Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Suburban Plaza Development: Info Meeting [Nov. 2]

click to enlarge
One of the items discussed at our community meeting this week was the redevelopment of Suburban Plaza.

Because so many people stand to be affected, an information meeting has been set for November 2. This meeting is open to all. We expect representatives from Suburban Plaza, Walmart, and local government. We ask that folks refrain from parking in the lot across the street from the N. Decatur Presbyterian Church (i.e., Relish Salon, Natural Buzz, etc.) as this interferes with their business. Thank you in advance for being neighborly :)

MANA representatives (as well as other stakeholders in the area) have met with Suburban Plaza representatives. Here are the highlights of what we know so far:

- that the developer is very interested in working with the community: they want this project to be a success for everyone involved. They have requested and accepted feedback about the appearance of the site, also, about the community being extremely concerned about "look" of the site fitting into our neighborhood. They are aware that we are interested in a walkable intersection and in making the area around the Plaza safe for pedestrian, cyclists and drivers. They have shared this concept for the site:
Suburban concept: click to enlarge

- Selig (Suburban Plaza's owner) has ordered a traffic study (on its own dime). The intersection is problematic (as we all know!) and the county has expressed interest in improving it. But note that this intersection involves county and state roads, which complicates the process somewhat. MANA volunteers concerned about cut-through traffic and congestion were already conducting an online survey and if you are a MANA resident, we encourage you to fill that out as we ponder the future of the Medlock/Scott/N. Decatur Road intersection and traffic in our neighborhood.

- As you can see, the footprint would change. The Walmart would occupy the space (and much of the parking area) currently occupied by the thrift store and the discount mattress store. The Walmart would feature 500 underground parking spots; Walmart would pay for this. The store would boast 147,000 sq. ft. of space; approximately 40,000 sq. ft. would be dedicated to groceries. Because groceries are a big part of the plan, other groceries would be excluded from the Plaza in the foreseeable future. 

-  In addition to adding Walmart, Selig would also reface all other buildings in the plaza, for an updated and unified look.

- Selig has spent the last 6 years trying to develop Suburban Plaza. Other plans have not borne fruit. Trade Joe's was NOT interested in this site. Walmart has been the only vendor with the desire and funds necessary for this redevelopment.

- There is concern about some of the businesses already at Suburban Plaza and nearby. Will they be able to stay? How will Walmart's presence affect them? We do not have full information on this. Some stores have leases in place. Others are doing very poorly financially and are not paying rent but rather, a percentage of their profits. MANA representatives have voiced these community impact concerns and Walmart has responded positively. For example, the store would not feature a garden center (this was a concern for Ace Hardware fans) but will offer some hardware (not a big concern--we know that the shopping experience, advice and help offered by Ace Hardware staff is beyond comparison and will continue to bring costumers in). The Walmart would not feature an auto center. The developer is also interested in attracting "junior anchors" i.e., smaller stores. There is no information as to who these stores might be; MANA has argued for restaurant space and outdoor seating if possible, and also for smaller rental space to attract local businesses. Your feedback is welcome!

- {Edit to original post} Suburban Plaza is already zoned C2 which allows for big box stores. Selig will be requesting a variance for parking.  They plan to file this request in late November and could be approved before the end of the year.  The earliest this project would start would be spring of 2012.  Selig estimates that the contrstruction will take 18-24 months to complete.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact medlockassoc@gmail.com