Vote paves way for Kennesaw to build downtown development
by Hannah Morgan
December 19, 2013 12:21 AM | 8255 views | 12 12 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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KENNESAW — Kennesaw’s stars are aligning after a more than 20-year struggle, Mayor Mark Mathews said.

The Kennesaw City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved final plans to develop its downtown Main Street.

“It’s huge. This is what people have been talking about for over 20 years,” Mathews said.

The construction of hundreds of apartments, a swath of commercial space and the addition of almost 500 much-needed parking lots are expected to begin by the end of January.

Bob Fox, the city’s economic development director, said the new development will include 250 apartments, between 12,000 to 14,000 square feet of commercial space and both a number of on-street and deck public parking spaces.

The project has been in the works for at least two years, and the city was going through a number of final formalities during multiple December meetings.

The last hurdle was having the council and mayor make final approvals to the project details Monday night, Fox said.

The agreement

In various meetings and votes, spread out over years, the council has approved plans to pave the way for construction of a mixed-use development at the intersection of Watts Drive and Main Street.

The city’s Development Authority began attempts to assemble the roughly five-acre plot of land back in 2008, a long process that required negotiations with four different property owners over five different plots of land, said Fox.

With funds from a $2.8 million bond passed in 2009, Kennesaw’s Urban Redevelopment Agency bought the land and immediately began discussions with Atlanta-based South City Partners.

The firm wasn’t new to the city, as it recently developed West 22, a large student housing project on Cherokee Street that was completed in summer 2013, Fox said.

In 2012, he said the city entered into a contract with South City Partners to further develop downtown Kennesaw.

South city project

Caddy-corner to the city’s courthouse, on Watts Drive, sits an empty space, waiting to be developed, Mathews said. South City Partners is expected to buy the space from the city in the coming weeks for $2.9 million, Fox said, which will reimburse the city for its 2009 bond fees.

After the purchase, construction will begin on the new shops, apartments and parking deck.

The deck will be split between the apartment residents and visiting city residents. About 300 spaces are expected to be sold back to the city after construction to be used as public parking for court visitors and shoppers.

Kennesaw will issue a new bond to pay for the additional parking, Fox said, although a price has yet to be determined.

Debt service on the new bond will be paid for by court service funds the city accumulates annually, he said, as the city plans to offer the new spaces as free parking.

Construction is expected to last between 15 and 18 months, and Fox said Kennesaw residents could be parking and shopping by summer 2015.

The city is already in discussion with restaurants that want to move into the future space.

The drain plan

With the new development will be new space needed for storm water.

Because downtown Kennesaw was in place before adequate drainage regulations were put in place, the city is in desperate need to find a way to hold its storm water, Fox said.

The city has purchased and agreed to develop a roughly 5-acre plot behind the QuikTrip on Cobb Parkway into a regional detention drain that will hold the storm water of the downtown area. Fox said the city expects to have the construction complete by the time South City Partners finishes construction downtown. The city plans to then sell the drainage space to the firm, who will pay annual maintenance fees to the city.

“This will really help prevent flooding,” Fox said.

The potential

Mathews is ecstatic to see the downtown area develop.

For as long as he can remember, the city has been trying to develop its own “Main Street” downtown to rival Acworth and Marietta.

The city had to rewrite a number of zoning rules and jump through multiple development regulation hurdles before plans with South City Partners could begin, he said.

Mathews hopes this development will be one in a number of additions to the city’s downtown, and is excited to see the city grow.

“We’re finally to the point that we are ready to move forward … this will be a major catalyst for the development of downtown Kennesaw,” he predicted.

Comments
(12)
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M. Esposito
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December 19, 2013
I have lived here for 25 years. This is a good idea. The downtown in its current state is a dump. We need high end apts and retail to bring jobs. It will benefit the Museum and the college. As a loyal Kennesaw resident I want to be able to walk to town and spend my dollars locally. Cherokee street needs to be cleaned up too. All the various businesses should be required to have similar signage and clean up their properties. When you have visitors coming to town from I-75 to Kennesaw you want to look World Class, not like a cheap town like it is now! Good job on this project. Now if we could only exchnage the freight line with a light rail line we would have forward thinking leaders.
KennDEV
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December 19, 2013
What exactly are "court service funds the city accumulates annually" - Is this the reason why Kennesaw has become the local speed trap town of the area recently....wow....
Free Ads
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December 19, 2013
How much revenue did the MDJ lose by letting this joker, Luis J. Hill, to advertise for free? Your censor needs to pay attention or you guys might not get a bonus.
giving up
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December 19, 2013
time to move. Next will be buslines to bring the riff-raff that will hole up in the new gov't funding apartments. Thanks for nothing Matthews...and that includes the skateboard drugport in the park.
Get the Facts
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December 19, 2013
Please don't read others comments (who I might add) don't have all the facts.

This development will have high end apartments similar to West 22 on Cherokee Street with mid to high range rents.

This is exactly what the downtown needs. A reason for the KSU community and young professionals to come downtown Kennesaw and live there, as well.

I am not aware of this proclaimed "Drugport". It sounds like sour grapes based on your information on the apartments you are more than likely off base on the skatepark, as well.
disgusted resident
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December 20, 2013
You are right on target. The skateboard grunge loser drugport has totally trashed Swift Cantrell Park. What a shame. Can't wait to see what the vandalism, security, and upkeep ends up costing taxpayers. The downtown development is a joke. What working young professionals? Give me a break with that nonsense. The apartments along with the future associated traffic mess will trash the downtown area. Will be another costly mess and reduced quality of life for Kennesaw taxpayers.
D.G. in Clarkdale
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December 19, 2013
"250 Apartments"! Are they crazy? Apartments are a long term blight and can do decades long harm to an area. Just look at South Cobb, Smyrna and Marietta's blighted Apartment nightmare....Very, very foolish idea.
Not necessarily
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December 19, 2013
The apartments you have in mind are the type Marietta is razing along Franklin Road. The proposed mixed-use units will be far superior, garner a higher rent and attract the demographic Kennesaw needs: young, working professionals. Given the growth at KSU, this development should thrive for downtown Kennesaw.
Cobb Taxpayer
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December 19, 2013
Now the "powers to be" want apartments - nothing but trouble long term and maybe even in short-term. Another Franklin Road and maybe Powers Ferry disaster.

What happened to the study that found NO NEW APARTMENTS needed in Cobb nor any of it's cities.

Now Cobb is even giving tax incentives so ex Post Properties can build more lousy apartments - take a look at the Post Apartments now - rubbish !
KennDev
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December 19, 2013
Take a look at Kennesaw Elementary. Before the apartments and low dollar houses when up it was a GEORGIA SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE. It's been over a decade since it has held this distinction. North Cobb HS has deteriorated more in that same time. This little pet project does nothing for the area but add a feather is someone's cap. The same way the money losing Museum did. How about find someone to move into the abandonded building on the corner???? How about moving Dentmeyer out? This is not a good thing for Kennesaw - nor was the skatepark....
Dean Stone
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January 09, 2014
I have to admit that I've been looking forward to the redevelopment of downtown Kennesaw into a more urban area where people live, work and play.

I'm disappointed that the development isn't being designed to appeal to a broader demographic. The design (from the sketch) isn't very upscale (sure to be an eye sore quickly) and won't draw those with the deep pockets needed to grow the downtown area.

Aren't there enough apartments already being built? The area around KSU has hundreds of new units. Aren't retail vacancy rates high in the downtown area? You only need drive down Cherokee Street to see the sad truth. Look at Fuller Chase ... another city mixed-use mistake!

Go back to the drawing board ... get a plan that makes sense to change the entire downtown area. Some of the structures aren't historic ... just old ... tear them down!

Kennesaw needs to focus on adding professional office space,condominiums,townhouses and single family residential with some retail and lots of great restaurants.

To see a success story take a look at the City of Woodstock!
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