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Breweries in Roswell, hooch in Forsyth, hard soda in Alpharetta

It’s been fun to watch the booming craft beer business in this area. From growler stores to breweries, this business is going gangbusters. Local municipalities are having a tough time keeping up. Alcohol ordinances are being updated all the time. There are yet a few more to report on this month.

Spirits USA logoRoswell is considering an ordinance to allow breweries. That city’s planning commission will hear the matter next week. Passage may come as soon as mid-November. No word yet on who might be interested in opening shop.

And Forsyth County continues to stay a step ahead in their alcohol laws. They are moving forward with plans to allow for distilleries. The proposed ordinance would allow for samples but not retail sale.

With deep roots in moonshine and bootlegging, Forsyth would be the perfect place for a craft moonshine distillery. I had secretly hoped someone would consider a business like this. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Cumming Patch reports that Spirits of the USA is behind this effort. Spirits makes a handful of liquor brands, many of which are flavor-infused vodkas. The company has operations in Florida and South Carolina but the founders have ties to Forsyth.

Back in Alpharetta, the folks behind Blind Murphy are branching out. Watch out Boone’s Farm! They’ve started making hard sodas under the banner of Naughty Soda. Their theme seems to be that of the naughty pin-up girl. Customers can expect a line of fruity-flavored drinks spiked with 5% alcohol. I guess the idea is to dizzy up your date if she doesn’t want beer?

Developer free-for-all in Forsyth

While residential zoning requests have abated recently in Alpharetta and Milton, south Forsyth County has exploded. The list of rezoning requests on the county’s website spills across three pages.

Shiloh Rd Site PlanMost alarming of all is the number of proposed neighborhoods with very high densities. A typical request starts with houses on 6,000 square foot lots or smaller. And developers are often requesting variances to allow homes to be built as close as 11 feet from each other. Most of the requests don’t fit the county’s land use plan.

Leading the charge is Ryland Homes who’s bought or has contracts on dozens of tracts in the county.

A few are adjacent to industrial uses that would be unpleasant to homeowners. Ryland has a request on Shiloh Road that’s surrounded by industrial and office parks, including a data center. Enormous diesel generators would be in back yards of homeowners. But the worst offender of all was a project approved on Daves Creek Drive. This 247-home development will be surrounded on three sides by a granite quarry.

Several factors are contributing to the developer orgy in Forsyth. Last year the county watered down their residential classifications to allow for dramatically smaller lot sizes. Lower impact fees also encourage developers to choose Forsyth. And homeowners were politically weakened by the elimination of at-large election of commissioners a few years ago. It’s reduced accountability.

The result is this avalanche of rezonings from developers emboldened to push densities to the limit. Forsyth will continue to struggle with traffic on neglected two-lane country roads and a school system already over capacity.

Grass root opposition groups are sprouting up everywhere. If you’re a Forsyth County resident (like I am) then I encourage you to get plugged into one of these groups. A good place to start is Forsyth HOA and Homeowners. Fix Forsyth Traffic is another good website focusing on the Post/Mullinax corridor. If you know of other groups, please leave me a comment.

Apartments, apartments, apartments

They’re back! The proposed Deerfield Parkway apartment complex in Milton has resurfaced. If you’ll remember back about a year ago the city narrowly rejected a request from Crescent Resources to build a new complex on Deerfield Parkway. The developer sued Milton arguing that the city was violating the Georgia Fair Housing Act by rejecting affordable housing.


View Crescent Resources apartments in a larger map

Since that time Milton created a form-based zoning code in the Deerfield area. The judge hearing the lawsuit remanded the case back to Milton so that the developer could reapply for the zoning under the new rules.

This case will be interesting to watch. The argument was made in court that the developer wanted to build lower-end apartments. Will Crescent make this pitch to Milton, or will they come with a high-end product? We talked about this double standard last year. It’s all starting to play out now.

And back in Alpharetta… Tonight that city’s Council will consider creating something akin to a neighborhood watch program for apartment complexes. Traditional programs like this don’t work in apartments so law enforcement has to get a little creative. It’s a good program though. But remember, apartment opponents are unreasonable when they say apartments invite crime, right?

And while not technically apartments (yet), there’s another interesting nugget on Council’s agenda tonight. Council will begin discussing developer qualifications for the City Center project. This is for the four sections that will be privately developed.

Up until this point, the city has never mentioned the word “residential” with regard to their City Center project. They’ve tip toed around it but the word has not appeared in a single document or discussion – until now. I predicted the city would wait until after the election for this topic. With nearly everyone running unopposed, it’s now safe to have this conversation out loud in city hall. Bring on the high density residential!

And if condos over retail are still unfinanceable, then you can expect a developer to come with a plan for apartments in downtown. Remember, it’s all for the sake of having a “vibrant” downtown.

Alpharetta Retail News – September 2013

das Gallery logoAlpharetta will soon be home to a new fine art gallery. das Gallery will open this fall at 2225 Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven shopping center. They will feature contemporary original art in the form of paintings, sculptures and mixed media.

Antique consignment shop The Green Bean Exchange is now open on South Main Street. Alpharetta is the third location for this Cumming-based business.

Bowling

We learned a little more detail about the proposed North Point bowling alley this past month. They informed the city that the concept would include laser tag, billiards and group/party rooms. Also they expect to have two restaurants – a fine dining spot called The Windy City Restaurant and a sports bar called Beyond Chances.

But they’re running out of chances. The yet-unnamed bowling alley is a real similar concept to Mansell Road’s Main Event, which will likely open sooner. Alpharetta’s Planning staff felt the same way, saying in their opinion that “careful consideration should be given by the applicant regarding future success given the similarity of the two event facilities and their proximity.” Such a strong rebuke of a business idea is rare from the city’s staff but completely warranted. This North Point bowling alley may never get off the ground. #gutterball

Main Event hasn’t starting their buildout but I expect that to happen very soon. And Stars and Strikes is still showing a November 2013 opening date for their new location just south of Roswell on Highway 9.

Gas and Beer

Convenience store chain QuikTrip has begun construction on their new location at Old Milton and GA-400. I’m told that their older location down the street will likely close when this new store opens.

Construction will begin very soon on Racetrac‘s new location next to The Collection in south Forsyth. It’ll measure in at 6,000 square feet and will feature a walk-in beer cooler and frozen yogurt. Expect most new QTs and Racetracs to have similar features from here on out.

Growler store Draft Beer Market finally opened this week in Johns Creek. They’re at 11730 Jones Bridge Road where Uncle Louie G’s used to be and will feature the area’s largest selection with 60 taps.

Problems at Patch taking root locally

AOL’s problems with Patch are, unfortunately, starting to take root locally.

Patch CerealAOL, by some estimates, has invested over $300 million in their hyper-local news venture. But from the company’s very founding critics argued the business model was flawed. They were right. Last week the company announced layoffs and the closure or consolidation of hundreds of their local editions.

On Friday both the Roswell and Alpharetta/Milton editions showed new editors on the masthead. The name Anthony Duignan-Cabrera now displays in that spot, apparently replacing Christine Foster and Bob Pepalis. The user profiles of Foster and Pepalis are no longer on Patch.

Duignan-Cabrera is Patch’s Vice President and Editorial Director out of their main New York office. His name also appears as the editor of the Loganville-Grayson Patch and nearly thirty other Patches across the country.

The company hasn’t announced changes to local editions but my bet is on consolidation. Rumors online indicate that some editors were given severance incentives to stay on through October. Perhaps this is when readers will notice big changes.

You can certainly blame higher-ups at AOL for Patch’s demise. But that blame shouldn’t be pointed at the local editors. They were all professional, college-educated journalists. Most had deep resumes reporting local news. They also worked insanely long hours to bring you the news.

Bob Pepalis worked for years at the Appen Newspapers prior to joining Patch. In discussing events with him offline I found his knowledge to be vast. He had a solid grasp of deep, complicated stories and the factors that moved them. And it showed in his reporting. He was fair and thorough.

I appreciated the conversation on the Alpharetta Patch. The discussions were lively and insightful. They were also a very healthy thing for the community. You’re not likely to see this anymore on Patch and that’s a shame.

So we’ll continue to observe the slow, spiraling collapse of AOL’s Patch over the coming months. We can poke fun at their executives. What were they thinkin’? But in the end citizens are likely to lose a good source of very local news and conversation. That’s never a good thing.

Main Event Entertainment strikes in Alpharetta

main event logoTexas-based Main Event Entertainment will open a bowling alley and entertainment complex off Mansell Road in Alpharetta. The firm has secured the former Home Depot Expo Design Center facility at 10700 Davis Drive. Measuring in at over 87,000 square feet, the building is one of the largest vacant spaces in Alpharetta.

Main Event bills itself as the premier “eat, bowl, play” destination. Each location includes bowling, laser tag and arcade games as well as dining and a full-service bar. Select locations offer indoor mini-golf, rock climbing and ropes courses. Inside it’s a dizzying array of lights, sounds and fun. It’s a concept similar to that offered by Stars and Strikes in Cumming but more upscale.

Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Main Event is owned Australian-based conglomerate Ardent Leisure. Alpharetta would be their second location outside of the Lone Star State where they operate a dozen locations. A Phoenix, Arizona store is also in the works as the company works to double their presence in three years.

Their arrival comes at a great time for the city. Alpharetta’s southern-most corridor is facing the possibility of large vacancies as movie theaters relocate. Main Event’s location on Davis Drive will create an trifecta of adjacent entertainment options. Next door is ice skating venue The Cooler. And nearby on Westside Parkway will be high-tech driving range Top Golf, also from Texas.

lebowski bowling alley

Two bowling alleys in Alpharetta? Shut up, Donny.

The news also comes at the same time a bowling alley and entertainment complex is being considered near North Point Mall. A rezoning will be necessary for this facility who’s operator has yet to be named. Main Event will need no such zoning change for their location. They’ve gone straight to the city’s Design and Review Board to approve their facade changes. If you’re putting money on which bowling alley is likely to be knocking down pins in the future, a wager on Main Event is a safe one. North Point’s bowling alley may be a non-event.

Caffeine and Octane

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Imagine this scenario.  Two guys are sitting in a Cobb county coffee shop.  A third guy comes in and says, “who owns those two Porches out there?”.  A car discussion ensues and the car show Caffeine and Octane was born.

Originally called Cars and Coffee, the idea was for people to get together on Saturday mornings with their cars and admire and appreciate other people’s rides.  The name and concept came from a similar show in southern California.  The show has been held in several different parking lots and was switched to Sunday mornings over the last six years.  The number of participants has grown from the original three to over 700.  The show has grown and evolved organically without any advertising; all completely by word of mouth.

The show is the first Sunday of each month from 7:30 – 11:00 AM in the office parking lot at the corner of Deerfield and Windward Parkway.  It’s where the bear was seen not too long ago.  No bears here, just horsepower.

Cars that range from exotics, muscle cars, classic rides, hot rods, tuners, trucks and motorcycles blanket not only that parking lot but the adjacent ones too.  There’s no entry fee to show your car.  Just get there early, find a spot and hang out.  There’s also no admission fee for the public either.  Everyone is invited to come out and see what’s out there. Several sponsor tents dot the landscape.  They help to offset costs such as insurance and traffic control.

Make sure to get there early or you might miss something.  At June’s show there was a million dollar Bugatti Veyron that I didn’t get to see because it was gone before I got there.  I did get to see many cars that made me sad that I don’t make enough money to have one.  The vehicles that come to show are from all over the Southeast, from as far away as Myrtle Beach and Birmingham.  Completely word of mouth.

Last year the show was taken over by Bruce Jones of Autotrader Classics.  Bruce manages the show and is working on the web site.  You can also find the show on Twitter and Facebook.  Autotrader’s tried to not change much about the show.  They did put on a show in May down at the World Congress Center called Octane 2013.  That show focused more on show cars for sale.  It was well attended so look for another installment next year.  That show requires tickets for entry.

There’s a police presence to keep everyone’s right foot in line but the car culture does a good job policing itself.  Everyone gets along no matter what they drive, from a 1967 GTO to a 2004 BMW M3 to a 1957 Chevy Bel Air to a 2013 Camaro.  Don’t look for burnouts or high volume activities.  It’s not that kind of show.  Grab your coffee and come out, rain or shine, and come see some pretty amazing pieces of machinery.

12600 Deerfield Parkway
Alpharetta, Ga 30004
www.caffeineandoctane.com

Rolling out the unwelcome mat in downtown Alpharetta?

Tonight Alpharetta’s Council will consider a small item that could create a bit of controversy. The proposal, forwarded from city staff, would place limits on some businesses in the historic district of downtown. The measure is likely to pit different downtown factions against one another. Pass the popcorn, this one might be interesting to watch.

Are some businesses not welcome in downtown Alpharetta?

The change would restrict a laundry list of uses in downtown including offices, schools, health clubs, grocery stores, service stations and more. The limits apply to businesses on the ground floor of buildings located within 25 feet of a sidewalk. Basically this means buildings along the west side of Main Street and both sides of Milton Avenue.

A few existing businesses already fall into this bucket and would be grandfathered in. However if they wanted to move to another part of downtown or expand then the limits would apply.

Expect support to come from the usual suspects in downtown, especially those business owners not affected by the change. They will claim that the limits will increase walk-ability and work towards creating a vibrant downtown.

Opposition is likely to come from property owners and their commercial real estate brokers. The change ties their hands and limits marketability of property. Also expect opposition from Rivers Academy, a private school on Main Street that qualifies for limits under these rules. Alpharetta hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat for this school’s downtown presence. For a city that prides itself on quality schools, that’s disappointing.

Alpharetta Retail News – July 2013

The pace of new restaurant and retail openings is starting to pick up after a slow spring. It’s enough that I need to split this monthly column into two separate posts. Stay tuned on Friday for a very long list of new restaurants. In the meantime, here’s a few new retail and entertainment options to look forward to.

Bowling and family entertainment center Stars and Strikes will open a new location on Highway 9 just into Sandy Springs. Look for them south of the river near Dunwoody Place. Expect a November 2013 opening.

And as reported first on this blog, Alpharetta will hear plans next month for a bowling alley near North Point Mall. I should remind readers that this is by no means a done deal. The city’s Planning Commission will hear their case before going to City Council.

AMC’s new theater at the mall is coming along. Drive by the back of the mall if you’re in the area. And I keep hearing rumors that a restaurant may joint the theater at some point. And rounding out the entertainment options is Top Golf. The new facility is clearing land along West Side Parkway. No opening date has been announced but I would imagine it’ll be into next year.

Retail Charity – Two local charities have plans for new retail stores, and I’m not talking thrift stores here. The first is south Forsyth-based No Longer Bound. This charity treats men suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. They plan to open a hand-crafted furniture store called The Boutique by No Longer Bound. Look for them to open very soon at 1790 Peachtree Parkway.

The Drake House is a Roswell-based charity that provides transitional housing to homeless women and their families. The charity operates a women’s boutique called The Drake Closet that sells new and used ladies clothes and accessories. They plan to open a second location in downtown Alpharetta on Old Roswell Street behind Smokejack.

Muse Salon and Spa has plans to leave Alpharetta for fancy new digs in Johns Creek. They’re in the process of converting the former Dolce Vita restaurant at 11705 Medlock Bridge Road. And a little up the road into south Forsyth you’ll soon find a new location of Spa Sydell. They’re taking over the former Sandra Gane space.

And keep an eye on things in Forsyth County. The Collection (fka The Avenue) will see a few new faces. Women’s boutique Altar’d State will soon open here. Plans for a small hotel are still in the works. And also look for a new Racetrac convenience store to begin construction across the street.

Forsyth’s third Wal-Mart should begin construction soon near Target on Peachtree Parkway. Unfortunately Forsyth’s proposed location of Costco Wholesale appears to be dead according to news reports. I’ve heard they are looking at other locations. I’ve also learned that the former Up The Creek restaurant building in Cumming will be demolished to make way for a small four unit shopping center.

Growler wars - They continue unabated. Blind Murphy is running with their recent victory at City Hall. They’ve started selling flights of beer to be consumed at their store. But competitors are pouring into the market. Draft Beer Market is very close to opening on Jones Bridge Road in Johns Creek. They will have a staggering 60 taps of beer. And Roswell’s Ale Yeah is moving their location up the street to be a little closer to the action. Meanwhile in Milton at least two gas stations are now filling growlers, further turning this business into a commodity.

And finally, a battle might be looming in downtown Alpharetta. The city is considering limits on what types of businesses can open on the ground floor of buildings in the historic district. This one will be fun to watch.

Bowling alley coming to North Point?

Site rendering of proposed North Point bowling alley

The City of Alpharetta has received a request to allow a bowling alley along North Point Parkway. The site under consideration is the five acre parcel of land adjacent to Bahama Breeze.  This site has sat idle for nearly ten years.

According to architectural renderings obtained by this blogger, a 60,000 square foot bowling alley and entertainment center would be constructed on the site.

This location once held two stand-alone restaurants (name them both and you’ll pick up the spare). In 2007 the restaurants were demolished and the property rezoned for a mix of retail, office and restaurant uses. These plans never came to fruition and are no longer viable given current market conditions.

The property owner seeks a change in master plan and a conditional use permit to allow the bowling alley use on the property. The request will be heard by Alpharetta’s Planning Commission in August and later by Council.

The application comes shortly after another entertainment complex begins construction in Alpharetta. Top Golf has begun clearing land for their massive new complex off West Side Parkway.

The potential owner or operator of the bowling alley has not been revealed to the city. Bowling alley operator Stars and Strikes has a corporate office on North Point very near to this site, but sources with the company say they are not involved with this project. Instead Stars and Strikes is planning a new location in Sandy Springs at the corner of Roswell Road and Dunwoody Place.

Artist rendering of potential entertainment options

Blogger Eli Zandman wrote a story back in May about Brunswick’s new Tavern 45 concept currently being rolled out in Norcross and Marietta. Other bowling concepts mentioned in his article include Dave and Busters, AMF and Lucky Strike Lanes. Might one of these be considering Alpharetta?

Will a bowling alley be compatible with the development around the mall? Which concepts would you like to see come to town? Leave me a comment.

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