The Smyrna city council quickly and unanimously rejected rezoning for a 500,000-square-foot mixed-use development near SunTrust Park and the Cobb Galleria on Monday night.
The project, which has been in the works for years, would include 310 multifamily units, up to a 12-story hotel, 80,000 square feet of office space, 11,000 square feet of retail and a parking garage.
However, Smyrna officials raised several issues with the plan submitted by developer Westplan Investors, mostly centered around the vagueness of the proposal and a lack of compliance with the city’s wishes for the future of the area.
“We’ve got one chance to get this right,” said Derek Norton, who represents the area on the city council. “I don’t think we’re there yet. I think we can do better.”
Ken Suddreth, Smyrna’s community development director, outlined the city’s problems with the proposal. These included 10 requested variances, a lack of cohesion between the various parts of the project, an unclear timeline with only the apartments guaranteed to move forward, and incomplete parking plans. Suddreth also said project renderings presented were actually lifted from another project and didn’t reflect what the finished buildings would look like.
The development had already been rejected 6-0 by Smyrna’s planning and zoning board in April, and was opposed by city staff members as well. Nevertheless, attorney Garvis Sams did his best to make a case for the plan Monday night.
“This is not a density grab, this is not an annexation grab,” said Sams. “This is a classic and distinctive mixed-use development.”
Sams valued the project at $100 million, promised the hotel would carry a Marriott flag and said the apartments would be “Class A” and “highly amenitized.” Lastly, Sams indicated Jeff Fuqua would handle the retail portion, hailing Fuqua as “the premiere retail developer in the state of Georgia.”
The existing strip center at 2800 Spring Road includes the Chin Chin Chinese restaurant and European Cafe, while the 144,575-square-foot Emerson Center Office Park at 2810 Spring Road, which dates to the 1970s, sits largely abandoned. Westplan Investors purchased the 8.7-acre property in 2017 for $7.2 million.
Sams promised the Cumberland area will see a lot of major, high-density development over the next decade thanks to the Braves stadium and The Battery, regardless of what Smyrna allows on Spring Road.
Council members seemed to agree, saying they want to make the most of their shot to get in on the action in Cumberland.
Six acres of the parcel isn’t in Smyrna at the moment and would be annexed into the city as part of the project. But for now, Westplan’s plan sits stalled.