Lookout town center takes step

Lookout town center takes step

March 9th, 2010 by Chris Carroll in News

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- City officials took a major step toward building a new "town center" Tuesday after local businessman Scott Maclellan agreed to invest his capital in the project.

About three years ago, a fire destroyed the Mountain Market, which was the city's only grocery store and one of Mr. Maclellan's holdings. Since then, officials have struggled to replace that unofficial business nexus.

The most recent proposal includes building a city hall, commercial outlets and residential property where the existing city hall sits.

"I want it to be a statement," Mr. Maclellan said. "I want to make money."

To that end, Mr. Maclellan is asking the council to pass an ordinance that would allow apartment and condominium units in the town for the first time. Mr. Maclellan estimated that the building costs for the entire project could go up to $6 million.

He would not say how much he was willing to contribute.

Members of the city's planning commission will recommend whether the city should work within existing zoning laws or if the project needs a comprehensive "town center" ordinance. The second option would allow more flexibility with regard to residential property and architectural details, according to Mayor Bill Glascock.

"It takes time, it's a pain in the neck and it's a lot of arguing, but it's time to build," Mr. Glascock told the council. "We have a gentleman right now willing to lay it on the line. And that is rare in this economy."

Town officials hired the Walker Collaborative, a Nashville-based community visioning and planning firm, to develop a town center plan about two years ago. They completed plans this month, and the council voted Tuesday for its planning commission to review the various proposals.

Mr. Maclellan admitted to being a "neophyte" in terms of commercial development, but said he preferred the most expensive option.

"I've fallen in love with this design," he said. "What I want to make sure is that this town center is successful. I want to make sure the center is populated."

But Mr. Glasscock expressed reservations with that particular plan because it requires solving a "half-million dollar bedrock problem" to provide green space desired by Mr. Maclellan.

"It scares me to death because it's expensive," he said. "It'll be a multimillion dollar project."

Mr. Glascock said the planning aspects of the project had already cost the city about $25,000. He estimated that the project could take two to three years to complete.