Magnolia property under discussion

Published 10:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

LaGRANGE – The Magnolia property on South Davis Road came up for discussion on Tuesday night as the LaGrange City Council considered a request from a potential developer to rezone the property, so that it can be developed into upscale apartments.

The property has not been in use since approximately 2004, and the zoning board unanimously approved the rezoning to allow for apartments to be built at the site.

“We are excited about being here in LaGrange to finally get this property back into commerce,” said Paul Dastugue of Property One, Inc. “That will have 280 apartment units – class A, high end units. We’ve done extensive market research, and feel that there is a need for this type of development here.”

The property’s current zoning was created specifically for a 2004 development plan for a traditional neighborhood development. That type of development typically uses traditional town planning principles for a complete planned neighborhood.

“This subdivision, when it was planned as Magnolia, was a mixed use (development) with townhomes up front on the commercial three acres, and then it was a traditional neighborhood development – a walkable community that was going to be a great asset to our community,” said Kendall Butler, a local realtor. “The reason that the subdivision did not get off the ground at that time was the downturn in the economy. There were four developers who had signed letters of intent to build in the subdivision as a traditional neighborhood development, and (they) the ability that it was going to have to bring national recognition to LaGrange. There is not another traditional neighborhood development within a hundred-mile radius of LaGrange. The closest traditional neighborhood development that would be a good comparison to this subdivision that it was originally intended as would be Vickery that is north of Atlanta.”

Butler argued that while she was glad to see developer interest in the community, the proposed apartments would not attract as many CEOs, young families and retirees as the original proposal, which she argued should still be considered since it already has the infrastructure in place for the neighborhood installed. Meanwhile, another resident worried that by approving the apartments on that section of land, the city would be going against its own strategic plan of creating more affordable housing that people could own.

“LaGrange has a ton of houses already being rented,” said Chris Sloan, a local resident. “I’ve been reading the strategic plan, trying to get up to breast with what you guys are looking to do and what your plan is, and it seems like the plan should be to build something that people can own, not something that they can rent, especially at such a high rate.”

The planned apartments would cost an estimated $1.15 per square foot, which developers believe there is a market for in LaGrange due to the recent increase in industry.

“We do need some high-end rentals,” said Jim Daniel, a developer. “Look at the businesses that are coming here and the industries that are coming here, and these people – we rented a house over in Sunny Point for I believe it was $4,000 a month for six months to an executive, and he wanted something a little bit more high-end then the normal rental. So there is a demand for that here, and it is going to get stronger and stronger as we continue to bring new industries in here.”

Butler also argued that this neighborhood could be turned around like several other developments within LaGrange that were foreclosed on during the housing crisis, therefore finally reach its full potential.

However, developers at the meeting argued that the traditional neighborhood community had missed its chance, and it was time to move forward with a new plan.

“This was started in – I think Kendall said 2004 – today is 2017, so changing the thought process here is not a short-term fix,” said Daniel. “This has been going on for 13 years. I’ve run the numbers on it, and it is going to have to be apartments. It is not going to work as a traditional development.”

Council members asked about options, such as having the apartments as the first phase of a traditional development and the possibility of having a traditional neighborhood development on the property beside or behind the proposed apartment site if developers were interested.

The rezoning of the 1005 and part of 1105 South Davis Road is scheduled to go up for a vote at the council meeting on May 23 at 5:30 p.m.

The City of LaGrange is scheduled to hold its budget meeting on May 23 at 8 a.m. The public is welcome to attend.