Southerners often say, development is “Slow as Molasses” around here! Or is it?
The steps that redevelopment goes through…
Does it seem like development just isn’t happening fast enough around Roswell? You see new development pops up in our surrounding cities and ours seem to be “slow as molasses”! There are few things that come to mind that may help ease your frustration.
First, Roswell is historical, and we have a lot of developed areas that go way back! The Historical Preservation Committee, City Council, DDA and the Design Reviewing Board all work together to keep our Roswell looking historical while modernizing for the many generations to come. Surely you have seen new homes that have that historical look. Building a new residential home is much less complicated than the new commercial structure replacing that old 1960s shopping strip, for example.
The DDA’s support of the development can generally fall in three steps: Manage, Procure and Close. What is not simple is that every development has its own journey, specific to the conditions of the property and the outcomes desired.
Let’s go through the steps and find out using the Roswell Plaza’s (aka Southern Skillet) journey as an example.
The City purchased the property in 2016 and asked the DDA to manage the property and the procurement process to sell that property. This purchase was a proactive move at the time, as the owner was in negotiation to sign a long-term lease with another discount-oriented tenant, such as those who had been the primary tenants over the past several decades. The city leased the property to the DDA to give the DDA authorization to collect rents from the 3 tenants while also managing the property maintenance and call for offers from developers. Guidelines and criteria detailing what was desired by the city provided the respondents guidance on creating a redevelopment plan along with submitting terms of an offer (price, conditions, time to close, etc.) After preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP), the DDA kicked off the Procurement Phase.
Now it is time to assess the potential for developers to meet the Guidelines and Criteria defined by DDA and City Council with a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Again, using Roswell Plaza as the example, those selected based on their qualifications were invited to take part of the RFP process. The DDA looked for developers who had experience with similar projects, experience and financial capabilities to ensure they could follow through with the project; as well as, have a compelling vision for the property that will inspire surrounding properties to redevelop.
Once the handful of developers were selected, they were invited to submit a detailed proposal. The DDA narrowed the selection down to the top four for a presentation at a DDA Regular Board Meeting. Where the candidate developers were narrowed further to then present to the City Council and DDA in a closed meeting.
Meanwhile, the Roswell Plaza had a six-year lease with a Family Dollar store. This caused a delay in the procurement process, since many proposals from developers conditioned the sale upon termination of the lease. It took nearly a year to configure the lease termination.
Terms related to the purchase and sale of property are held in closed sessions, as it would be a disadvantage to the city to publicly discuss offers. The DDA led the negotiation and achieved terms desired by City Council. For example, the terms included recovering the City’s investment ($4,850,000), pushing for a quick close (6-months) and asking for non-refundable deposits up front to ensure the developer’s commitment to the project ($250,000 deposit). It was helpful having the DDA present the proposal, since not all City Council members have a commercial real-estate background. After all, this is why DDA exists as subject matter experts.
In January 2019, the DDA secured a signed Purchase & Sale Agreement (PSA) with SJ Collins Enterprises. Like buying a home, there is a Due Diligence time period that allows the Purchaser time to investigate the property. In the case of Roswell Plaza, Environmental Assessment needed to address the effects from a previous drycleaner tenant. Investigation was also needed regarding utility plans, stormwater runoff and pedestrian and traffic impact. Further, the Purchaser must obtain Historic Preservation Commission approval and approval of the site plan by City Council. The PSA is open to the public and posted on the DDA’s website.
Closing is the legal event where the property changes ownership and the city receives its funds. The Closing takes place at an attorney’s office.
All this happens BEFORE you see any construction on the property. Once the developer owns the property, time is needed for permits, inspections and other construction steps.
Maybe it feels as “Slow as Molasses” to not actually see the progress, but know the dedicated volunteer DDA board members, city employees and developer’s staff are diligently working to position Downtown Roswell for many generations to come. The only molasses around here comes from Crazy Love Coffee House’s delicious chicken and waffles! Digest that!