Jonathan Gelber of Bleakly Advisory Group told City Council members that that in order to make Sandy Springs financially attractive to developers, the city should consider buying aging sites to clean them up and reselling them at cost to developers.
“We’ve got a market here where we are already over-retailed,” he said. “And as we go into the future with Amazon, with COVID, with all sorts of other mail orders, we’re not seeing enough demand to have ground floor (retail) in every single building in a mixed-use district.”
Gelber advised Sandy Springs officials to remove a code requirement that retail businesses be required on the first floor of a mixed-use project. The city could instead rent the first floor to the development authority or another Sandy Springs department, he suggested.
City officials will be considering Gelber’s suggestion that any new mixed-use developments be adjusted so that they rely less on retail development — a segment being drastically reshaped by online shopping as well as the pandemic.
In housing, Gelber said developers that include affordable units in their projects would be looking for ways to recoup money they would’ve otherwise brought in. The advisor suggested the city create a tax allocation district to help developers cover costs and to allow them to increase building density; as well as a tax abatement and a reduction or waive in impact fees.
Sandy Springs Communication Director Sharon Kraun said the advisor’s suggestions will be considered in a housing action plan drafted by HR&A Advisors.
HR&A performed a recent housing study for the city and was hired to come up with a plan to move forward. The study found that the lack of affordable housing put Sandy Springs at risk of becoming less attractive to employers for all income levels.