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324-unit apartment complex gets first OK in Flowery Branch
Kurt R. Alexander, principal for Atlanta-based The Residential Group, talks Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, to the Flowery Branch City Council about plans for a 324-unit apartment complex near Interstate 985. - photo by Jeff Gill

A proposed 324-unit apartment complex near Interstate 985 in Flowery Branch got its first OK from the Flowery Branch City Council Thursday night as part an Atlanta developer’s larger plans for the South Hall city.

The apartment complex, Crest Flowery Branch, would be built off Phil Niekro Boulevard at Thurmon Tanner Parkway, just west of I-985. The complex would feature a clubhouse and swimming pool.

The Residential Group is seeking to rezone the site from highway business to multifamily residential.

However, the front portion of the property, facing Phil Niekro, would remain as highway business, a move that would “create a mixed-use environment,” according to a document from the developer.

The five outparcels, varying in size from 1 to 1½ acres, could contain retail businesses, such as restaurants, Kurt R. Alexander, principal for The Residential Group, told the council at its Dec. 6 meeting.

He said the project could take two years to complete, and rents could vary from $900 to $1,400 per month.

“It’s a high-end product, for sure,” community development director Rich Atkinson told the council.

The Residential Group has developed upscale apartment complexes in other cities, including One Metrocenter in Nashville, Tenn.

The project did get pushback from a couple of residents, including Robert Byrd.

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A rendering of the Flowery Branch mixed-use project is on display during the Residential Group's open house at the City of Flowery Branch building concerning plans for downtown redevelopment on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.

“Apartment complexes overwhelm the educational system,” said Byrd, a former educator who used to live and teach in Gwinnett County. “The whole reason I moved here was to get away from apartment complexes.

“I don’t know how the infrastructure around here can handle this many units.”

Mayor Mike Miller said, “In all my conversations with the (Hall County) school system, they want that higher socioeconomic in this area.”

Atkinson said residents of other Residential Group complexes vary from empty-nesters to younger people.

“It’s all walks of life,” he said.

The council will give final approval at a later meeting.

The Residential Group also has its eyes on a downtown mixed-use project.

The developer is proposing to turn property now occupied by the former City Hall and police station on Main Street between Railroad Avenue and Church Street into 15 apartments and 7,700 square feet of ground-level retail.

The City Council voted Nov. 15 to approve $5 million from tax allocation district money to offset demolition and construction costs on the project.

Under Georgia law, cities are allowed to designate certain “blighted” areas as TADs, using property tax increments resulting from new growth on public projects to help attract growth and increase the increments.

By law, the money can be used for public utilities improvements, such as stormwater systems.

The downtown area is part of a TAD.

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Attendees examine renderings during The Residential Group's open house at the City of Flowery Branch building concerning plans for downtown redevelopment on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele