Smyrna

SMYRNA, GA — After four months of task force meetings, site plan revisions, public input meetings and at least one town hall, Smyrna City Council approved an updated plan for the city's multi-million dollar downtown redesign — the biggest change to Smyrna's downtown in at least a decade.

Smyrna City Council approved the multi-million dollar redesign of Smyrna's downtown Monday in a 4-2 vote. The original concept plan was approved in June, so the final vote was a long time coming. © Kara McIntyre/Patch Smyrna City Council approved the multi-million dollar redesign of Smyrna's downtown Monday in a 4-2 vote. The original concept plan was approved in June, so the final vote was a long time coming.

Council members approved the redesign plans — initially approved in June — in a 4-2 vote Monday after more than two hours of public comment and council debate, with council members Charles "Corkey" Welch and Susan Wilkinson voting against the measure. Council Member Lewis Wheaton was absent from the meeting due to a death in his family.

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The new plan includes the removal of the iconic fountain and roundabout in front of the Smyrna Public Library and Smyrna Community Center, which will be replaced with open green space and an extension of King Street to connect to Powder Springs Street.

This portion is estimated to cost $6.5 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) money, which includes construction, engineering and contingency costs. Greg Teague, president of Marietta-based Croy Engineering, said major construction on the green space will start in March or April 2022 and be finished by early 2023.

Additionally, the redesign plans include an interactive water feature, several peripheral plaza areas, seating, shade structures, new trees, bike racks and a stage for concerts and events. Public bathrooms may also be added in the future.

“What our predecessors did here was start a great thing,” said Mayor Derek Norton, who spearheaded the project, in reference to former Mayor Max Bacon's development of the village green and Smyrna Market Village. “And now we’re building on that and creating something even better for the citizens of Smyrna.”

Future plans also include a $4 million, three-story, 250-spot parking deck north of downtown, and the potential sale of city-owned land between the community center and Atlanta Road to StillFire Brewing, so it can build a brewery. Both items were not approved during Monday's city council meeting.

Roughly 70 residents spoke during the public comment period of Monday's meeting, some in favor of the redesign and others opposed. Those in favor of it said the revamped area will breathe life into a relatively dead area near the Village Green.

"I think this project is well overdue,” Smyrna resident Kris Mellstrom said during the meeting. “I love the fact that we think about how Smyrna’s growing ... I just want to say thank you for putting this plan forward. I totally support it.”

Those opposed — which included former Council Member Maryline Blackburn — questioned the redevelopment's estimated cost, how much traffic it will cause, why StillFire Brewing and the parking deck weren't included in the vote, and the transparency of the redesign process.

"The process is flawed and goes against best management practices for city planning,” said Shaun Martin, a leading member of an opposition group called Smart Smyrna, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Cities are not planned in silos. To not bring in the desired brewery at this point is unfair, as much taxpayer dollars that are going into facilitating and accommodating all of the accessory needs.”

However, Norton emphasized the length of the design process and has previously mentioned that this project has been in discussions since 2019, when a new downtown master plan was created with input from hundreds of residents.

The city also held three public input meetings in September to gather more resident comments on the two detailed concept plans. Architecture firm Pond & Company, which created the two plans after council approved initial ones in June, also crafted the plan approved Monday based on feedback from the September public input meetings.

Welch and Wilkinson voted against the plan approval Monday, just as they did in June when the overall concept was approved. Welch said the estimated cost of the redesign would actually be around $11.8 million with parking deck costs, engineering expenses and contingency fees, though Norton said that was an inflated cost estimate.

"I simply can’t support spending almost $12 million to revitalize a downtown that, in my opinion, is already a vital asset to our town," he said.

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