Thanks to the MDJ for this story! I wonder if the new Johnny Walker redevelopment will be this nice?!?!
SMYRNA – The city is on its way to getting its own Atlantic Station-sized redevelopment project.
Representatives from Atlanta-based Halpern Enterprises presented plans to the City Council Monday night for the future of Belmont Hills Shopping Plaza.
“It’s getting close to rivaling the size of Atlantic Station in downtown Atlanta,” Halpern Enterprises president Jack Halpern said.
With a $252 million dollar price tag, the 47.5-acre development would require a $25 million in tax allocation district financing.
“Without a TAD, what was shown here, it loses money and won’t be built,” Halpern said.
A TAD is an incentive for developers to build in blighted areas to increase property values, which results in more tax revenue. The financing tool is used to issue tax-free bonds to pay for land, infrastructure and specific capital improvements in designated TAD areas. It requires cooperation between the city, county and school district to quickly repay project bonds
Although the Cobb School District Board of Education passed a $30 million TAD financing cap on the 140-acre Belmont Hills tax allocation district – which includes Jonquil Village 1.1 miles to the south – city officials are prepared to work to raise the cap to complete the project.
“This project can’t be done within that cap because we’ve already approved a $26 plus million for the Jonquil Village project,” Smyrna city administrator Wayne Wright said.
Halpern’s mixed-use development for Belmont Hills includes townhouses, condominiums, single-family homes and several thousand square feet of retail and office space. Halpern’s company specializes in commercial development has partnered with fellow Atlanta developer, Southeast Capital Partners, for the residential component.
“The grid of streets would create a community where currently (commercial) rooftops and parking lots exist,” Halpern said.
In 2002, 71.6 percent of voters approved tax allocation districts as a redevelopment tool in Cobb, Marietta, Smyrna, Kennesaw, and Acworth.
The following year, the Smyrna City Council, county commission, and Cobb school board approved Smyrna’s first TAD for the 140-acre area from Atlanta Road to the west, east to Creek Road and from Windy Hill to the north and Concord Road on the south.
The goal behind the high-density Belmont Hills redevelopment is to create several communities on the almost 50-acre site all within walking distance of the amenities offered.
Wright said the benefit of this kind of development is a way to combat overcrowding in elementary schools like Belmont Hills and Green Acres.
“This will decrease the number of children in the area and will increase revenue to the school board,” he said.
The Belmont Hills development is the largest in Smyrna since the original construction of the Belmont Hills Shopping Center in 1950. At the time, Belmont Hills was the first strip mall in Cobb.
Bonds for the TAD subsidy will take an estimated 15 years to pay off, but Wright is confident it could be done in less time.
“At this point there’s nothing to give up,” he said. “All this means we’ll have much, much more money once all the bonds are paid off.”
Construction of the new development could start as early as late spring or early summer, Halpern said. The new Belmont Hills would take shape in several phases and would be finished by 2013.
“They could put a new coat of paint on them and you’d be looking at pretty much what you’d have before, but Jack Halpern is going to do more than that,” Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said.
City officials are confident the TAD-assisted redevelopment of Belmont Hills and Jonquil Village will bring the same kind of prosperous halo-effect to the north of Smyrna that the south side has experienced with Smyrna Market Village.
“The TADS are not an opportunity to redevelop our city – but the TADs give us an ability to transform our city,” Ward 6 Councilman Wade Lnenicka said.
A $26.2 million TAD subsidy was approved late last year for the $130 million-plus redevelopment of Jonquil Plaza. Also in the Belmont TAD, proposals by Tampa, Fla.-based developer A.G. Armstrong for Jonquil Village include 160,000 square feet of retail space anchored by Publix, more than 20,000 square feet of office space and about 300 to 350 condominiums built above a 1,000-space underground parking deck.
No action was taken at Monday night’s public hearing.
The Smyrna Downtown Development Authority will approve plans for Belmont Hills within the next few weeks before they return to the City Council for final approval. After that the Cobb school board and Cobb commissioners will have to approve the plans and an increase in the TAD cap.
“We think this is the right project,” Wright said. “It will change Smyrna and this part of Cobb County more than anything we, or anyone else, has done.”