Stockbridge wants to lure high rises

By Michael Davis

Officials in one Southern Crescent city want to begin building up.

Next week, the Henry County planning board will review an ordinance that would establish two districts in the city of Stockbridge to promote high-rise development, the first of its kind in Henry. And officials say someone already wants to build one.

Henry County's Zoning Advisory Board, which reviews planning and zoning proposals for the city, are scheduled to make a recommendation on overlay districts in the city around the Interstate 75 and I-675 interchange, and areas around the Eagle's Landing Parkway interchange. The districts would allow for buildings more than four stories tall, but require combined uses, such as residential and retail, in the same building.

The city has already been approached by developers looking to build one 25 stories tall.

“It would be the first of what's to happen up and down 75 and 675,” said Stockbridge City Manager Ted Strickland. “It's a beautiful facility. We really want to see it go and feel pretty positive about it,” he said.

Plans call for up to 300 five-star hotel rooms, a restaurant and bar, a lounge, coffee shop, meeting and convention space that could accommodate as many as 800, as well as retail and administrative spaces, a spa health club and a pool. There would also be 48 condos, one penthouse, and a parking deck with 500 spaces.

But that all depends on what hotel investors want, said developer Mike Collier, one of three partners in 1231 Henry Partners, Inc., the legal entity that ones the 2 1/2-acre lot. Collier and his partners must sell the idea to a national chain, but he's optimistic that he can.

“We're just the guys that come up with the concept and find the money to build it when they say 'this is what we want,'” Collier said. “The first part is getting this ordinance passed to allow it.”

The development company's name is taken from the address of the existing building on the site, an office building. The address of the tower would be 1231 Eagle's Landing Parkway, on the corner of Country Club Drive.

“After the building and several other buildings up there we met with Ted Strickland ... and told him we would love to see something a little bit more dramatic” than the existing buildings, Collier said.

Need for space

For some time, commerce leaders have complained that Henry County doesn't have adequate space to hold large-scale conventions, the kind that translate into tax revenues for the county.

“We'll draw those meetings too, because there are a number of organizations that have to have those state-wide meetings and don't want to go to Atlanta,” said Kay Pippin the executive director of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

The city of Stockbridge already operates a small conference center, and the country club at Eagle's Landing can accommodate a few hundred people, but those can easily be filled to capacity.

Pippin said the proposed tower's location is an example of solid planning, and in an easily accessible location. It's just a block from Interstate 75 at what will be an 11-lane overpass.

“I think we're ready for mixed-use development in Henry County – there's a market for it,” she said.

Overlays and future development

But before the high-rise can be built, the city must adopt the overlay district that changes the rules for the construction of commercial, office and multi-family residential structures, which has until now been limited to just four stories. The city will take it up at its meeting next month.

Overlay districts are often used by local governments to both promote and regulate a certain type of development within the district's boundaries. Along the newly widened Ga. Highway 20, from I-75 to Atlanta Motor Speedway, for example, new development is being proposed and officials want it to be well-planned.

Henry County planners from the cities of McDonough and Hampton, which are connected by the road, are working with help from the Atlanta Regional Commission on an overlay district they hope will give development in the two cities distinct character, and preserve a rural feel in the unincorporated areas, which was once mostly farmland.

The Stockbridge City Council is scheduled to meet Nov. 14.