By Justin Reedy
When Jack Ford was growing up in Ellenwood decades ago, that area of Clayton and Henry counties was so rural he could fire a rifle in any direction from his house and hit nothing but trees.
But things are much different now thanks to commercial and residential development, and that trend could be magnified by a massive multi-use development planned only miles from Ford's home.
Atlanta-based Liberty Development Corporation has proposed a 335-acre project near Anvilblock Road and Interstate 675 that would include retail, commercial and residential property. The development, which is known as Ellenwood Township, is still in the planning stages and would require the approval of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.
The development is slated to include more than 850,000 square feet of retail space, including a 76,000-square-foot movie theater, as well as 442 town homes, 267 single-family homes, 155 condos and a 250-unit apartment complex.
Though Ford isn't very pleased with Ellenwood's continuing shift from a rural community to a more suburban one, he thinks the development could help the area's economy.
"The jobs that come with that development sound pretty good," he said. "Anything they do right now to boost the economy has got to be good."
Local residents would also benefit from the retail development proposed in Ellenwood Township, Ford said, since a trip to the store for people in that area entails driving to Stockbridge or Forest Park.
"It'll be pretty neat having something that close," Ford said.
But fellow Ellenwood resident Luther Turnipseed is worried that a major development on the scale of Ellenwood Township could cause problems for area residents, including more traffic.
"When a big development comes in, it brings more trouble," he said. "More traffic, more everything. It makes it more like the city. I wouldn't be for it."
But Ford doesn't think the development will have that much impact on area traffic, he said, since the roads there are already congested.
"The traffic's bad over here anyway," Ford said. "If it's going to be that close to I-675, then I don't think it will affect traffic too much."
County Transportation Director Wayne Patterson says the roads in that area may not be wide enough to handle the extra traffic of Ellenwood Township, so Liberty Development might be required to widen some lanes to accommodate more cars.
The county won't make a decision on such a requirement until after the developer finishes its traffic study, Patterson said. But, he added, it's a good bet that Anvilblock Road on the development's south side and Bouldercrest Road on the east side will both have to be widened, as well as some other area roads.
"Just the magnitude and the size of it automatically tells me those roads will have to be widened," Patterson said. "The (traffic study) report is going to justify that."
In addition to coming before the county commission for rezoning, Ellenwood Township is also being reviewed by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a development of regional impact. That review process will begin later this summer after the developer finishes the traffic study, according to Mike Alexander with the ARC.
Though Alexander and his staff haven't formally begun reviewing the project, he is impressed with the project's size and the impact it should have on Clayton County and Ellenwood.
"Most of what's up there now is trucking and some residential, so this is going to be a big change for that area of the county," Alexander said. "It will bring a lot of traffic into the area, there's no doubt about that. But it does add a good mix of land uses that aren't there now."
Representatives of Liberty Development were unavailable for comment.