ULI Atlanta Blog

Rethinking Retail Corridors: From Grayfields To Boulevards

An examination of the Highway 9 corridor in North Atlanta 

As older auto-oriented commercial corridors reach obsolescence, the Atlanta metro area has a unique opportunity to redevelop these zones into vibrant, beautiful places. Many of these commercial corridors contain larger parcels of vacant commercial uses: strip retail, car dealerships and office, as well as garden-style multifamily that are reaching the end of their useful lives.

With an approach that combines private investment, public participation and involvement by municipalities, these corridors could improve the character and provide a sense of place in cities throughout the Atlanta metro region. With a mix of new housing, retail and office uses, these corridors could increasingly become multimodal, walkable and bikeable. These redeveloped corridors have the potential to generate significantly higher tax revenues for municipalities and attract tourism, new residents and businesses, along with additional private investment.

However, there’s a lot of work in store to realize this opportunity. Many of these corridors have antiquated commercial-only zoning in place. Zoning maps must be changed to encourage a mix of uses, but not be overly prescriptive in a way that may discourage private investment. Reduced, shared or public parking must be evaluated and implemented. Public investment along the corridor and streetscape must take place, burying utilities, adding wide sidewalks, bike lanes, street furniture, and pedestrian-scale lighting. Mass transit options should be carefully considered and implemented where appropriate, particularly when it can serve the critical need of better connectivity among our job centers. Public participation is key to find out what’s missing and needed in the existing urban fabric so that opportunities for art, public space and pedestrian connections can be identified and implemented where appropriate.

These are precisely the challenges that the Urban Land Institute has explored in its Building Healthy Corridors work. On June 29th, Ed McMahon, ULI Senior Resident Fellow, will be in town for ULI Atlanta’s quarterly program and share lessons learned from his work on similar corridors throughout the United States. We will also have a panel discussion that will examine the Highway 9 corridor as a case study of similar redevelopment opportunities that exist through the region.

Highway 9 runs through Sandy Springs and Roswell and we will look at two catalytic projects – The $300MM City Springs project in Sandy Springs and the proposed Southern Skillet redevelopment in Roswell.

Partially located on the site of a vacant Target store with a total site area of 14 acres, the City Springs project will feature a new city hall, meeting space and 1,000-seat performing center for the City of Sandy Springs. In addition, the redevelopment includes 294 residential units and 20,000 square feet of street level retail. Located at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Hwy. 9 (Roswell Rd.), this development will form the cornerstone of a vibrant, walkable downtown for Sandy Springs.

The 4.3-acre “Southern Skillet” site in Roswell is the site of a dilapidated suburban retail center northeast of the Canton Street corridor, directly off Hwy. 9 (Alpharetta St.) The City of Roswell acquired this property in 2016 with the intention of redeveloping this key parcel at the gateway to its downtown. The Roswell Downtown Development Authority recently selected the Beecham Group as the finalist to be lead developer for the site.

The panel will also discuss future opportunities along this corridor. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and will leave with a copy of the book “Building Healthy Corridors.”

 For more information and to register for the event, visit atlanta.uli.org

by Joe Martinez, a Development Manager with Crescent Communities
Originally published in the Saporta Report – June 5, 2017
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