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‘One, two punch’

As Johns Creek Town Center advances, hunt for 'arts park' land is on

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — In the words of Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry, the City Council completed a “historic milestone” when councilmembers unanimously approved zoning plans for Medley.

The 42-acre Medley development at the intersection of McGinnis Ferry Road and Johns Creek Parkway will anchor the city’s future 192-acre Town Center, an initiative identified in the city's 2018 Comprehensive Plan. The town center plan was adopted in October 2021 and integrated into the comprehensive plan the following January.

At the Dec. 12 City Council meeting, Medley received the city’s new TC-X zoning classification (Town Center Mixed Use District) with more than 20 conditions. Medley’s 56-acre parent parcel, a defunct State Farm campus, will also house Boston Scientific.

Boston Scientific sees $75 million incentive for new Johns Creek plant

As an “eatertainment” destination and “third place” beyond work and home, Medley will consist of 200,000 square-feet of commercial space, which includes 80,000 square-feet of retail, 60,000 square-feet of restaurants and up to 60,000 square-feet of entertainment use. The site will also feature 110,000 square-feet of office space, 137 fee-simple townhomes and 750 luxury multifamily units.

Plans call for two multifamily parking decks, more than 12 acres of civic space (plazas, pocket parks, squares and landscaped areas) and nearly 3 acres of amenity space (a clubhouse, swimming pools, amenity courtyards, patios, porches, balconies and lawns).

Mark Toro, known for his work on Alpharetta’s Avalon, said the new development will create a “halo effect” not just for the Town Center but for the entire city. With the Alpharetta project, Toro said he observed a paradigm shift in Alpharetta from, “a cul-de-sac gated mindset to an urban lifestyle that was attractive to many people who didn't know what they didn't know.”

But he said there was a distinct difference between Avalon and Medley.

“I believe that the success of Medley will be based on the fact that people are tired of driving 20 minutes to Avalon,” Toro said.

The Wilbert Group, public relations for Toro Development Company, would not disclose financial information for the Medley project at the current time.

Density, approval time

During public comment, several residents voiced concerns about Medley’s density, including Kristin McCabe, a recently sworn in Fulton County School Board member.

“The density concerns me — 750 apartments you are proposing,” McCabe said. “That’s 225 more than are already at Avalon, and yet, it’s less acreage.”

The Town Center’s zoning ordinance was adopted in August 2022, which, in part, tackles density. Medley is set to have 21.27 units per acre, which is less than the density requirements within Town Center Code at 30 units per acre.

With Medley’s future neighbor Boston Scientific in mind, McCabe noted aspects of the development that should be considered, like traffic and garbage. But Toro said Medley would calm traffic, using various mechanisms proposed by his staff, such as additional access points.

McCabe also thought the City Council should have more time to decide on the project. The first meeting between Toro and city staff was in March. The Johns Creek Planning Commission approved the application, which was filed in September, Dec. 6.

Councilman Bob Erramilli echoed McCabe and said he wished he had more time to discuss the project with counterparts in other cities. Current councilmembers will probably not see something of this size on their dockets again, he said.

But Councilman Chris Coughlin said, “I understand something of this magnitude feels rushed, but we’ve had tons of public participation meetings. We have had ample opportunities for review.”

JC 1222 Johns Creek CC (1).JPG

Mark Toro, who helped develop Alpharetta’s Avalon, presents on Medley — a 42-acre mixed-use development to exist within the future Johns Creek Town Center. At the Dec. 12 Johns Creek City Council meeting, councilmembers unanimously granted Medley the city’s TC-X zoning classification.

After a nearly two-hour discussion on the agenda item and the City Council’s vote, the audience applauded. Councilmembers made their last remarks as well as Mayor Bradberry.

“Make it the best damn development ever,” Bradberry said. “Make us the best Town Center ever.”

Groundbreaking is scheduled for late 2023, according to Toro Development Company’s website.

The Legacy Center

At its Dec. 12 work session, the City Council also agreed to purchase land for the Legacy Center, an anticipated “arts park.”

For the discussion, councilmembers were given a 12-page report created by the mayor-appointed Legacy Center Working Group, which was tasked with determining the size, scope and scale of the Legacy Center project. The group consulted the Legacy Center Task Force, a separate organization that has been led by Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra Conductor J. Wayne Baughman for the past seven years.

The Legacy Center would sit on about 6 acres, with two buildings — the Johns Creek Art Center and a performance hall that would include multi-use space with a commercial kitchen.

The report also gave an estimate for land costs in Johns Creek, which could be in excess $500,000 per acre. It also listed other key issues, like fundraising efforts.

Later in the evening, after the City Council’s vote on Medley, Johns Creek Cricket Association Founder Shafiq Jadavji said Dec. 12 would be a memorable date.

“You did a ‘one, two punch’ tonight,” Jadavji said, alluding to the City Council decision to acquire land for the Legacy Center and the vote on Medley.

Reach Amber Perry at 770-847-8334. Follow her on Twitter @ambermarieperry