The city council approved a previous site plan for a 78,000-square-foot strip mall in 2008, but the developer now wants approval to downsize it by about 20 percent for four freestanding buildings.
Marietta-based developer Columbia Properties demolished a former Home Depot garden center and is planning to move in a Krispy Kreme, Del Taco, Auto Zone and a bank. The site already contains a Race Trac gas station and the Smyrna Eye Group.
Developer attorney Garvis Sams said with “reduced density” will come “ingenious” landscaping and brick construction to blend in with the existing tenants.
“In terms of style and architectural components, we tried to do what the city wanted us to do,” he said. “We tried to make it consistent but at the same time obviously we want to keep the brands.”
If approved, the site could be built within the year, he said.
At a Feb. 8 town hall meeting held by council members Wade Lnenicka and Ron Fennel, officials and residents discussed the planned changes on the site.
“I’m excited about us getting a Krispy Kreme,” said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon.
Meeting attendee Bryan Wasson said he didn’t see how the new tenants will add value to his home in walking distance on nearby Lois Street.
“They’re good businesses, but it seems you’re just getting the space filled up versus what will really add value to our community. It adds some tax base but none of this makes my home worth more,” he said.
Sams said the new businesses will be long-term creators of jobs.
“We’ve got 15- and 20-year leases from two of the users and Auto Zone is buying their site. All of them are spending multiple millions of dollars,” he said. “One’s going to bring 50 jobs, another 60 jobs. We think from an economic perspective, we don’t think it’s going to diminish value. It’s going to add value.”
Like other attendees, Wasson said there are already businesses nearby catering to local appetites.
“We have a Dunkin Donuts, we have a Taco Bell, we have a car wash,” he said.
Krispy Kreme representative Mike Neal of Sandy Springs-based Colliers International said the difference is the fundraising help his client gives to local nonprofits.
“If you’ve been in the Southeast long, you know one of the best things about them is their community outreach program,” he said. “They have a positive impact. It’s not just about coming here and selling donuts.”
Residents suggested higher-end food retailers like Starbuck’s and Trader Joe’s, which project manager David Shanahan of Vinings-based Trilogy Group said are elusive.
“Starbucks is very particular about where they go,” he said. “Trader Joe’s has a limited number of stores. Everyone wants one.”
The tenants they have, Shanahan said, are going to do well.
“For them to take this parcel and redevelop it, it’s going to bring life to this corridor. What I would point to is their financial strength. That’s just as important as the service they provide,” he said.
Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott also attended.
He said the corner is part of his goals for 2013.
“What I propose for this next year is to start a South Cobb redevelopment plan starting at S. Cobb Drive and (Interstate) 285,” Ott said.
Once a stakeholders’ committee of 10 homeowners and 10 business owners find out what other stakeholders want, he said developers gain confidence.
“From a developer’s viewpoint, the one thing that is music to their ears is (when) they come to me and I say, ‘If you can develop the best plan, the community will support it,’” Ott said.
Fennel said the Columbia Properties plan helps create a gateway.
“One thing that is really important for those of us in the city that are looking to our future, is our gateways. What is the gateway to Smyrna in each of the corridors? We’re taking a look,” he said. “Having this site ultimately built out in some fashion is part of the gateway for Smyrna on this side of town.”
He recognized the concerns of nearby homeowners.
“It’s important to residents of Vinings Estates, Lowe’s Point and other places nearby, to have it done right,” he said.
Ott said sometimes compromises have to be made.
“It’s not necessarily what they originally told you. In this economy, sometimes councils and commissioners need to make some tweaks,” he said. “A lot of developers are like lemmings. If they see something, they ask, ‘What do they know that I don’t?’”