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No Apartments for Jonquil Village

Branch Properties is withdrawing its current proposal for the Jonquil Village development and will resubmit a retail-only plan for the site in the coming weeks.

Branch Properties has announced that it wishes to formally withdraw its proposed plans for Jonquil Village and that they will resubmit a retail-only plan in the coming weeks, said Teri Anulewicz, Ward 3 city council member.

“The Mayor and council will need to formally accept their withdrawal – this is on the agenda for the council meeting that is scheduled for this Monday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m.” Anulewicz said in an email. “After that, we expect Branch to submit a retail-only application and community development staff will begin working with Branch on design issues. We have been explicitly clear to Branch that we cannot understate that the ultimate design of this project is extremely important, and Branch is definitely aware of the community input we have received and will continue to receive during this process. Next, the proposed plan will go to the planning commission for their review and recommendation, and finally, will be formally presented to the Council for our consideration and, ultimately, a vote.”

The original plans submitted by Branch were for a mixed-used development that included 77,000 square feet of total building area with a 45,600 square-foot grocery store and 250 apartments.

The proposal first appeared on the Smyrna city council agenda at the Jan. 17 meeting, but council members voted unanimously to table it till the Feb. 20 meeting to allow the four newly sworn-in council members time catch up to speed on the project.

At the last city council meeting held Feb. 6 several representatives from the Williams Park Neighborhood Association came forward during citizen input and asked that the proposed site plan be presented to the planning and zoning committee to allow residents more time to review the plans and share their views with city officials.

Several of the speakers also expressed concern about the apartments that had been proposed for the site noting that they think apartments put more stress on public services and schools and don’t contribute to the city’s tax-base.

“It is not welcome to hear that the mayor and council are considering allowing non-owner occupied residential units to be part of the mix of commercial and residential elements for that property,” said Robyn Phillips, a Williams Park resident. “In the last year or two Smyrna has paid significant taxpayer funds to acquire and demolish apartment units that had significantly deteriorated and had contributed to a higher police presence at those properties due to elevated crime and drug trafficking.”

Once city council members approve Branch’s withdrawal at Monday’s meeting, the company will take its Jonquil Village plans back to the drawing board. In her email, Anulewicz reiterated the importance of doing Jonquil Village right.

“Jonquil Village is more than a gateway site for the city of Smyrna – city staff and I agree that what happens here will likely set a standard (on many levels) for future major projects in the city,” she said. “I very much appreciate all the input we have received so far, and I hope that the dialogue continues. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. There are a lot of stakeholders and I encourage input from everyone.”

Pam J February 18, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Smyrna - the most mixed-up city in the county.
Randy W February 18, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Great News, I cannot wait to see the plans.
jals4 February 18, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Fantastic news!!
K. Davis February 18, 2012 at 10:36 PM
You don't know the half of it.
K. Davis February 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM
It's amazing what a lawyer standing before the mayor & council can accomplish by saying "planning & zoning commission".
jals4 February 19, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Sean- An apartment complex sitting behind a commercial development (which is what the original plan entailed) does not constitute a true mixed-use project. Based on your experience in the rental industry, surely you realize that. In an ideal world I think we would all love to see a true mixed-use project, however, even the most optimist of home builders predicts that is not happening for at least 6-8 years. It is not in the best interest of the community to let that site vacant for 6-8 years with the hope that maybe one day someone will come along and build-out as originally planed. We are not living in 2005 anymore. Time after time our city officials (elected and appointed) have alluded to how important this development is to our city, and I trust they will not let us down. A quality commercial development within the guidelines of the city plans will serve all of us well. I encourage you get behind the developer and city and quite whining that we don't live in an ideal world.
Alex February 19, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Jals4 So what your are saying is, is that the city should allow a developer to build to just to build because the site has sat vacant for so long? Is that it? You say this is fantastic news, but is it really? Essentially now, Branch is rethinking their move. Honestly wouldn't surprise me now if they put the land back up for sale. Go on and celebrate another strip retail center in Smyrna.
David February 19, 2012 at 02:27 PM
The city center is only half-full. Where's the logic in another retail only development there?
Smyna Res February 19, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I was afraid this would happen. Smyrna, enjoy watching your town decline. My wife and I are going to get out of here before it get worse. Enjoy your strip mall Williams Park. I hope it was worth it to avoid higher end apartments. Maybe you should go throw some more demands at the developer so he will just leave altogether and your city can continue to "thive" with a giant eyesore in the middle of it.
Schitzngrins February 19, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Jals4, "mixed-use" is an umbrella term, in both the common and professional vernacular, that describes several types of combined retail/commercial/entertainment/residential (and even transportation) development strategies. The definition also tends to vary from region to region and locale to locale, so there is no "true definition"…but "surely you realize that." ;-) Also, I can't say how long you've been posting here, as some of your posts are not showing up in your comment history, but clearly you have not been paying attention since you've been here. You may disagree w/what Sean et al. have posted, but had you been paying attention, you'd realize that group is not who needs to get behind the "city and quite whining that we don't live in an ideal world". That distinction belongs to the "Statler & Waldorf" crowd…the small, yet extremely vocal, group of city detractors and martyrs to negativity that contribute nothing except complaining and sniping. You've just replied to one them above, and it takes little time or effort to identify the rest of that crowd.
Schitzngrins February 19, 2012 at 08:12 PM
It's also worth noting that we do not live in a vacuum. In addition to the retail vacancies and challenges that Sean, Alex and David mention, there are other local hinderances to further retail development (especially speculative development) in Smyrna. Any new commercial development in Smyrna will have to compete w/already existing developments in the Cumberland mall and its surrounding area, Vinings, the East/West Connector and Cobb Parkway north of Smyrna. There are limits what type of retail would locate here, let alone be successful…especially if it's just another "run of the mill shopping center".
Schitzngrins February 19, 2012 at 08:33 PM
We have an opportunity to do something substantial in a great location…but if not done correctly it could be detrimental to Smyrna's future (& that's not hyperbole). This all reminds me (painfully) of Rock Hill, SC. I moved there at 12, & left at 18, but my family still lives there. Smyrna's similar to RH in many ways (pop. density, demographics, long-serving mayors, proximity to major city, etc), & seems to be following dangerously close to RH's failed growth model. B/c of poor planning, speculation and a forced, "just build it" strategy, RH has had 5 failed or only marginally successful attempts at establishing a "city center". Not to mention the Civitas/Gateway debacle. RH's Manchester Village has been the most successful development to date, & is similar in some respects to what's been proposed for Belmont Hills, but it's not in the right area of town. The Galleria Mall experiment failed from the beginning b/c of bad location (where MV is now), & it opened at the same time as the bigger, better Pineville Mall. It could never attract decent anchors or shops. Downtown is only a marginally successful niche. The Cherry Rd corridor is littered w/pawn shops, title/payday loan shops, automotive shops, & fast food, etc...nothing wrong w/these in & of themselves, but collectively its a sad, low-rent eyesore…in the most prominent area of town. JP already has a "We Buy Gold" store as its neighbor, & if we're not careful, we'll have more of that type of development there.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Branch has done phased development before. They can put residential there and just frame it for now.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:49 AM
I like the rear parking, I like the street-front stores and more prominent scale. I don't like the covering of the parking deck (assuming that's what I'm seeing with the concept). They need to factor in mixed-use into the plan somehow. I'm not going to accept it being re-zoned to anything but mixed-use. Branch has done phased development before. They can put residential there and just frame it for now. They need to show where it's going to be, even if they don't build it right away. It can be 15 townhomes over shops, or even craftsmen homes. We just want to see some residential there. I want to see a more developed concept before I comment further.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:51 AM
jals4: It will not kill them to frame a couple dozen townhomes over shops, finish a show unit, and finish and sell them one-by-one while developing the rest of the property as commercial.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:57 AM
Thanks. Someone who'd just freak out like that before the writing dries isn't needed in Smyrna.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:58 AM
Don't forget that more shopping will help the center because it will give more reasons to drive there. Instead of doing all their shopping in some other area, they may do it in Smyrna center (sometimes at the same kinds of stores). A lone store here or there isn't going to attract people to shop for the day.
Brian February 20, 2012 at 06:59 AM
Smyrna has a lack of quality retail, other than at the new Kroger and at E-W Connector. The retail behind Ruby Tuesday is an outdated building that can't handle high-end tenants because the structure is outdated and almost completely blocked from view. The same is true for the old Kroger location. The Spring Rd/Atlanta Rd intersection is a prime location for visability. Having some residential in there would help the stores prosper because they'd have more regular visitors. It'd help Market Village as well. Don't forget that more quality shopping will draw more day shoppers. A lone store here or there isn't going to attract people for a whole day.
Smyna Res February 20, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Brian- You're kidding right? They DID propose a residential component (apartments) which was vilified by certain residents of this town. Now- there won't be a residential component. You can't make them build something they don't want to (townhomes/condos) and now you can enjoy a strip mall.
J. B. Smith February 20, 2012 at 04:53 PM
So is Publix still in or not? Does anybody know?
Freya Stark February 20, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Anyone else hear the sound of that great big FLUUUUUUSH?
Brian February 20, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Smyrna Res: I think the original issue was that what they planned was a strip mall, with apartments on the side. This land is zoned mixed-use, and Branch knew that when purchasing it. Interestingly, they left the apartments area and parking deck out of the drawing. Perhaps they are still debating what to do with that.
Freya Stark February 20, 2012 at 09:51 PM
For as ancient as the plaza was before they tore it down, at least there were revenue producing businesses in there and on Atlanta Rd. (Advance Auto for one) Now we've had empty space making no one any money for years. That seems to be commonplace around Smyrna. Pity.
Brian February 21, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I went to the city hall meeting and spoke. Wade Lnenicka said today, basically addressing to the lawyer for Branch, that we need to see some residential component as part of the development. He said that with the market conditions they'd be willing to work with Branch to do it in a way that is feasible from a business perspective, but that it's a critical parcel for Smyrna and there has to be some residential there to create vibrancy.
Sydney Busby February 21, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Brian, could you please email me the spelling of your last name? You can drop me an email at sydneymbusby@gmail.com. Thanks.
Brian February 21, 2012 at 03:14 AM
By the way, why are the concept plan pictures attached to this document? That is misleading since I thought they were new from Branch, however I find out they were part of an older livable centers study. It may have caused some confusion today when I talked with someone about them. Please be more descriptive when attaching photos.
Smyna Res February 21, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Brian- I've rethought my comment. It was rash and unnecessary. I think that reading through a lot of the comments on Patch is starting to affect me in a negative way. The bottom line is that I am disappointed that this development seems to be getting derailed because of what I believe are misconceptions about what an apartment component would look like and what seems like an ever growing list of demands from residents. It is frustrating because as much as I want to stay in Smyrna for the long term, it seems like I am going to have to continue to travel to Buckhead, West Village, etc to find places that other people our age like to spend time at. It's not a threat, it just is what it is. At a certain point you stop and ask your self why you live in one place and commute to another for fun/restaurants/life outside work.
Brian February 22, 2012 at 12:21 AM
S.J.M. thanks for the clarification.
Brian February 22, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Smyrna Res: Keep in mind that these things move slowly. I wouldn't worry too much about Jonquil Village. Smyrna is wooing Branch and a good compromise will be found. It is good we had a full list of requests so the result is somewhere in the middle. The growing list of demands doesn't slow down development. In fact, developers often want to get an ample amount of citizen feedback. If they don't, they may not build something appropriate for the area. What caused the most problems in this case, from my perspective, is that the city initially attempted to rush this through without gathering enough feedback from residents early on. I think they got overly excited. That's what caused a backlash, and usually from the most vocal of detractors. People just want to be heard and the city needs to more proactive in getting feedback early on. The lack of pro-activity doesn't help anyone and ends up confusing developers when they thought that part was already handled. The previous plan was a glorified stripmall, essentially, with housing separated from the rest of the development versus integrated into the development. It's almost as if they sub-divided it into two parcels with parcel 1 being strip mall, and parcel 2 being apartments. Even with the market the way it is, they can do better than that, and they should live up to their reputation from West Village. As I mentioned in the meeting Monday, they can just frame out residential and not fill it in until they get it sold.
Smyna Res February 22, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Seems reasonable Brian.

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