The Roswell Downtown Development Authority (DDA) released a second request for proposal (RFP) for the Southern Skillet Site on Oct. 31, 2018, as previously reported. We thought it might be interesting to share what might be going on in the offices of the developers preparing to submit a proposal this week.
The Roswell Downtown Development Authority launched a second Southern Skillet Site Redevelopment Request For Proposal (RFP) on Wednesday, Oct. 31. The new RFP invites potential developers to submit offers and design concepts for consideration of the historic area.
The Roswell DDA, Committed To Only The Best For Roswell
The Roswell Downtown Development Authority (RDDA) voted today to conclude the procurement process to identify and secure a developer for the 4.2-acre Southern Skillet Site. The process was concluded without securing a contract for the redevelopment of the site with the Beecham/Ardent team, which was selected as the team to proceed with in April 2017.
Why Was This Decision Made?
With a focus on what is best for the Roswell community, there were many factors that weighed heavily on the RDDA’s decision to conclude this process without a contract.
The development team, Beecham/Ardent, who have been exhaustive in their planning and design efforts, encountered significant market changes in the previous 16 months while putting this transaction together, putting tremendous economic pressure on an already tight site.
The final concept would have required a conditional use approval for 250 multi-family apartment units, an increase over the current approval of 126-units approved by Mayor and City Council in 2016. The RDDA believes the developer’s proposal and offer do not meet the objectives, desires and best interests of the Roswell community.
While the RDDA is understanding of the market environment and applauds the efforts and determination exhibited by the Beecham/Ardent team, we voted to conclude the procurement process initiated in December 2016 and have made the decision to visit other options.
We Value The Past, Present and Future And Want To Honor Your Expectations
We had hoped to be in a different place today and want to share some of the obstacles we have encountered over the past 16+months. Following an extensive pre-development phase that considered the priorities for the site and Roswell’s future, the priorities of development were defined with engagement from the community. These priorities, such as securing a grocery tenant, seeking to expand the project with adjacent properties and minimizing the inclusion of multi-family residential, were in the forefront of our efforts. However, the effort to achieve them, along with market factors, impacted the pace and success of the project. For example:
● Interest by adjacent land owners engendered a strategic attempt to assemble adjacent parcels with hopes of incorporating and constructing public parking and additional retail as part of the project, was time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful. This effort was undertaken to create a more catalytic project for Roswell, but in the end absorbed enormous effort and time.
● The grocery market, while a highly ranked desired use by the community, is in upheaval following the purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon in June 2017, just two months after the Beecham/Ardent team was selected. This uncertainty in the industry has made it much more difficult to land a grocery tenant.
● Rising construction costs continue to squeeze infill development.
In addition, Family Dollar had an existing lease on the property that extended a couple more years and then offered them a five-year option to stay. Obviously, a termination of this lease had to be negotiated prior to any development agreement. That agreement was not achieved until June 7, 2018, the earliest any contract could have been signed with a developer.
While we all wanted the process and project to move faster, it is important to note that in the world of infill development, this timeline is typical based on the challenges of the site and the market in which it sits.
What Will Happen In Wake Of This Decision?
The Roswell Downtown Development Authority is dedicated to moving forward with this project with a development that meets the needs of our community and residents. We are looking to set a date for a work session with our Mayor and City Council to review the project to date and define a process for identifying a new development team. Our objective remains unchanged: To see this site developed in a manner that respects Roswell’s rich history and the priorities of our citizens but also increases the city’s appeal, functionality, and economy.
While the RDDA wants the redevelopment to be of most benefit to city and community, there are some remaining hurdles to overcome. The Roswell Downtown Development Authority acknowledges that the site necessitates complex engineering but feels confident that these challenges CAN BE overcome.
The Roswell Downtown Development Authority is committed to the successful catalytic re-development of the Southern Skillet Site. We feel the economic benefits and lifestyle enhancements will be a step further in careful, but positive business growth for Roswell’s community. As always, the RDDA is dedicated to protecting the historic charm of our city.
The Roswell Community Is Our Priority
To continue our commitment to being transparent in our efforts to support our vision for the residents of Roswell, we invite you to watch our blog and Facebook page for updates. Now that we are out of the negotiation phase, we can again talk about challenges and next steps.
There are few things that move slower than a complicated, infill, redevelopment, so we wanted to update you on where we are.
The DDA is nearing the end of the RFP process to create an offer to purchase the Roswell Plaza property. After nearly a year of pursuing the termination, Family Dollar finally agreed to terms. That lease termination agreement was executed by City Council on June 6, 2018. It will now allow an offer to be specific as to the timing of a closing.
During the time the Family Dollar lease settlement was being pursued, Beecham/Ardent planned a multitude of options to deliver on the plan submitted in their proposal. Conditions to execute that plan included expanding to properties adjacent to Roswell Plaza to create a larger coordinated master plan. Three other property owners were engaged in many discussions and negotiations. This pursuit was complex given each owner having their own conditions related to price, timing and use. Further, the planning phase explored multiple mixed-use scenarios that included grocery, retail, office, a food hall, townhomes and multi-family. Parking deck designs were explored within the Roswell Plaza boundary as well as on the adjacent property. As the agreement with Family Dollar was being negotiated for lease termination, more than 35 concepts plan were produced by Beecham/Ardent as they evaluated them for financial and market viability.
Beecham/Ardent has informed us that they are prepared to submit their offer to the DDA. We will be sharing this offer with City Council and discussing next steps.
The first phase of the Boutique Hotel development is set to be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission at their first meeting of 2018 on January 10th at 6 pm. Meetings are held in the council chambers.
Here are some of the images to be presented at that meeting.
Roswell Arts Fund is pleased to announce the purchase of its first sculpture from the 2017 ArtAround Roswell sculpture tour. Sentience by Atlanta-based artist David Landis will remain a permanent work-of-art in the Heart of Roswell Park on Canton Street.
This purchase was made possible by a challenge grant created by the Roswell Downtown Development Authority (Roswell DDA) and the success of Roswell Arts Fund’s Keep the Art! campaign which included the PartyAround Roswell gala event and donations from the local Roswell community. Roswell DDA agreed to match $10,000 raised by the community to Keep the Art!
“Sentience has activated the Heart of Roswell Park which I see as a focal point of our community,” said Randy Schultz, Chair, Roswell DDA. “It has created a more dynamic environment where parents and their children are playing and engaging in the space that before had very little activity. Sentience encapsulates the charm and natural beauty of our city, and its truly an icon of our community and its future.”
Local artist David Landis designs his work not only as a destination piece, but also to meld seamlessly with the park design, landscape, streetscape, and community. He chose the title Sentience for this piece because it means “to feel.”
“My aim was to have the viewer experience some emotional reaction when encountering the piece,” said Landis. "As with all public art, the artist can only hope that the work will help to define and create a sense of place. I’m truly honored to have a piece in such a welcoming community.”
According to the report, Leveraging Public Investment in the Arts, by Georgia Council for the Arts, “the arts continue to improve local economies through strategies that promote tourism, downtown development, entrepreneurism, community identity, and quality of life.”
Through its Keep the Art! fundraising campaign, Roswell Arts Fund seeks donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations to keep ArtAround Roswell sculptures in the city permanently. This will enable Roswell to further expand its identity an arts destination for locals and tourists alike.
Roswell Art Fund’s goal is to raise at least $60,000 to add selected sculptures to the city’s permanent collection of public art. Sentience is one of ten sculptures featured in the 2017 ArtAround Roswell sculpture tour, and it joins two other permanent pieces purchased from the 2106 ArtAround Roswell tour, Smoke in Roswell Town Square and Oak Leaf Triptych in Roswell Area Park.
“We hope to ignite further awareness and interest of the arts by raising funds to keep four sculptures from this year’s tour in our city,” said Rochelle Mucha, Chair, Roswell Arts Fund. “We are lucky to live in such a vibrant community, and we thank you for your generosity.”
For more information about the Keep the Art! campaign or to make a contribution to keep additional works of art from this year’s tour in our city, please visit our website at artaroundroswell.org.
About ArtAround Roswell
ArtAround Roswell, an initiative of Roswell Arts Fund, features ten sculptures on loan to the city by their artists plus two sculptures purchased from the 2016 sculpture tour. The “museum without walls” is on display through December 2017. ArtAround Roswell is a partnership between the City of Roswell and Roswell Arts Fund initiated to bring the benefits of public art to the city, including community involvement and enrichment.
About Roswell Arts Fund
Roswell Arts Fund is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in collaboration with the City of Roswell. Roswell Arts Fund was founded to strengthen the scope of public arts in the city and to champion the ability of the arts to excite the imagination, strengthen public places, and encourage conversation. More information about Roswell Arts Fund can be found at http://www.roswellartsfund.org.
The proposed boutique hotel for downtown Roswell is about to begin the application process for Phase 1 by meeting with the HPC in a work session. The development team will present initial concepts and get feedback from the members of the Commission. There are no approvals or decisions in this meeting as it is for discussion only.
The meeting will be held February 13 at 1:00 pm at City Hall.
As of December 16, 2016, the DDA received responses to the RFQ (Request for Qualifications) from 10 development teams interested in redeveloping the Southern Skillet. This is a strong response and we are excited to be at this point in the process!
Each of the teams read through the RFQ before submitting their responses. One important part of the RFQ are the "Intent Statements." These statements that define the objectives and parameters for the redevelopment help the development teams decide if they are a match. These statements were derived with input from citizens through an online survey and two Town Hall meetings, meetings with members of City Council and from input from the Historic Preservation Commission.
Source: RFQ Southern Skillet
INTENT STATEMENT FOR REDEVELOPMENT OF THE SOUTHERN SKILLET SITE
The redevelopment of the Southern Skillet site is viewed by the Roswell DDA as a catalytic project for downtown Roswell, which can help set the pattern for the type of development that will occur in the downtown area over the coming decade. Accordingly, we have developed the following intent statement to provide interested development partners with how we would like to see the property redeveloped:
1. Project to be catalytic in design and use, contributing to the village scale of downtown.
2. Designed to successfully be woven into the fabric that is downtown Roswell.
3. Respectful of the city’s historical character, scale and materials.
4. Incorporation of commercial uses is desired for the site.
5. A grocery or food market has been ranked highest as a desired use by community.
- Neighborhood retail, small shops of goods and services would be appropriate.
- Office space over retail would be a desirable use.
6. Residential can be considered as a component of a commercially-focused mixed-use project.
7. Development design should address the pedestrian experience on the street, establishing connection visually and tactilely.
Orientation on Fraser Street
8. The development should create an intimate, pedestrian scale along the Fraser Street frontage.
9. Include a street scape that is scaled for pedestrians, including seating, bike accommodation and active storefronts, not blank walls.
10. Locate active uses abutting the street to slow traffic speeds.
11. Create a neighborhood feel by providing connectivity to nearby housing.
12. Establish a pedestrian friendly street scape on Alpharetta Highway to reinforce a pedestrian scale.
13. Seek to step back building height from the street to enhance the pedestrian experience.
14. Incorporate a parking deck to serve both public and private users that is” wrapped” with leasable space or in some way, masked from public view as much as possible.
15. Consider allowing the parking structure to serve adjacent and nearby activity through pedestrian connectivity.
16. Consider the opportunity to incorporate adjacent parcels
This SURVEY will begin to collect ideas and craft the future of public art in Roswell. Roswell deserves a public art program as fun-loving and complex as its residents!
It only takes a few minutes, please take a moment to add your thoughts and join the conversation as the plan takes shape!
We have scheduled a joint meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss the design direction that will be shared with potential development teams in the way of "intent statements". These will be included in the RFQ for the redevelopment of the Southern Skillet site.
The meeting is at 1:00 pm in Room 220 at City Hall.
Please join us if you can!
As we are walking through the RFQ/RFP process - we will be posting information here from time to time to keep everyone informed. The next step for us is to meet with the Historic Preservation Commission to gather their input on our "Intent Statements" or the criteria that instructs the teams responding to the RFQ/RFP as to our priorities and vision for the property. This meeting was originally scheduled for this week but, due to some scheduling conflicts, will be rescheduled for early October.
If you attended the City Council meeting last week - you heard mentioned a letter written to the Mayor and City Council from the DDA. Here is that letter. This was written to address the concerns that some members of the Council were having as to when there would be opportunity for input. We are, and have been, actively engaged in listening to and gathering the opinions of residents and members of the City Council. In addition, we have met with members of the City Staff to understand the technical and regulatory constraints that exist for this site as well.
There have been a few questions presented about the RFQ/RFP process and we want to take a moment and answer them.
What does RFQ and RFP stand for?
RFQ stands for “Request for Qualifications” Respondents to this document will answer specific questions regarding their development experience, financial capacity, current projects, and an understanding of their leadership and their business model.
RFP stands for “Request for Proposal” Respondents to this document, which are specific teams selected from the RFQ process, provide conceptual drawings - including site plans and elevations. They present a “programmed” concept of uses, finishes and materials for the development. The presentation of their concept will be done in a meeting that is open to the public to attend. The DDA intends to select a developer for the Southern Skillet from these teams.
What is the difference?
Responding to an RFQ does not require the level of detail or effort that responding an RFP requires. The RFQ process allows the DDA to select a few teams that have the characteristics, experience and capacity (financial and professionally) to present the conceptual project for the Southern Skillet property and execute a successful development. Those selected teams will then proceed to answer the requirements of the RFP. This process is very detailed, it takes significant professional time and financial investment.
The DDA is using a combined document, containing the RFQ and the RFP, as we move forward to identify a developer for this project. Initially development teams that are interested in being selected as the developer for this project will respond to the requirements of the RFQ. The DDA will meet and review the responses we receive and select those teams to respond to the second part of the document, the RFP.
Why is the DDA opposed to the idea of the City Council having the option to “select up to two of the finalists chosen to respond to the RFP?”
The DDA was asked by City Council to conduct the RFQ/RFP process for the Southern Skillet redevelopment. The DDA signed a ground lease for the project with an option to purchase the property at no less than the price that the city paid for it. The DDA is actually a separate legal entity, sanctioned by the State of Georgia. We have unique tools that can allow us to participate in the financing of such a project and to assure that the project results in a “public benefit.” Allowing a separate entity to become involved creates the appearance, and possibility of bias. This is particularly an issue when the separate entity (City Council) already has the final approval of the project - as it must approve the site plan.
Again, the Mayor and City Council have the final decision making authority on this project as they must approve the site plan.
We are committed to communicating with the public and the Mayor and City Council throughout the process to achieve a fabulous catalytic project for our city.
The community has been unified in their desire for a grocery store or market as one of the most popular uses for this project (and we agree!); will the DDA make sure that the developers put one in the project?
The DDA will inform the potential respondents of the RFQ/RFP of the community’s desires and priorities by using “intent statements” in the initial RFQ/RFP document. We shared some of the working “intent statements” during our recent Town Hall. While these are still being refined, you can see that we are indicating what characteristics we would like to see in a response. We will keep this criteria in mind as we select the teams to respond to the RFP - where we will see a plan and a concept for uses. Those teams who have been successful at delivering such a project in the past and communicate that they share this vision will be at an advantage. However, we cannot definitively say there will be a grocer - as a developer must have a willing tenant, a mix of supporting uses and a plan that is financially viable within the physical and zoning constraints of the project.
If there were to be a profit on the sale of this project - would the DDA keep it? If so, what would it be used for?
IF, and that is VERY unlikely in this scenario, there was a profit from the sale of this property while the DDA held title- yes, the entity of the DDA could keep the profit. Let it be clear that it is the entity of the DDA that would keep the profit - not the Directors of the DDA, who are volunteers. If the DDA were to obtain money from the profit of the sale of the property or fees it charged for funding - that money would be used to accomplish other projects within the boundary area of the Downtown Development Authority Area and in accordance with our mission. Some ways that DDA’s in other cities have used fees they received from projects have included: acquisition of parking lots, improving streetscape, loan programs for facade improvements, loans to establish a trolley system, as well as the running of the organization. The DDA has a fiduciary responsibility to invest in projects and efforts that create economic growth and improve the long-term success of our downtown.
This is taken from the main page of our website:
The DDA hosted the second Town Hall on Tuesday, September 6th. The purpose of the meeting was to share the public input we have received so far from our fellow citizens. Over 80 people have stopped and put their ideas down - using the survey form on this blog - of what they would like to see on the Southern Skillet site. Using a "word cloud" we shared how the ideas stacked up - the larger the word, the more often it was repeated. Overwhelmingly, the idea of a grocery or market was the most popular!
Krog Street and Ponce City Market were the places that were most mentioned as the "type" of place people wanted to see. The Southern Skillet Site is smaller than either of these projects and we don't have an existing structure to work from - so we asked people what it was that they liked most about these places. What features about these locations would you like to see included in the redevelopment in Roswell?
- A place to go to, a destination.
- A place that captures the feeling of the area
- A place that would cause similar development style nearby
- A place that had a bakery, restaurants and a grocery or a co-op market.
- Materials that were durable, timeless.
Form and Design are Important.
The design needs to be unique to Roswell. Different.
The idea was presented that the City might want to consider how they could invest in this project as well - perhaps for a performing arts venue or other use that serves the public directly.
See the presentation below - the beginnings or working versions of the "Intent Statements" that will be included in the initial Request for Qualifications are included. This is the document that will be shared with interested and targeted development teams to convey the vision Roswell has for this site. We want it to be catalytic and to present the best Roswell can be, while weaving itself comfortably into the fabric of our Downtown.
We also talked about how the streetscape could begin to change the comfort level and ease in crossing Highway 9. This project will be an important piece in that solution.
We will hold a Town Hall to discuss ideas from the community on what they would love to see on the Southern Skillet site, what makes a project feasible and viable over time, as well as the next steps for the RFQ/RFP process for the Southern Skillet redevelopment.
Please join us from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Roswell Historic Cottage located at the corner of Alpharetta Highway and Norcross at 172 Alpharetta Street.
Parking is limited so you can park at the Southern Skillet or the ample parking behind City Hall.
We are working to put together our next Town Hall to look at where we are on the redevelopment process for the Southern Skillet project. We are close to having a firm location and date - but for now, pencil September 6th at 6:30 pm on your calendar!
This can be the second most exciting step in a redevelopment project - just brainstorming, dreaming, and creating.
Since the most exciting step is opening day when a real, bricks and mortar project is realized - eventually we will have to put feasibility constraints around our ideas. These will include market demands and opportunities, financial realities, easements, connectivity, zoning constraints and regulations. For now though - there is an opportunity to just imagine what could be on the site known as the Southern Skillet (or Roswell Plaza).
The site is just over 4 acres in size. Here is an aerial of the site for reference.
Roswell Plaza, affectionately known locally as the Southern Skillet after a beloved breakfast establishment, was acquired by the City of Roswell in early 2016. The DDA executed a lease for the property soon after, for the purpose of management and the pursuing redevelopment of the property.
The DDA has recommended, to the Roswell City Council, certain entitlements that they believe would serve to achieve a superior re-development. These entitlements would be put in place as a Conditional Use that could be approved by Council following the standard process required by the City. The City Council is now considering those entitlements and will be conducting neighborhood meetings and presenting it to the Planning Commission, all of which require public notice and will be held at meetings open to the public.
The DDA recommended these entitlements as a means of providing clear opportunities and constraints to the development community that will be responding during the RFQ/RFP process. The DDA believes that the more clarity that can be provided up front, while leaving room for creativity and innovation, the higher benefit to the City of Roswell and it's citizens in achieving a successful project.
The DDA is currently working on the Request for Qualifications that will be used to identify development teams that are interested and qualified to be selected for the next step. Select candidates will then receive a Request for Proposal and put forth a design and development proposal.
The DDA has set up a form on their web page for the Southern Skillet for development teams to indicate their interest.
Early this year a new and energetic City Council put forth over 100 changes to the Unified Development Code for Roswell. Some of these changes addressed issues of concern in the areas of suburban residential, in areas that the DDA does not operate. Many of those changes have been implemented. However, some of the remaining changes impact the areas within the Downtown Development Authority Boundary. In order to evaluate and measure the impact of these changes on the opportunity for future redevelopment and reinvestment, particularly in the Downtown district, the DDA engaged Bleakly Advisory Group to compare and contrast the UDC currently in place with the UDC changed as proposed.
The conclusion of this report can be summarized as follows:
The proposed menu of land uses which remains after the amendments are incompatible with the high land values in downtown;
The amendments would narrow the range of housing choices in downtown;
The amendments will make downtown increasingly affordable to only upper income households;
Rental housing would not be an option in downtown;
Increased setbacks will drive up development costs;
The amendments would limit the ability to downtown to absorb more development and generate a higher share of the City tax base;
The proposed amendments would weaken the level of retail demand in downtown.
Developing or redeveloping in a downtown area has different challenges, costs, and even market dynamics than areas in more traditional suburban commercial areas. According to this report, the impact of the proposed changes will have a significant impact on the feasibility of new development and will need to be carefully reviewed.
An economically vibrant and healthy downtown will protect the value of our homes and neighborhoods.
Zoning can be confusing for those who work with it everyday - that much more for everyday citizens trying to navigate a project somewhere in the process. The City of Roswell has a flow chart that can be a starting point for understanding the steps a development project goes through. It is not uncommon for a project to be revised multiple times as it goes through the process, from the neighboring communities, review boards and staff feedback.
The City of Roswell also provides a Development Guide that can provide further information on the process. Remember the process can appear a bit circular as adjustments are made, reviewed and approvals given - ask questions to understand where a project is in the process and what further steps will be taken.