Roswell considers new approach to ensure mixed-use developments are completed

In 2017, Fuqua Development planned to bring a grocery store, office, retail and restaurant space to Roswell on Ga. 9, along with residential apartments. But only the apartments were ever built, and the rest of the 18-acre property is still empty.

Roswell city officials hope to draw on that failed development to prevent more in the future.

Roswell plans to tweak a city code to try to control construction in mixed-use development projects. Officials said they want to attract more development to the city too because, no new development projects have been completed in Roswell in several years.

Meanwhile, cities such as Sandy Springs and Alpharetta have steadily moved forward with development.

For the past several months, the city’s planning commission and city staff have researched more than 20 cities across the U.S. looking for strategies on how to better approach mixed-use development One of the cities, Fredericksburg, Virginia, has a construction policy similar to what Roswell is considering.

During a committee meeting Wednesday with the community development department, City Council members discussed new city development guidelines for mixed-use projects. They are considering a requirement for builders to have a certain percentage of commercial development started before permits are issued for residential construction.

Known as “construction phasing,” the new guidelines are intended to ensure developers finish all aspects of mixed-use developments.

Councilman Matthew Tyser told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s in favor of construction phasing but voted against the amendment in its current form.

“I don’t think we’re far off,” Tyser said of the proposal. “I want to make sure the people who do this kind of building can make something like that work. Does the financing and bidding process work for them with this?”

An example of what Roswell officials are considering is granting building permits for about 80% of the residential portion of a project only if at least a quarter of the commercial space already has certificates of occupancy.

During an April meeting with the planning commission, Mayor Lori Henry said construction phasing might’ve prevented the failure of the 2017 project planned for Alpharetta Highway at Sun Valley Drive.

During Wednesday’s committee meeting, council members approved moving the new construction phasing requirements to a future regular meeting of the City Council.

Tyser believes there’s a bigger problem the city needs to address to encourage developers to come to Roswell. He said he wonders if there’s a reason there’s been minimal development in Roswell compared to other metro cities.

“I want to know is there something wrong in our current codes?” Tyser said. “I agree we want people to finish the projects they start. I just want them to be able to start a project. If this (amendment) gets in the way, there will be no project.”