A key to that success, Ott said, is planning.
Ott identified five corridors that he wanted to develop master plans for when he ran for office. To date the county has completed three of them.
“What we’ve seen is the three areas that seem to be the most active are the ones that we’ve done master plans in: the Johnson Ferry Corridor, the Powers Ferry Corridor and Vinings. And then of course the Cumberland core,” Ott said. “I would attribute it to the fact that the whole process of doing the master plan kind of brought attention to each of those corridors.”
Ott’s district makes up the lower half of east Cobb, with about 95 percent of the city of Smyrna, the Cumberland Galleria area, Vinings and about 30 percent of the city of Marietta. It has a population of about 172,000 people and a makeup that is about 57 percent Republican, about 20 percent black and 10 percent Hispanic, Ott said.
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) represents parts of Ott’s district.
“I would say the district has benefited from Bob’s leadership, especially as it relates to encouraging responsible development and build-out of our infrastructure and commercial and residential property, and we’re thankful that our community has continued to grow in these economic times,” Hill said.
Ott said the county rolled out the Powers Ferry master plan two years ago, the Johnson Ferry master plan about a year ago and the Vinings master plan this year.
“One of the things that developers don’t like is uncertainty, and so with these master plans developed by the community I can meet with a developer and say, ‘hey, if you’re willing to develop in the confines of this master plan, you can expect the community to support you.’ So what’s happened is more and more as the developers see that that’s really the case you get their attention.”
This year, Merchant’s Walk finished up its $30 million, two and a half year renovation.
“It was kind of a village square/strip center that needed to be refreshed and updated, and so that’s what happened,” Ott said. “The county worked with the developer on some inter-parcel access, worked to get the Whole Foods in there. The county worked with potential tenants so they would come into the site.”
The county moved the library at Merchant’s Walk, selling the space for $1.3 million and moving it into the Parkaire Shopping Center on the corner of Lower Roswell and Johnson Ferry Road.
“We were able to kind of build a new library in rental space down at Parkaire, which is the East Cobb library, which is one of our busiest libraries,” Ott said.
The library opened in January 2010.
“So now at Parkaire the community sees shops coming in back there,” Ott said. “So now when you have Parkaire and you have Merchant’s Walk renovating their facades and Kroger rebuilt, and it’s worked its way up the streets to Publix (further north on Johnson Ferry) and some of the other shopping centers, everybody kind of wanted to keep up.”
The community along Powers Ferry and Terrell Mill roads is seeing the same thing with the opening of the LA Fitness in January.
“Some of the other strip centers on Powers Ferry went and repainted themselves, got new signs. So what happened is by working with a couple of developers and landowners in each of these corridors to redevelop their properties, the communities were able to get the other landlords or tenants to want to keep up,” he said.
Another key to the revitalization was revising the county’s development standards.
“It was one of my goals two years ago, and we voted on it I think in the beginning part of this year. What that did is that made redevelopment more economically viable,” Ott said.
He cites the LA Fitness as an example. The business was required to spend $1 million because of storm water.
“It was a 100 percent impervious site and because of the county rules at the time, this was prior to the change, they had to put an underground detention in which cost them $1 million,” he said.
Under the new rules, LA Fitness would not have had to do that.
“So then what happens if it’s more affordable and more desirable, what you can do is you get the development community back into looking at these places to redevelop instead of building new,” he said.
Another District 2 success has been the $22.5 million Sterling Estates Senior Living Community on Lower Roswell Road. The development is the first residential senior living project that the Board of Commissioners approved next to a neighborhood, and it sets the standard, Ott said.
District 2 has also seen its share of transportation projects.
The 1.5-mile stretch of Windy Hill Road between Cobb Parkway and Powers Ferry Road is undergoing a $25 million widening to six lanes.
In the meantime, work on the widening of Johnson Ferry Bridge to six lanes is expected to be complete by the end of the month.
“It’s … almost doubling the capacity on the bridge, and that connects to Johnson Ferry which goes to Abernathy, and it basically makes it more free flow for east Cobb traffic to get over to 400 and downtown.”
The cost of the bridge and Abernathy Road work is $18.5 million.
Another road project is the $8.6 million 3-mile Lower Roswell Road project expected to be complete in December 2013.
“It’s making some intersection improvements, it’s adding a multi-use trail on one side and a sidewalk on the other. It’s going from Parkaire Mall to the county line, putting a roundabout at Timber Ridge and Lower Roswell,” Ott said.
Then there is the widening of Cobb Parkway from Chattahoochee River toward Akers Mill Road, a project expected to be complete in December 2014. The road is being widened from four lanes to six.
A major problem for the Cumberland area has been the lack of residents to support a retail market, but Ott says that will change as a projected 1,500 people move there over the next few years. He believes Cumberland will average 300 to 400 upscale apartment units opening per year.
For the coming year, Ott said he intends to work with Lisa Cupid, who unseated Commissioner Woody Thompson and takes office in January, as they eye doing a master plan for the Cumberland area and for South Cobb Drive.
“We’ve talked to some of the folks in Smyrna about starting to look at potentially doing master plans over in the South Cobb area, working with Smyrna and the council,” Ott said.
Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said Ott is easy to work with.
“He’s very good about keeping us informed about issues that are going on,” Bacon said. “I’m pleased with Bob and what he’s done because he has kept us in the loop on almost everything.”