Developer pitches five high-rises in Sandy Springs

A mysterious development firm said to have ties to Australia, New Zealand and Asia has submitted plans for a five-skyscraper development in Sandy Springs that would rank among the largest mixed-use projects the young city has ever seen.

The proposed project — likely to be many years away — would involve three high-rise residential buildings and two office towers erected around an existing hexagon-shaped office building at 1117 Perimeter Center West near the Sandy Springs MARTA station. It’s a short distance east of the intersection of Abernathy Road and Ga. 400.

The 13-acre property is currently zoned for buildings up to 31 stories, but a representative for developer said Tuesday it is likely the group will seek a permission to go higher. There are no “imminent” development plans, he said, and no tenants have been signed.

To call the project ambitious would be an understatement, and the developer’s lack of disclosure about its identity adds a wrinkle of intrigue. The development group is scheduled to have its first community meeting Jan. 20 at the property, and it will likely be a boisterous gathering given recent large rezoning issues in Sandy Springs.

Rob Forrest, the representative for the development firm 1117 Sandy Springs LLC, said the group bought the property in May. The family that now controls the property has experience developing in Australia, New Zealand and other international gateway destinations.

“They prefer to be real quiet,” he said, declining to cite prior projects. “They sit in the background. They are a quiet developer.”

For now, 1117 Sandy Springs LLC seeks a rezoning to allow a mix of uses, and renderings supplied to the city are simply design concepts, Forrest said. The number of residential units and the amount of retail and office space are still to be determined, he said.

The development, if built as envisioned, would likely cost several hundred million dollars. No tenants have been identified, Forrest said.

The project would include a mix of rental and for-sale residences and ground floor retail and restaurants with a tunnel connecting to the MARTA station.

Sandy Springs requires developers to hold one community meeting before applying for rezoning, and another before the planning commission hears the case.

The city is nearing the end of a 180-day moratorium on new re-zonings for the city as it rewrites its comprehensive land use plan, city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said. The earliest that the project could be heard is March, but it is likely to be later than that.

Kraun said the city changed the zoning process late last year, in an effort to help avoid surprising communities with new construction. Kraun said she expects a surge of development when the moratorium ends.

“It would be the first big project,” she said. “It’s big. It’s going to be a lot for the council to consider.”

Liz Hausmann, vice chairman of the Fulton County Commission, said the proposed project is a “great thing” for economic development. But infrastructure is always a concern.

“I think it’s positive that it’s an attractive area,” she said. “We have to make sure it always stays convenient.”

Forrest said the owners picked the Atlanta area over sites in Canada and Dallas. Forrest said Atlanta reminds the family of Sydney, Australia, “20 to 25 years ago,” in its dependency on cars and its growing density.

The Central Perimeter area has seen something of a building boom, with its MARTA rail stops becoming magnets for some.

Hines Interests has a site for a mixed-use project hugging Ga. 400, while a hotel developer has long pitched a luxury project at the Sandy Springs MARTA station. West of Ga. 400, Mercedes-Benz is set to build a new U.S. headquarters where developer Ashton Woods plans an adjacent mixed-use project.

In neighboring Dunwoody, the High Street site at Hammond Drive and Central Perimeter Parkway is zoned for thousands of residences, retail and office space. It sits across from a new State Farm office complex being built at the Dunwoody MARTA station.

Dunwoody has proposed a road to connect I-285 to the future State Farm campus and other developments in the pipeline.

Boston-developer GID, which owns High Street, tabled plans for the property amid the recession but is expected to revive them in coming months.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s main office sits on the High Street property, and the newspaper has said it will eventually move about a mile away to a building on the campus of parent Cox Enterprises.

Hausmann said the proposed five high-rises prove that North Fulton is a good place to locate. If the project goes forward, she said, it will further highlight the need for better MARTA access and other transportation options.

“It’s our job to make sure that the infrastructure follows it,” she said. “I think people want options.”

Staff writer Arielle Kass contributed to this report.