During Monday’s City Council meeting, council members praised the idea of Wheeless’ plan putting Alpharetta on the map nationally, but questioned if the luxury medical concept is realistic.
Before a 4-3 vote giving Wheeless the go-ahead for his project, some council members said they worried that the developer’s plans could fail. The current concept for The Bailey is “very lofty,” Councilman John Hipes said.
“I’m rooting for your project,” Hipes said. “I see a lot of hope. I see a narrow eye of a needle that you’re going to have to go through to make all these things happen.”
In addition to Hipes, councilmen Dan Merkel, Ben Burnett and Donald Mitchell also voted for the project. Mayor Jim Gilvin and council members Karen Richard and Jason Binder voted against it.
Richard and council members raised concerns about the density of the proposed project on less than five acres of land. Wheeless was asked by Richard to reduce the number of hotel rooms from 100 to 60, but the developer refused. He said his team had already reduced the number of rooms and a lower number would not be profitable for the hotel.
The Bailey will be a development within the larger, 250-acre Northwinds project, which includes corporate office buildings along with retail, restaurant, residential and hotel space. City Council approved an amendment to the Northwinds master plan with several conditions during Monday’s council meeting.
In amending the Northwinds master plan, Alux will be required to comply with 21 conditions including limits on building square footage and a height limit of 140 feet. The wellness center can be a maximum 156,400 square feet and is limited to the athletic facility, professional and medical office space, a restaurant, pharmacy, medical spa, and pool lounge.
The Bailey has been in the works for more than three years. In 2018 Council members approved a smaller version of the latest plans that included a hotel in the style of the St. Regis, a luxury hotel chain by Marriot.
In April 2021, Alux Properties broadened the scope of their plans and included proposed new residential space to the Alpharetta Planning Commission. The new concept was denied a recommendation because of the density on the acreage. The plan approved by the council is an updated version recommended for approval by the city’s Planning Commission on Sept. 2.
Wheeless said he and his team researched sports medicine and sports physicians and physical therapists and they have letters of intent to fill at least 70% of the office space at the development.
On Monday, Hipes voted in favor of The Bailey but said that the project details gave him “heartburn” and he hopes Wheeless has done his due diligence on what’s necessary to build the development.
Asked why he voted in favor of a project he questioned, Hipes told the AJC Tuesday that his role as a council member is to decide if he thinks a project is a good one under what the applicant is asking for from the city.
“I don’t get into the viability of the project as a determination to grant what the request is,” Hipes said. “...There’s no way in the world I could know what their due diligence is nor should I care.”
Wheeless has partnered with Goode Van Slyke Architecture firm to design building space, for The Bailey, Winter Construction and Valor Hospitality Partners to operate the 127,400-square-foot hotel.
Similar to the other Northwind developments, Alux will construct a portion of the Alpha Loop linear park where the The Bailey will be located. The Alpha Loop links together Alpharetta’s downtown district, Avalon and Northwinds.
Wheeless told the AJC construction site work and groundbreaking is scheduled to begin in December and his goal is for The Bailey to be in operation by March 2024.
Wheeless said his career in building and development started while serving in the military where he led several multi-million dollar projects. He started Sandy Springs-based Alux Properties in 2018. He owns the recently opened Aria Sprits wine and liquor shop in Sandy Springs and is remodeling the firm’s office in the north end of the city.
The Bailey name is an ode to George “Hard” Bailey, the name of the Alpharetta resident who donated the land to help open the former Bailey-Johnson School. The segregation-era school for African-American students opened in 1950.
Wheeless said The Bailey is inspired by his late father Darryl Evans, an acclaimed chef who developed menus at such places as The Four Seasons Hotel and the former Spice restaurant in midtown Atlanta. Evans died of cancer in Atlanta in 2014 and is buried in his hometown of Columbus.
“When you get into the hospitality space, that is what I grew up in with my dad and his restaurants,” Wheeless said, adding that customer service is a lost art. “I want to bring that back to the forefront.”