Whole Foods makes plan to anchor mixed-use area
by Rachel Gray
February 15, 2014 04:00 AM | 12246 views | 7 7 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The inside of a recently opened Whole Foods store in Atlanta. Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor a large strip shopping center at the northwest corner of Barrett and Cobb parkways. The massive mixed-use project would include 450,000 square feet of retail space and 30 townhomes on the western side of the property, said Bob Fox, economic development director for Kennesaw. 
<br>Special to the MDJ
The inside of a recently opened Whole Foods store in Atlanta. Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor a large strip shopping center at the northwest corner of Barrett and Cobb parkways. The massive mixed-use project would include 450,000 square feet of retail space and 30 townhomes on the western side of the property, said Bob Fox, economic development director for Kennesaw.
Special to the MDJ
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KENNESAW — If 53 acres of county land on Barrett Parkway is annexed into the city limits as planned, the site could focus on making Kennesaw residents healthier.

Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor a large strip shopping center at the northwest corner of Barrett and Cobb parkways. The massive mixed-use project would include 450,000 square feet of retail space and 30 townhomes on the western side of the property, said Bob Fox, economic development director for Kennesaw. The townhomes would be purchased, not rented, he said.

Whole Foods Market announced Thursday it will lease 45,000 square feet of the retail space to open a natural and organic foods grocery store.

The new Whole Foods store will employ between 175 and 220 people and is scheduled to open in 2016.

The existing site, which is southeast of the city in unincorporated Cobb, is across from a retail shopping plaza and the Willow Branch town home development.

“Our goal is to target properties that are prime for development,” Mayor Mark Mathews said.

Mathews said neither the City Council nor the Kennesaw Development Authority have any plans to offer tax abatements or other monetary incentives to the developer or the businesses leasing space in the development.

If any requests are made, including to the KDA, Mathews said he and the City Council would have to approve the deals.

Plans were submitted by the developer of the site and reviewed by the Planning Commission on Feb. 5.

The City Council will play host to a public hearing on the possible annexation at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall in

downtown Kennesaw.

Developer designs new space

Mathews said Atlanta-based Fuqua Development has the site under contract and knows the market through demographic studies, so the developer is deciding what mix of stores would work best.

Councilwoman Cris Welsh, who has lived in Kennesaw for 24 years, graduated in 1995 from Kennesaw State University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and worked briefly for a commercial developer.

Welsh said the entire annexation has been a project of the city’s economic development department for four years.

The plan is to close the Castle Lake Mobile Home Park, that currently sits on the site and serves as home to dozens of families, many of them Hispanic immigrants.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Welsh said. “My biggest concern was that we are able to relocate those families.”

Whether the area is annexed by the city or not, Welsh said the property will be developed.

The city’s pitch in favor of annexation, she said, is that the retailers would get more personalized attention from the Kennesaw Police Department and other city services, as opposed to remaining in the county.

Community anxious for healthy national chain

The new commercial space can be easily accessed by residents of west Cobb and north Cobb, and Mathews said Fuqua plans to add a big-box sporting goods store and restaurants to complement Whole Foods.

Whole Foods Market, headquartered in Austin, Texas, has eight locations in metro Atlanta, with stores in Savannah and Augusta opening later this year.

“We’re always looking for new locations around the Atlanta metro area,” said Jeremiah Ryan, Whole Foods Market South region executive coordinator of operations. “We’re excited that we’ve found a great location for the Kennesaw community, and we look forward to providing more people with good, healthy food options.”

Mathews said Whole Foods has already sponsored city events such as Pigs and Peaches, the Big Shanty Festival and area road races.

“They are very interested in setting up shop and being involved,” Mathews said. “They are really connected to the communities where their stores are.”

According to the company’s website, Whole Foods stores offer foods that are free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and preservatives.

In October 2001, Whole Foods Market acquired the three Harry’s Farmers Market megastores in Cobb County.

“Whole Foods is something this community has been crying out for,” Welsh said.

Want to go?

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Monday evening

WHERE: Council chambers at City Hall

WHY: To review plans for a mixed-use development with 450,000 square feet of retail space, which could result in annexation of the county property into city limits

Comments
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Jim Sebastian
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February 16, 2014


The City of Kennesaw’s annexation strategy along Cobb Parkway has been very consistent and focused on commercial development. From a land use strategy, the goal is to reduce areas surrounded by city boundaries to provide better delivery of services.

The County has tried to approach the property owners to consider redevelopment for years with little success. The City of Kennesaw, as part of our city expansion strategy, has been in contact with the property owners to consider annexation on and off for at least three years with limited feedback until a year ago.

The owners did not have a need to consider annexation while continuing to operate as a Mobile Home Park (MHP). Their interest in annexation started to increase over the past year once they made a business decision to sell a portion of the site for redevelopment.

There is no absolute formula on the timing of a redevelopment opportunity or a bona fide guarantee when the property owners will decide that the property is ready to be redeveloped. In this case, the property owners wanted time to evaluate the pros and cons of all offers and that takes a considerable amount of time without the guarantee of any results.



In order for Fuqua and the property owners to get to a closing, entitlements for the project need to be in place. The specific entitlements for this development are rezoning and certain associated conditions.

Given the entitlements need to be in place prior to closing and there is still no guarantee the closing and development will occur, the property owners need the ability to allow the MHP to continue to operate if the deal falls through. The City is willing to consider a reversion clause as part of the rezoning. This provides protection to the property owners if the deal does not close. This is exactly what the City did with the Campus Colony rezoning which helped facilitate the West 22 deal.

Although discussions have been ongoing for some time, the City needed to be sensitive to both the property owners and Fuqua’s privacy rights in the early stages and disclose nothing. Each had their own reasons . . . The property owners did not want to raise undo concern with their residents 18 months in advance and risk the loss of revenue with tenants moving out. Fuqua was quietly signing deals with future tenants that needed to be kept quiet for competitive reasons.

The City is continuing to discuss with the property owners the annexation of the balance of the MHP’s remaining acreage. The property owners are considering redeveloping themselves or in partnership with other developers. Long term that is critical from a land use perspective. To accomplish this goal there is the need to be sensitive to the property owner’s business concerns while at the same time making sure the issues related to land use, transportation and resident relocation are handled appropriately.

The annexation and rezoning application presented does not have an Economic Development proposal attached nor is it necessary at this time. Further, the annexation and rezoning is not predicated on any incentives. To date, Fuqua has not presented a formal economic development proposal.

There have been no commitments regarding economic development incentives. Fuqua still needs to complete their due diligence on the project before any final agreements are drafted. As they refine the economics of the project, they very well may ask for incentives. At that time, the City will evaluate the cost/benefits of supporting the project. At this time, nothing has been requested or offered.

In December, Fuqua filed papers with the City seeking to rezone the property from County MPH and R-20 to City PVC (Planned Village Community) for purpose of commercial development with a residential component and annexation of same property identified as Land Lot 211, Tax Parcel 487 (52.311 /-acres) into the City of Kennesaw.

The Planning Commission, at a meeting held on February 05, 2014, reviewed all of the paperwork, heard the presentation and public comments regarding the application. The Planning Commission made recommendations to approve the rezoning from County MHP/R-20 to City PVC (Planned Village Community) with Zoning Administrator's recommendation to add conditions requiring applicant to submit a relocation plan to address existing residents that includes a timeline. The relocation plan will be submitted prior to any construction activity. There were additional stipulations within a letter from Fuqua’s attorney dated January 24, 2014 and made part of the condition to approve rezoning ~ Vote: 4 - 1. Further, the Planning Commission made a recommendation to approve the annexation ~ Vote: 5-0.

The rezoning and annexation comes before the Mayor and Council on February 17, 2014. All of the documents regarding the above including reviews from various State and local agencies, land maps and preliminary site plans are included in the 02-17-14 Agenda Packet (pgs 7 – 187) that can be found on the City web site:

http://www.kennesaw-ga.gov/form-center/category/40-current-agenda

Jabyrd
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February 16, 2014
Does the county have any control over cities annexing property? The county has to be losing large amounts of money through taxes once a city annexes the land. Does the county receive any payment from developments once a city has annexed it? County tax base seems to be slowly diminishing.
Mark Mathews
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February 17, 2014
The county does not lose any tax revenue. A city resident pays the same tax to Cobb county as a non city resident. And, the county no longer has to provide some of the services. The city property owners pay a city property tax on top of the county tax. The county does actually have an input to the annexation, through a Service Delivery Strategy Agreement signed by each city and the County, they have the ability to object for very specific reasons in which the city and county would enter arbitration over the request. Things are never as clear as they seem at times....
Bill Harris
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February 15, 2014
There is no existing 'relocation plan' for residents on that 53 acre parcel which includes a trailer park.

The City Zoning Administrator indicates that this should be added to the Sams, Larkin and Huff stipulation, however he states 'plan to be submitted prior to construction activity', and clearly this should not be left for later determination, but clearly agreed to before any action is taken on the rezoning/variance is voted on.

The approval for annexation and rezoning should be tabled until a firm and approved relocation plan is put forth.

I would also mention that this same law firm which represents Mr. Fuqua also represented Mr Venturi when there was a zoning change to allow the Venturi strip mall to go in at Mack Dobbs and Cobb Pky.

At that time Sams and Venturi gave assurances via 'stipulation' that no pawn shops would be allowed in the strip mall, of course there was one put in and it took a lot of nonsense to get it removed and THEN Sams and Venturi had the nerve to sue the City for having forced the pawn shop out, the pawn shop that Sams and Venturi had agreed would not be allowed there.

Clearly stipulations by lawyer Sams are pretty much worthless but we should at least have them in writing and approved BEFORE we vote to allow annexation and zoning changes.
Just Sayin'....
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February 16, 2014
Mr. Harris is barking up the wrong tree here and needs to look at the larger picture. First of all, with regards to a relocation plan, that is entirely no one's business but the tenants and the property owner. The county government has no role in that whatsoever. Secondly, development of that parcel is going to happen at some point, and most residents of this area would concur that a trailer park is not the highest and best use of this property. I suspect you are just worried that some of these trailers might be located a little further up Cobb Parkway closer to the site of the former pawn shop you put out of business, and closer to your own backyard.
Diamond Jim
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February 15, 2014
Someone please 'splain to me the term "natural" when used to describe food. Does it mean, like, tomatoes grown on a vine, as opposed to the injection-molded plastic ones we find in the grocery stores during winter??
Lib in Cobb
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February 15, 2014
Oh good, more stores on Barrett.
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