Shopping center redevelopment plan to add apartments, uproot cemetery

03/21/2019 — Marietta, Georgia — A few stores inside the Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center in Marietta, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

03/21/2019 — Marietta, Georgia — A few stores inside the Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center in Marietta, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

A developer’s proposal to revitalize a deteriorating East Cobb shopping center calls for relocating a cemetery and adding apartments, townhouses, office space and retail to the property.

Atlantic Realty Partners' proposal to transform the 15-acre Sprayberry Crossing development at the corner of Sandy Plains and East Piedmont roads would include 195 traditional apartment units, 62 townhouses, 140 apartment units for adults age 55 or older, 12,000 square feet of retail space and 15,000 square feet of office space. Other features include a retail courtyard and a town green for community gatherings, according to a conceptual plan released by the company.

Richard Aaronson of Atlantic Realty Partners said he expects the townhomes would be priced from the high $300,000s to the mid $400,000s, which he said would be a “bit more affordable” by East Cobb standards. He also said the age-restricted apartments would lease for $2.25 per square foot. Those units, which would have amenities such as full-time concierge and other specialized services for residents, would be larger. The traditional apartments would lease for about $2 per square foot, and the retail spaces would lease at market rate, which Aaronson said was about $20 per square foot.

RELATED | Cobb neighbors hope social media nudge improves shopping center

Atlantic Realty is in talks to buy the center from the existing owners. The property, managed by NAI Brannen Goddard, consists of a former bowling alley and grocery store. The strip center is now sparsely occupied by a church and a few other tenants.

Aaronson said the East Cobb market is “overbuilt” with retail components, so incorporating some residential uses into the project would help the commercial components thrive.

“We hope it’ll create some long-term sustainability,” he said.

Cleaning up the Sprayberry Crossing property has been a long-running campaign undertaken by East Cobb residents, most of whom are members of the Sprayberry Crossing Action group on Facebook. In March, dozens of residents used social media to share photos of themselves in front of vacant storefronts. The campaign resulted in more than 100 photos of people, some of whom held signs decrying the conditions.

The shopping center came under scrutiny in 2018 when a Cobb County judge ruled that its owner must clean up the property or face a blight tax. It was the first property targeted under a June 2017 ordinance approved by the Cobb County Commission establishing the tax, which would apply a sevenfold increase to the owners' property tax bill.

RELATED | Cobb judge: Sprayberry Crossing has to clean up its act … or else

Aaronson said the concept plan also calls for relocating an existing cemetery that sits adjacent to the site. The cemetery was acquired by developers from the family that owned the property.

Developers will meet with key East Cobb residents affected by the development to schedule community meetings to gather input on the proposal. Aaronson said once he feels he has the support of the community, he will move forward with petitioning Cobb County with the necessary zoning changes.

“Our goal is to win the community’s support, and I know that it’s a delicate process of balancing economics and community desires,” he said.

The preliminary plan is a “great start,” said area resident Shane Spink. He said while there are some who would be against any project that brings more housing to the area, everyone agrees something needs to be done about the longstanding eyesore. He noted that a big-box retailer would bring in more congestion than the current proposal.

“I think most people know that whatever goes in there, it’s going to create more people (and) more traffic,” he said.

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