The debate over the recently approved Sandy Springs Gateway project likely will repeat itself in the coming years as more developers build apartments in metro Atlanta.
Apartments are on the rise as more people opt to rent instead of buy. With apartments come increased traffic, and that means road improvements. Road improvements cost money.
When the Sandy Springs City Council approved the Gateway project at its July 16 meeting, it also approved spending $3.7 million to realign the adjacent intersection of Roswell Road and Windsor Parkway. Developer JLB Partners will offset much of the cost by paying the city impact fees.
It’ll be a different story at the intersection of Roswell and West Wieuca roads in Atlanta’s Buckhead community, just south of the project. District 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said without a dedicated funding source, the city will have to get creative.
“I don’t know how we can allow left-hand turns into that development because there’s no way for traffic to queue up,” Adrean said. “It seems to me the driveway is going to have to be a right in, right out.”
In addition to the Gateway project, on July 16 the Sandy Springs City Council also approved a project at 6558 Roswell Road, a redevelopment of a 259-unit apartment complex by Cortland Development.
City Councilman Gabriel Sterling said the projects are a sign of an economy on the mend. “The economy has turned around to a point where we can actually get some of this done,” Sterling said. “We had a sea change in 2007 and 2008. You saw credit markets lock up. No deals were moving on anything.”
New apartments on the city’s main roads are going to increase, Sterling said.
“In a perfect world, you’d replace these with single-family homes,” Sterling said. “The economics of that is simply not a reality, especially along Roswell Road.”
Adrean said it’s also a sign that traffic problems in Atlanta are likely to get worse before they get better.
“As we become denser and lack the transportation infrastructure to support the density, we’re just going to increase gridlock,” Adrean said.
In 2013, Sandy Springs issued four building permits for three apartment projects: Perimeter Town Center Apartments, Sandy Springs Mansions Apartments and Hammond Center Apartments. The city issued no multifamily permits in 2012. Atlanta classifies its permits differently than Sandy Springs, and includes townhomes. Atlanta issued 72 permits for apartments and townhomes in 2012, and 83 so far in 2013.
Sandy Springs classifies townhomes as “single-family attached.” In 2012, Sandy Springs issued 113 permits for townhomes, and has issued 61 so far in 2013.
The recently-approved Gateway project will demolish dilapidated apartments currently on site, Chastain and Versailles, and replace them with apartments targeted at tenants who can pay higher rents. The project will consist of 630 apartment units, reduced from 700 the developers initially proposed. The development will also include office and retail space.
Sandy Springs City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said the city needs to put in place policies that will restrict the number of new apartments being developed. McEnerny was the one “no” vote against the Gateway and Cortland projects.
“I think we need to develop a policy that limits the amount of density in a number of bedrooms that can be built on these old apartments, or we will continue to increase substantially the apartment count in Sandy Springs,” McEnerny said. “That’s very concerning to me because of the growing imbalance of the number of owner-occupied to rental.”