has to be somewhere and I am digging. I will let you know if I can find it, or maybe someone else posting here will know how to get to it. I'd be interested in reading the full detail of it as well. Linda
No Name April 11, 2012 at 02:15 AM
2030 Comprehensive Plan unanimously passed in Dec 2011 http://www.alpharetta.ga.us/files/docs/pdfs/Publications/COMPLAN%202030/COMPPLAN_2030_Draft.pdf Note all new areas designated Mixed Use. These are eligible for high density dwellings (condos or apartments). Densities in the three approved MU developments have been calculated based on the gross (total) acreage, but squished into 25-40% of the land yielding a net density of something closer to 25-30 units/acre.
Jennie April 11, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Is NAP worried that the development will not generate enough retail traffic without the apartments? Do they need the extra residents the 250 apartments would supply to lure high end retailers to the development? They didn't have the apartment approval when they purchased the property but now are saying they'll have to walk away if Alpharetta says no? Anyone who has lived in this community for years knows why there is caution here. We have lived here through the Windward Master Plan (the only master plan that I think is still adhered to and used to deny rezonings or conditional uses due to the Windward voting block), the Cousins Westside Masterplan (we did not get what we were promised) and the Crabapple Master Plan (I know now actually in Milton but adjacent to Alpharetta and not as successful as it was intended). There is a certain level of distrust in our community regarding mixed use plans delivering what is promised and intended. The rental ratio was not addressed in the 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan because it would have been too hot of an election issue. Linda is correct to assume that if NAP is granted their wishes it will open the floodgates. In order for the City Council to override the recommendations of the planning commission without opening those legal floodgates they will need to amend the rental ratio and I don't know if they are prepared to do this.
No Name April 11, 2012 at 05:57 PM
"Mike" commented on this thread the other day with the following but then it looks like the comment was deleted. It said: "interesting discussion. A couple of points of clarification. 1) The Avalon project does not necessitate a change in the CLUP. The CLUP already designates this land as mixed use. The 85/15 issue is addressed in the Comprehensive Plan's "Housing Policy 2". 2) Developers can line up all they want, but there's a moratorium on acceptance of any additional mixed use applications until at least August. By that time, it's very likely that a new Mixed Use Ordinance will be in place which will not include rental housing as a residential option." My question is how is this going to set with other developers in the area? This sure sounds like we are picking winners and losers. Won't this invite lawsuits that the city won't be able to defend? Won't MetLife come back and say, "Hey, you denied our apartments. They are 'high end' too. Why did you provide an opening for NAP, but not for us?" So this is not a good solution either. Every developer will have a "distinguishing feature" that sets their apartments apart from the others. In fact, AMLI told a City Hall audience just that the other night for the 300+ apartments they want to add at Webb Bridge/Westside/400.
Linda Persing April 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
The CLUP should not be the issue here and shouldn't be the subject of debate during an application process. They knew what it was, CD said no apartments going in and GNFCC advocating for this certainly knew. I am still wondering - oh could it be - that the large swath of land NAP owns on the South Side of Old Milton across from Prospect Park might be a future site of a Convention Center. Is that partly what is driving the hellbent push to give NAP what they want so they won't walk? Also, when you read the economic development agreement with GNFCC it's vague but it does state that they are to coordinate with "property owners and developers" on Propect Park. What property owners? Let's see the monthly reports from GNFCC to City Council posted for public review. Chamber of Commerce groups have an historic bent of viewing residential property owners as obstacles to development. We're here, we're questioning, and we aren't going away.
Mike Kennedy April 11, 2012 at 06:51 PM
@No Name...yes I pulled my comment because I was not certain about the CLUP amendment issue. The CLUP will not be amended as part of this application.
Mark Toro April 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM
We are encouraged by the interaction among interested parties posting comments to this article and hope that they are interested enough to come to City Council and engage in the process, in person. April 23 - 730pm - City Hall
Kelli S April 12, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I think the 'smell a rat' comments are amusing, considering the majority of posters who are posting repeatedly (Linda and No name and William come to mind without scrolling back up) are against the project. I, like Kevin, live near and drive past this half-built eyesore every day. And everyday since all of this started is a reminder of what 'could be,' but isn't because we're arguing over 250 high end rental units. Yet nobody cares about the ones down on Mansell. But these, which will be over retail, if I understand properly and not stand alone units, are a problem? I spent 5 days at The Domain in Austin (stayed at the Westin onsite) on a work trip and absolutely loved it. We walked around each night, ate in a different restaurant, etc. I said several times, "man, this place is awesome, I wish there was something like this in Atlanta," and now we have the opportunity, and we're willing to throw it away over what I consider to be a small issue. I'm not a 'paid supporter,' I'm just passionate about what I believe in. Just like those of you intent on arguing against it. I think the focus should be more on the rules and management of the rental units, making sure that they are constructed properly and additional sound proofing is in place, making sure that they adhere to # of occupants, etc. so that they remain high end structures. And then focus on breaking ground for construction.
William Robert April 12, 2012 at 05:49 AM
Kelli, just for the record, I am William and am not 'against' the project. I'm new to the area and have found that I have a dog in the hunt whether I like it or now. Trying to understand. There clearly are campaigns going on here on both sides. Mr. Toro is paid to make Avalon happen obviously. Linda and No Name don't like it and are campaigning equally hard to gather our favor. Are there disingenuous posts on this thread? It would be highly unusual if there weren't. Anonymity breeds bravery, and a careful read of the posts on this thread leads one to conclude that this thread is not much different than the rest of the internet. Clearly this is high stakes, and nothing should be taken for granted. Including both you and me. $0.08
Linda Persing April 12, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Thanks William. Kelli, you are entitled to your opinion. But once again the argument is all black or white. I am not against Avalon, I want it to move forward with the conditions proposed by the Planning Commission. If you've read all of the threads then you know why the apartments are the issue. What had caused the flurry of posts this week - a first in my life - are the comments made by NAP about the planning commission and the intense effort via the Chamber of Commerce to lobby the City Council vote in advance of the City Council meeting.
M.L.H. April 12, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Today I watched the Avalon presentation given at City Hall on February 13th by Mark Toro. The presentation can be found on the City of Alpharetta website. I felt Mr. Toro’s presentation was well thought out, and I understood the need for residential of all types in Avalon. He mentioned and reiterated the point that apartments would be an issue, but I understood their place in this development. If Avalon can command $4,000/month or some similar rent income, then I say more power to them. I don’t think that NAP is being arbitrary when they say that they can’t build Avalon without the high-end apartments. The mixed residential is a component to garnering interest from high-end retailers who would see Avalon as a viable place for their shop. If there are no shops in the first place, there is no Avalon in the second. I can hear the reply being made -- then have condos instead. As we know in today’s current housing market, a lot of people don’t want to buy they want to rent. Avalon is a horse of a different color from any other retail environment in Alpharetta much less Atlanta or the Southeast. I am a rules oriented person and understand the need to follow the rules as put forth by the Planning Commission but Avalon is a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along every day.
No Name 2 April 13, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I was just wondering if anyone in the city has considered giving some form of tax credits for the TDRs? If it is cost prohibitive for NAP, why not have the city make it more cost effective? NAP gets to build and the city gets closer to its 85/15. Have it be specific to a development of this scale so that other developers can't ask for the same credits. I believe it was mentioned there are no other undeveloped properties of this size left in Alpharetta. If it all comes down to numbers for both sides (dollars vs. rental units) but everyone wants something besides a 6 yr old mud pit, then focus on making the math work for everyone. Just a thought.
Lee at rootsinalpharetta.com April 13, 2012 at 01:30 PM
The city already granted NAP a waiver for the impact fees related to Avalon.
Mike Kennedy April 13, 2012 at 08:15 PM
@ Lee at rootsinalpahretta: The impact fee waiver was for the value of Westside Parkway.
Mark Toro April 14, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Kelli S, I'm glad you had the opportunity to experience The Domain in Austin. Whereas it was among the subset of properties we studied in designing Avalon, it is not one those we will closely emulate. It is a great property, with many of the same elements of Avalon, but it falls short in a few key aspects. One thing is for sure...if you liked The Domain, you're going to LOVE Avalon! Thanks for your support. Mark C. Toro Managing Partner North American Properties
Mark Toro April 14, 2012 at 01:04 AM
M.L.H., Thank you for your support.
Alpharetta Worker April 16, 2012 at 08:17 PM
It's not empty. Go there on a Saturday night especially when the weather is warm and tell me that it's empty. It's true that not all of the retail spaces are full, but they are starting to fill up once again. A new business just opened last week in fact. Most retail properties took a big hit to the economic downturn from a few years ago. Vickery was not immune. Just goes to show you that you don't know what you're talking about.
Kevin Peterson April 19, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I love the poll on this site. Just block cookies and you can vote as much as you want. I used privacy mode on via the browser on my iPad and racked up several votes all by myself. Pretty sure others have figured this out already but figured I would share all the same. :-) The vote numbers are definitely bogus at this point.
Paula M April 21, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I would like to ask everyone to read this article on new urbanism. This addresses our design concerns. It is an interview with noted architect and planner, Andres Duany. He has designed a proposed plan for Roswell to review that has what I had hoped for Alpharetta. His DPZ design group's web site is outstanding. http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/the-future-of-the-city/archive/2010/05/the-man-who-reinvented-the-city/56853/
Mark Toro April 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Great article, Paula. Thanks for sharing. While you're reading up on New Urbanist trends, check out this ULI report. http://www.uli.org/ResearchAndPublications/Reports/~/media/Documents/ResearchAndPublications/Reports/TenPrinciples/TP_TownCenters.ashx As you will note, Avalon strictly adheres to the principles contained therein.
Kevin Peterson April 22, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Great article. Thanks for sharing. I remember many years ago, before gas prices were anywhere near what they are today, that it was calculated that driving a car would cost roughly 50 cents per mile (depreciation, fuel, maintenance...), meaning that those who moved farther from work might get more home but would would end up spending more thanks to their commute, not including all the mind-numbing stress-inducing time behind the wheel. Cities that want to remain relevant while also increasing their real estate values for current residents will surely need to embrace a healthy number of communities such as Avalon.
Kevin Peterson April 22, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Thanks to Bob for closing out the poll. It was getting silly with all the obvious manipulation. On the downside, I can't cast any more of my own. :-)
Paula M April 23, 2012 at 01:58 PM
New Urbanism expressed for Alpharetta in a town center design. Guaranteed traffic flow to stores and restaurants with Westside openning. Modified design much better than origional but still needs more European ambiance & greenery. I don't see a conflict with Northpoint stores. Northpoint Mall needs transition to high End outlet stores: Last Call, Off Fifth...also 2 more family friendly restaurants in mall and NEW CONCEPT: Activity Center for teens HIGH TECH, computers, math, science, creative centers to engage CREATIVE LEARNING funded and sponsored by corporations and in the mall. The time is right. Look at popularity of Apple store. Avalon: restaurants, cafe's, shops, a market, more stores. We do need a convention center nearby. Roswell may be getting the boutique hotel. Things are shaping up, if only the design commission would rezone hwy 9 from Old Milton to Windward and stop building auto repair & parts stores on our street! This street should be protected as an extension of downtown.
Paula M April 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Btw, I think the large dept. stores are redundant, hope none are going into Avalon. Macy's works at Northpoint. On-line shopping easier unless you want to socialize.
Mark Toro April 23, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Thank you for your support, Paula.
Mark Toro April 23, 2012 at 03:50 PM
No large dept. stores planned for Avalon.
Sunnie May 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Mark, I'm curious as to why no large department stores. Some large department stores should not be ruled out....especially the ones that are not here in Alpahretta or close to the vicinity. There should be at least two high end stores intergrated into this project. I've mentioned Last Call Neiman Marcus and Off Saks. With the exception of the actual retail stores in Buckhead and Perimeter. This side of Atlanta (Sandy Springs, Roswell, Buckhead, Milton, Cumming, Cobb County etc..) There are no outlet stores like this in the area, unless you travel to the North Georgia Premium Outlets or Discover Mills, which is to far out. I think both stores would fit into what you guys are trying to accomplish perfectly. Nordstrom Rack was just opened at North Point, so the addition of these to stores would fit in perfectly. HIgh End Retail. You have alot of people who travel to work here in Alpharetta. I'm sure the majority of the people who support the retail that goes intothis project are women. I live right off of Westside Parkway and would like to see this project win, but depending on the type of retail, dining and entertainment I'm not sure. Mark, please take some of these suggestions into account please: Krispy Kreme :-) Schmick and McCormick Century 21 - This is a NY based store in lower Manhattan, that is "very" popular in NY.
Sunnie May 28, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Oh...to add...the container store would also be great.
Alpharetta mom May 31, 2012 at 11:54 AM
i am looking to downsize! this place sounds fantastic. What elementary, middle, and HS schools would kids living here attend? thanks

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