North American Properties has submitted plans to the city for Avalon phase two. Buckle your seat belt because we’ll be talking apartments again.
The second phase of Avalon will be in the eastern portion of the development closest to GA-400. The changes requested primarily alter maximums set in the previous zoning approved in April 2012. Under the plan filed this month the number of apartments would more than double from 250 to 526. The proposed convention center is better defined at a size of 100,000 square feet.
Building heights would also increase. The combined hotel and convention center would measure in at a staggering 14 stories. The office building would increase to 13 stories and a residential building could hit eight floors.
Trimmed back would be the number of hotel rooms. They decrease from 475 to 325 total rooms. Also the maximum number of for-sale residential units would decrease from 132 to 101.
Demand for all aspects of Avalon, commercial, residential and office, have exceeded demand. According to the application, NAP claims their one and two bedroom apartments “will rent rapidly at rates from $1,750 to $5,000 a month.” If that’s a typo it’s not on my end.
And it’s apartments that have always been a bone of contention at Avalon. Alpharetta’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan calls for a city-wide 85/15% split in for-sale versus for-rent residential. That ratio has tilted too far in favor of apartments in recent times, a sticking point that hampered the initial Avalon zoning. The city got creative and allowed for something akin to a transfer of development rights. Avalon could proceed with their apartments if other apartment zonings were extinguished. As it turned out only about a hundred commercially viable apartments were removed from Alpharetta’s future to make way for Avalon’s 250 units.
But enough with the history lesson. Longtime readers here on Roots are familiar with how this all went down in 2012. NAP doesn’t want a transfer clause to apply to their additional phase two apartments. After all, they’d have a real tough time finding R-10M zoned property to extinguish this time around.
We’ll have much more to talk about as this zoning works its way through the process. But here’s how I see it going down.
Apartment opponents will try to stand pat on the 85/15 ratio, as they should. It’s served the city well for many years. Most recently the city was able to defend itself in court against an undesirable garden-style apartment zoning just across the street from Avalon. That case went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court with the court upholding Alpharetta’s position. Violating Alpharetta’s sacred 85/15 ratio could set a precedent that may open the floodgates to apartments. It’ll be interesting to see which councilmen are willing to touch this third rail of Alpharetta land-use politics.
A potential compromise could come in the form of an exclusion to the CLUP’s 85/15 ratio carved out specifically for Avalon. It wouldn’t be the first time Alpharetta’s modified their code specifically for these guys. But the devil would be in the details and special cases should be the exception not the norm.
North American Properties will frame their argument in a unique way. They will approach this from the angle of corporate relocation, a hot topic in Alpharetta in recent years. Rumor has it that several technology companies have expressed an interest in creating a corporate headquarters at Avalon. According to NAP, these companies want to attract future employees who are likely millennials. And as the narrative goes, these young hipsters want to live in apartments close to work and play. The next logical argument NAP will make is that a denial of their apartment request may put in jeopardy future corporate relocation projects in Alpharetta. That argument will hit home to some on Council.
And finally, the timing of NAP’s request cannot be ignored. Their request will likely be considered in late September or October. The grand opening of Avalon’s first phase will be October 30. The Avalon PR machine is unmatched and will continue to build momentum ahead of the project. Opponents to the plan will face the prospect of casting a “no” vote during the heightened peak of anticipation for the project. This certainly wasn’t a coincidence. Well played, Mark Toro.