The Athens-Clarke County commission will vote March 7 on the proposed Georgia Square Mall redevelopment plan. The plan will be further delayed if not approved, and the developers will need to resubmit the proposal.
The commission will vote on the final project phasing approach on March 7. The ACC commission must then approve both the zoning request and the community benefits agreement for the project to continue.
The commission postponed the vote Feb. 21 postponed the vote Feb. 21 for the final time in a special called session meeting. Mayor Kelly Girtz said in a news conference Friday that despite the delays, he will “remain positive” about the plan being approved March 7.
“The fact that this has taken a little while means that we’re gonna get a better version of the project at the end of the day,” said Girtz.
The main reason for delaying the vote has been the project phasing and the order in which the individual buildings will be built. Girtz said the committee wants to be sure that the “public benefit pieces flow in a predictable schedule.”
A previous version of the redevelopment plan was rejected because the committee wanted a higher-quality version of the project with more amenities available to the community. The current proposal includes plans for large green spaces and paved trails, a transit station for west Athens and approximately 1,200 dense housing units
The housing problem in Athens-Clarke County has worsened over the past decade. Up for Growth, a national housing advocacy and research group, found an approximate 14.5% increase in housing underproduction in the county from 2012 to 2019, according to a 2022 study.
ACC had one of the greatest increases in housing underproduction among metropolitan areas included in the study.
“We are clearly a housing-challenged community,” Girtz said. “Part of that stress is a supply strain. … So there’s specific affordability we need to infuse as much as possible, and we also need to infuse more supply.”
The mall redevelopment plan includes a provision that 10% of residential rental units will remain permanently affordable for the next 40 years, said Girtz.
Why I wrote this story…
During my News Reporting and Writing class, I was assigned the City and County Government Beat. This was an important story to write because it is relevant to a lot of important issues in Athens-Clarke County, including the housing crisis and economic development.
This was my first time ever attending a press conference, so it was a very valuable experience for me. I learned how speakers will interact with journalists in a large setting, and I got experience asking questions in front of large groups.