North American Properties has released the revised plans for its Avalon development (previously Prospect Park) in Alpharetta, and reactions have been mixed. NAP acquired the huge patch of dirt and the remains of an unfinished parking deck at Old Milton Parkway’s intersection with GA-400 last summer at foreclosure, after things fell through for original developer Stan Thomas. Thomas envisioned Prospect Park as a kind of suburban Streets of Buckhead: luxury condos, luxury shopping, luxury lodging and offices. The Bentleys in the renderings even matched. Avalon’s remix is less bling, more New Normal.
A glance at the site plan reveals that parking is bountiful, with large lots fronting Old Milton and five structured decks ranging in size from smallish to gigantic scattered throughout. The proposed “Main Street” is turned inward from the major roads and the movie theater forms a focal point that’s framed by multistory mixed-use buildings consisting of apartments and offices over retail space.
The apartments, single family homes, and townhomes are a noticeable change, since Prospect Park was originally slated to feature only condos as residences. Overall, the retail and office space has been slashed almost in half, and even though two hotels are still part of the mix, they’ll contain sixty less rooms. Similar to the strategy used for their turnaround of Atlantic Station, North American Properties is listening to what future users have to say, and the fine citizens of Alpharetta are already being heard via the city’s official online comment forum.
The almost 60 comments gathered since January 31 voice a wide range of concerns; the majority of voters think that “some things need to be changed.” Off the bat, we couldn’t help notice a heavy dose of social angst. Quite a few commenters were adamantly opposed to the inclusion of any rental housing, while some wanted to ditch the residential altogether. The proposed movie theater was also singled out as a liability - some saw that kind of attraction as attracting the “wrong crowd.” The word “upscale” made a few appearances, as did the wish for Avalon to be “more Rodeo Drive and less North Point Parkway.” Didn’t we bury that idea with the Streets of Buckhead?
Other commenters were more worried about the economics of the project. There’s already a glut of unoccupied retail space in North Fulton, so can the market handle an additional 558,900 square feet of it? Also, will Avalon negatively compete with the similar concept that’s planned for Alpharetta’s nearby downtown? Avalon’s overall urban design and sustainability came into question, namely the inward focus site plan, the preponderance of surface parking, and the lack of meaningful greenspace. One smart cookie even raised the issue of connecting the project to future MARTA rail along GA-400. There’s an idea!
The online forum represents the first step of gathering public sentiment regarding Avalon, with an informational meeting scheduled for February 13th. If all goes well the project will go before the Planning Commission March 1st, and on to Alpharetta City Council March 26th. Get the popcorn ready, because the show’s about to start.