Marshall Square developers Tuesday outlined a new revision to the site plan during a Columbia County Planning Commission work session.
A major change in plans to the 47-acre planned unit development focuses on the addition of a public square of between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet between residential and commercial buildings.
"Some people expressed concerns that the apartments have become isolated from the retail, where originally the residences were intended to be above the retail and integrated more into the retail portion of the site," said Miller-Valentine Group Senior Developer Bill Marsh. "We've kind of gone back to that concept in a big way by adding a square."
Revisions to a previously approved site plan were brought before the planning commission at its Feb. 5 meeting, where it was tabled. The revision separated residential units from retail buildings and eliminated a high-rise residential tower on the site.
As shown on the plans, two retail and two residential buildings will surround the public square. Six retail units will occupy the first floor of each residential building.
County planner Justin Snyder said the planning staff prefers a pedestrian walkway, as opposed to roads, to be constructed between the square and surrounding buildings.
"Our preference is to not have travel lanes around the square," he said. "We think it is kind of impeding to pedestrian traffic to have those there."
The revised project also revealed seven four-story residential buildings with a total of 338 apartment units.
The plan also incorporates four "live/work" buildings fronting Evans Town Center Boulevard with a total of 24 condominium units located above retail space.
Safety concerns also were addressed at the Feb. 5 meeting. Marsh said a decorative wrought iron gate will be constructed at each entrance of every residential building and tenants will have to swipe a card to enter.
Though apartments were previously approved for the site, it still received opposition from former Commissioner Tommy Mercer.
"This county is anti-apartments, and we've got apartments going up in other parts of the county," he said. "What apartments do (is) they overload the school system and create a nest for crime."
Marsh said a restrictive covenant will protect the units from becoming low income or Section 8 housing.
"We're spending about $115,000 a unit to construct these, so they're going to be very high quality," he said.
If approved, Marsh said construction on apartments might start as early as late summer and take about 16 months to complete.
"We're very interested in seeing that retail go in as fast as humanly possible," he said. "It's symbiotic with what we're doing."
If changes are not approved by the county, developers could withdraw their application and revert to plans approved in 2007.
Planning commissioners are expected to vote on the revisions during their April 16 meeting at 6 p.m. at the Evans Government Complex auditorium.
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