Part of the push for redevelopment in south Cobb includes “rebranding” the area known for its high crime rates and dilapidated properties. Part of that effort includes renaming the roads around Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, although officials are hesitant to say that the street name changes have anything to do with trying to change the area’s image.
Dana Johnson, deputy director of the Cobb County Community Development Agency, said the renaming project is an effort to reduce confusion between three streets containing the Six Flags title.
Public meetings took place in January to get residents’ feedback on new street names.
According to a map drafted by county staff this week, Riverside Parkway and Six Flags Parkway will retain their names.
The name Six Flags Drive could disappear. One portion of the road might be rebranded City View Drive.
A connecting road called Six Flags Way may be renamed Harbor Way, in reference to the new water park opening Memorial Day weekend as part of Six Flags Over Georgia.
Johnson said the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority will give feedback at a 9 a.m. meeting March 17 at the Mableton House Arts Center off Floyd Road. The Board of Commissioners will make the final decision on the new street names at the 7 p.m. meeting March 25 at 100 Cherokee St., Marietta.
Residents move to Six Flags area
The Six Flags neighborhood is also set to make progress in upgrading residential developments, Johnson said.
H. J. Russell & Company, a real estate and property management firm, plans on purchasing three apartment communities in the Six Flags area, Johnson said.
Johnson said there are also six new residential developments, from single-family detached homes to townhome communities, which will span across 325 lots in the Six Flags area.
The subdivisions are Chimney Hills, Hillcrest Corners, the townhomes at Chimney Hills, Kings Lake, Wade Farm and Wilhemina Hill.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents southwest Cobb, said it has been hard to find a balance between residential, commercial and industrial development.
“The unfortunate thing about this part of the county is you have residential next to industrial, which has been an ongoing source of conflict,” Cupid said.
County officials must protect south Cobb residents by having a plan for the area, which Cupid called “smart growth.”
Cupid said she wants to promote south Cobb’s assets, including the quick access to downtown Atlanta and proximity to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The goal is to have companies move their headquarters from out of state to Cobb, which Cupid said is business friendly with lower tax rates than other Georgia counties like Fulton.
To reach the goal, Cupid said she wants more code enforcement in south Cobb to make a visible difference in the area’s appeal.
Then “compact” retail and office development could follow, along with urban-style villages “that provide a mixture of housing types for people of various life stages,” Cupid said.
Neighborhood focus on retail development
A large portion of the 2014 Comprehensive Plan approved by the Board of Commissioners in January focused on minimizing the big box stores along Veterans Memorial Highway and Mableton Parkway, to give the area more of a neighborhood feel.
Multiple locations on Veterans Memorial Highway, west of Old Powder Springs Road and east of Copper Lake Road, and on Mableton Parkway, from Puckett Drive to old Alabama Road, were rezoned on the future land use map. Cupid said the busy thoroughfares are now a “patchwork” of development.
The 2014 Comprehensive Plan changed the parcels from being designated for community action centers, which includes big box retailers like Staples and Home Depot, to neighborhood activity centers, which include small offices, limited retail and grocery stores.
“The Neighborhood Activity Center category would be more appropriate in density and scale,” Cupid said. “One thing we want to do is make sure this area looks more like a neighborhood and not a thoroughfare.”
However, the owners of some vacant parcels on the corner of Club Drive and Veterans Memorial Highway were against the zoning change.
Tom Wilder, who has been in commercial real estate for more than 40 years, told the Board of Commissioners at the Jan. 21 meeting that he represents the property owner.
Wilder said moving from the community to neighborhood category would limit the amount of permitted commercial uses on the land from 587 to 152.
The drop in permitted uses greatly affects the value of the property, Wilder said. He also warned commissioners that limiting the permitted use would mean less tax revenue.
South Cobb to become a place to play
The south Cobb area has long been seen as a string of bedroom communities, Cupid said, where residents might live, but commute to work or venture out of town for recreation.
After a South Cobb Redevelopment Authority meeting in Austell on Jan. 17, Cupid said an example of a bedroom community striving to change is Mableton, which is tucked to the northwest of the intersection between Interstate 285 and Interstate 20.
More than 477 acres of a redevelopment district, called the Mableton Town Center, was created by the Board of Commissioners in February 2011. The revitalization plan for the neighborhood is designed to create a mixed-use community with a walkable, pedestrian-friendly town center feel.
Cupid said it took energy from the ground level by south Cobb residents to gain attention for the redevelopment. That foundation is now creating momentum for surrounding areas, she said.
“It may seem like it has taken a lot to get here,” Cupid said. “I think they see hope. They see that there is strength in numbers.”
The Mableton Improvement Coalition, a nonprofit created in 2001, was established to protect the character of the area by stopping what they consider to be improper zoning.
Chairwoman Robin Meyer has been with the group since the beginning, after retiring from a state government position dealing with affordable housing.
Because Mableton is not an incorporated city, Meyer said there is no local government to establish a development plan.
“We have great support from county government,” Meyer said.
Meyer said spurring any local development in the last few years has been a challenge during the down economy.
“It’s been difficult to see the redevelopment we are looking for,” Meyer said. “We have the bones of a downtown, we just don’t have the economic activity yet.”