Photo Credit: Smith Planning Group
Just a few hours after Daily Groceries Co-op announced a deal to move into a much larger space at 100 Prince, the Athens-Clarke County Commission gave final approval Tuesday night to the development on what’s now the St. Joseph Catholic Church property.
The mixed use project—which will also include a restaurant in the historic sanctuary and 126 apartments aimed at young professionals and empty-nesters—was lauded by many neighborhood residents as the type of development Athens needs. Some on nearby Pulaski, Barrow and Childs streets, though, expressed concerns about traffic the development would bring.
To address those concerns, Commissioner Kelly Girtz successfully proposed a few changes to the development, including requiring a denser vegetative buffer and prohibiting right turns out of the Childs Street exit. The developer, Greenville, SC-based Homes Urban, will also be required to conduct a more detailed 20-year traffic study.
Commissioner Jerry NeSmith questioned why another traffic study is necessary when the developer has already agreed to pay for traffic signals and a crosswalk at the Prince Avenue entrance.
“It’s obvious we need a good pedestrian crossing there,” NeSmith said, noting that the commission has already approved, then delayed, improvements to the crosswalk at The Grit. “Why don’t we just do it?” he said. “That’s our job.”
“This really creates a more longitudinal look at this,” Girtz responded.
And Commissioner Jared Bailey predicted that Childs and Barrow residents would still experience heavier traffic.
“It’s going to be dumping a lot of cars… on a very quiet street,” he said.
However, all nine commissioners voted in favor of the project—including Melissa Link, who’s often critical of development, especially in the downtown area. (Commissioner Harry Sims was serving as mayor in Nancy Denson’s absence and did not vote.)
“This is the way it should be done,” Link said. “I think it’s going to be a project we can be really, really proud of.”