The design for the redevelopment of the Southern Skillet by SJ Collins, goes before the Historic Preservation Commission tomorrow morning for review. This is a regularly scheduled work session and begins bright and early at 8:30 am in Room 220 at City Hall and is open to the public.
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 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.