Loganville, Ga. For many years, the City of Loganville has attempted to revitalize its downtown area. Some movement is visible in the development of the Town Green, the revitalization of the Rock Gym and the Ag. Center and the conversion of the old Elementary School to the current city hall. But the recently announced partnership with the CONNOLLY Investment and Development firm for a proposed $180 million revitalization project has caused quite a stir in the community. A meeting Monday at the Rock Gym to introduce the community to the plan brought out a large crowd, many voicing concerns in particular about the potential impact on traffic and schools. While many like the idea of more retail, entertainment and restaurants, the inclusion of 800 homes, the majority of which would be rental apartments, created some strong opposition.
Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez opened the meeting by detailing that a plan for redevelopment had been on the books for many years. Plans under the Loganville Livable Centers Initiative were revealed in 2010 and updated in 2015, but the economy didn’t lend itself to implementation at that time. These plans can be viewed online at this link.
A Comprehensive Plan was formulated in 2017 and now CONNOLLY has signed on to look at implementing an adaptation that would bring restaurants and entertainment to the downtown area, but also includes a high concentration of homes. Since the initial announcement, many in the community have voiced their opinions and Martinez responded to a couple of the criticisms, telling the crowd that he doesn’t own any property in the city and will not personally profit from the development, that he does not respond on social media and that the development idea is the city council and his alone.
“Do not call and harass my staff. This is on the city council and me. You can ask any of us about it, but do not call the staff,” he said after making it known that he personally would not be responding to any comments on social media. He said anyone could call him or stop in at City Hall to speak to him.
Timothy “J.R.” Connolly, President and CEO of CONNOLLY Investment and Development, gave an outline of the company’s credentials and briefly detailed the proposed development before taking a few questions from the audience. The project will combine expansion of public parks and greenspace, improved public infrastructure, add new retail and community spaces, townhomes and “luxury” apartments that Connolly said will cater to young professionals and active adult, but were not focused on families with children. Some of those asking questions were worried that the schools would be overburdened with so many additional residents in such a limited area. Connolly said the apartments they were considering would be one and two-bedroom units that would rent for between $1,000 and $1,800.
Loganville resident Pat Pippen, who spoke out in support of the proposal, said she was concerned about the high number of rentals.
“I like the fact that we’re finally going to have a downtown. I like the fact that we’re going to have more restaurants and retail. I like the whole concept, but I just wish they would focus more on ownership than on rentals,” Pippen said. She was met by some applause when she spoke in favor of the proposal.
Others, however, were also met with applause when the spoke out against it – in particular when concerns were raised about the traffic. Traffic woes in Loganville have long been an issue for residents in Loganville and the fact that traffic from all the homes would add to it had many in attendance very concerned. While many welcomed more retail and restaurants, those too would likely bring in more traffic. Connolly said he was not able to comment on the traffic at this time as a traffic study has been commissioned but the results would not be in for another 30 or 60 days and more would be known once that was completed.
Another of the criticisms on social media, and raised again at the meeting, was that the taxpayers have already funded the building of the new city hall and would now be taking on building another one. In the current plan, the current city hall is earmarked for apartments. Martinez responded that the city hall property would be sold and the city would not lose any money on it. He referred the question to City Councilwoman Ann Huntsinger who chairs the city council finance committee. Huntsinger reiterated said the city hall property would be sold, and at a profit, if the development is implemented.
“The city will not lose money on it. It will be sold at a profit – three figures,” Huntsinger said.
Connolly said he expected work to begin on the first phases in 2020 with completion expected sometime in 2024. The city would take on building a new city hall and library.
After the meeting, Connolly and some of his staff, as well as Loganville City Council members, stayed to give attendees the opportunity to speak to them directly and renderings of the proposed re-development were on display. When contacted following the meeting, Connolly said while there were indeed some who objected and some who raised concerns, he felt most of the people who spoke to him were in support of the proposals. Connolly said that the mix of positive and negative is pretty much par for the course in some of the other downtown developments his company had been involved with in the past.
“I talked to a lot of people at the meeting and there was a mix of comments. The majority were positive and supportive and some are supportive overall but would like a little less multi-family,” he said. “But I got significantly more positive than negative. We are never going to have 100 consensus on a project of this significance. We wanted to have this meeting early on in the process so that people could get a look at it and see what we are proposing.”
Connolly said that 800 homes for the proposed development would be necessary and were, in fact, a minimum to guarantee the success of the retail and restaurants that would be included.
“Eight hundred is there for a reason. It would be necessary to make the retail successful and to make the whole proposal work. If you look at similar cities that is the number that it needs. Some started out less, such as Suwanee, and are now adding as they realize it is necessary,” Connolly said.
Plans are to get started as soon as possible, according to Connelly, but he, as well as city officials, reiterated that it is not a done deal.
“We have just filed the plan and are still in the process of getting all the permits and approvals, but we are anxious to get started,” he said. “It would not all be done at once obviously, but we would like to start with a mix of some of the residential and some retail. The city also has to get some things done first.”
Since the current Loganville City Hall has been earmarked for some residential buildings, the new City Hall would have to be built before that part of the development could begin. The two, churches included in the plans would remain and Connolly said the Rock Gym and Ag. Center had incorrectly been included in the plan as retail.
“They would stay as they are – they fit very well with the mix and style we are trying to achieve,” Connolly said.
Those who are strongly opposed to the proposal have suggested forming an organization to monitor the plans and stay informed. Additional information, renderings and updates on the project are available at www.loganvillemainstreet.com.
Michael Barron Jr. shared his Youtube video of the meeting for those who were unable to make it. Click or tap on the Youtube video below to watch it.
Photographs of some of the renderings that were on display at the meeting