Sandy Springs residents voiced concerns Wednesday night about congestion a proposed five-skyscraper development near Abernathy Road and Ga. 400 might bring to an area already jammed with cars.
Representatives of development group 1117 Sandy Springs LLC met with about 60 local residents and business owners. The conversation was pleasant, but a number of attendees said during and after the gathering that they fear clogged streets in the area can’t handle more cars, and that MARTA access will not be enough mitigate what could bring thousands more automobile trips every day.
Plus, a number of other projects in the works nearby will make what is already a difficult commute even more daunting, they said.
The proposal for 1117 Perimeter Center West includes three residential high-rises and two office towers surrounding an existing office building. The development firm is an international group said to have experience in New Zealand and Australia.
Trisha Thompson Fox, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, asked the development team if traffic counts from other projects in the pipeline will be considered by regional planners as part of 1117 Sandy Springs’ traffic plan. The answer was unclear.
State Farm is currently building the first of what could be four office towers in Dunwoody near Perimeter Mall. An Atlanta area developer this month proposed another five-tower project in Dunwoody, and Mercedes-Benz plans its U.S. headquarters at a site in Sandy Springs.
Though some attendees said they liked plans to try to create a walkable district, the surrounding area is geared to cars not pedestrians, and not enough commuters currently take transit.
Residents of the new towers might also work elsewhere, adding to the potential for further congestion.
The proposal will require approval under the Development of Regional Impact program and by the city of Sandy Springs.
Representatives of 1117 Sandy Springs said they would work with city and regional transportation planners to help mitigate congestion, but that the project’s design of residences, offices and retail and its planned tunnel to the Sandy Springs MARTA station will help reduce the project’s traffic.
“That is one thing that we think is a big selling point for this site,” said Rob Forrest, a local developer and representative for 1117 Sandy Springs. He called the project’s proximity to MARTA and the planned tunnel a “true transit connection.”
Forrest and other representatives pledged to hold additional forums to address neighbors’ concerns.
The development team also revealed new details about the project. The developers plan 1,600 residences in three towers, 1.5 million square feet of office space around an existing office building and about 200,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
The developers also want a variance to allow fewer parking spaces than what would typically be allowed — about 5,200 — because of the transit link and intended self-contained design.
Developers will submit a rezoning application in the coming weeks to allow a mix of uses and to permit developers to exceed 31 stories as currently allowed. At present, the team has no tenants for the project.
Beyond traffic, others raised concerns about the potential impact of the project on schools and the lack of nearby parks. Some tenants in the site’s existing office building worried about construction hurting their businesses.
Brian Eufinger, a Sandy Springs resident and business owner, said he wants development to be a “win-win” for all involved.
Eufinger, 33, said he has few friends who regularly use MARTA. Curtailing parking could help reduce the project’s congestion and encourage people to take transit. But that will take a long time with MARTA’s Red line ending just one stop north and a planned expansion to Alpharetta still years away.
After the meeting, Fox, the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods president, said the gathering “hasn’t eased even one of my concerns.”
“We are in a lot of trouble and I am not seeing the ability of the streets to handle this capacity,” she said.