Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Neighbors Seek Path Forward for "Blighted" Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center

Neighbors in one local Cobb county community are meeting this week to discuss options for a blighted shopping center that many feel is an eyesore.  The center, Sprayberry Crossing, is located in east Cobb county at the corner of Sandy Plains and East Piedmont Roads, not far from Sprayberry High School.  The physical address of the center is 2692 Sandy Plains Road.  
The former Bruno's at Sprayberry Crossing 

Built in 1978, the center was once anchored by local grocer Ogletree's and a bowling alley, Village Lanes.  Ogletree's was purchased by Birmingham-based grocer Bruno's in 1987 and operated as a Bruno's until the grocer's exit from the Atlanta market around 1995/1996. Village Lanes, which opened with the center, closed in 2008 after 30 years in business. 

Revco, one of the center's last chain retailers, closed shortly after their June 1997 acquisition by CVS Pharmacy.  

Sources say that country music star and Marietta native Travis Tritt used to play at a bar in the center before he made it big.  

The center is actually two centers in one, with Sprayberry Crossing LLC owning the former Bruno's and adjacent property, and Sprayberry Crossing Partnership in control of a single outparcel building that is home to other businesses. The overall property is reportedly about 13 acres and is represented by real estate firm NAI Brannen Goddard.  

Many locals fondly recall tenants such as Bumper's Junction, a popular game room, and local restaurants Mauldin's Pizza and Good Fortune Chinese, but current options in the center are far less appealing to many of today's residents. 

Liberty Thrift Store is the center's anchor, with assorted religious organizations occupying many of the small shop spaces, and the former Bruno's and bowling alley currently vacant. 

The Mays Family Cemetery also occupies a portion of the center, and its location had reportedly hindered some redevelopment interest.  

The only property NAI is currently marketing for lease via its website is the 36,800 square foot former bowling alley.  

Joe Glancy, who has lived in the area a dozen years or so, created the Sprayberry Crossing Action Facebook page to  “bring pressure on the properties’ owners and members of Cobb County Government.”   The group, which has over 4,100 members, helps neighbors stay up to date on developments and meetings related to the center.  

This coming Wednesday March 21, Sprayberry Crossing Action will be hosting a public meeting with county and state officials regarding the status of Sprayberry Crossing shopping center.  The meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 6 pm, will take place in the Sprayberry High School theater.

Lowe's Home Improvement was reportedly "very interested" in building a new store on the site about ten years ago, but no deal ever materialized. 

Sources say that previous developers had been turned off by nagging environmental issues from a former dry cleaners in the center.  Glancy tells ToNeTo Atlanta that he contacted the regional EPA office regarding the issue last year and was told that "it is no longer an impediment to development."

The neighborhood seems fairly split on what they would like to see happen to the center.  Some are hopeful that it will be redeveloped into a mixed-use development, while others would like the space to be purchased by the county for a public park - the latter seems highly unlikely.  Many neighbors are also concerned for the impact on traffic that the center could have if redeveloped and popular once again.  

Last year, Cobb County adopted the Community Improvement Tax Incentive Program (CITIP), or "blight tax," as it became known.  

In a letter dated February 15, 2018, the Cobb County Community Development Agency notified the Sprayberry Crossing Partnership and representatives Mitchell Brannen and Thomas P. Garland of  NAI Brannen Goddard that their property is a candidate for the blight tax.   If action is not taken, the property may be subject to a property tax up to seven times the millage rate. 

A property is considered blighted if it meets two of the six criteria listed in the CITIP Cobb County Code section 2-181

According to the February 15 letter, Sprayberry Crossing meets three of the criteria: "unsafe or abandoned structures," "repeated illegal activities on the property," and "being conducive to ill health or crime."  The owners had thirty days to contact the county and discuss a remediation plan. According to Glancy, the owners responded to the county's findings late last week, the contents of which has not yet been made public.  

Sprayberry Crossing has been covered by a number of different blogs and media over the years including my friends at Sky City Retail History in 2006 and multiple times by the Marietta Daily Journal.    

What would you like to see open in place of Sprayberry Crossing? What are your fondest memories of the center?  Do you plan to attend Wednesday's meeting?

Please share your thoughts below.


jamiet27 said...

My family and I ate at Good Fortune many Friday nights when I was in elementary school (25 years ago)! It’s a “blight” now for sure.

Anonymous said...

Since the owners aren’t developing it and no one is buying it, doesn’t that mean it’s not economically viable? And if so, doesn’t that mean a bunch of neighbors can’t do anything about it?

Anonymous said...

Um....a bunch of neighbors ARE doing something about it.

BK said...

I live a few miles away and have always wanted to see something happen here. Doesn't have to be something huge, but just about anything is a better use than the cratered cut through its become now. Only thing I ask is that the Bottle Shop stays in some manner! The armchair planner in me has sketched out a few ideas over the years, but that cemetery sure throws a huge wrench into things. Hoping I can get out of work early enough to get to the meeting.

Anonymous said...

We need to swap out our pitchforks for shovels because nothing is happening until that cemetery to relocated.

Anonymous said...

I grow up in 1970s and 1980s in that area. Sprayberry Crossing was a popular shopping center back then. It needs to be put out of its misery.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say I grew up in that area

Anonymous said...

I proposed to my wife at the Chinese restaurant in 1987.

Normsnan said...

There is no money for a park. We are still waiting for Mabry Park, which finally got the green light. And yes, traffic on Sandy Plains Road is horrible. But having a run down, pot hole riddled area that is used as a dangerous cut through from Post Oak Tritt to E. Piedmont is not serving our community or helping property values. This time for the developers to fix it up or sell it to someone who will.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully LE check it often for homeless, overnight truck parking, drug sales & use, prostitution etc. Not to mention vermin & wildlife that can take over. Our community witnessed ALL these things with a HD Landscape that sat vacant for only a few years. Blight is a nice word for what can quickly become nightmare for a community.

Brad Sappenfield said...

I grew up in East Cobb, I worked at the Bruno's grocery store, 1991-1993. Used to love the bowling alley and Good Fortune Chinese in the late 1980's- early to mid 1990's. I am surprised these 1970's "contemporary" styled buildings are still standing after being neglected for so long. I am still surprised this center sits this way in East Cobb!

Anonymous said...

I have family buried in the cemetery and do not think it should be relocated. The cemetary has been there longer than the shopping center and longer than any of us.

BK said...

I managed to get to the meeting and it was an overflow crowd at the Sprayberry Theater. I'd been following this for a while and knew most of what was going on but found out a couple new interesting items. One was that the original development was denied commercial zoning originally and is one of only 2 or 3 properties in all of Cobb County that was granted its commercial zoning by court decree.

Secondly, while I don't necessarily like it, I can see why the developer has been sitting on this property. According to someone who was sitting next to me and was interested in developing the property (but wants to remain anonymous just because of how contentious this is) if the owner is able to move the cemetery, the parcel, as a whole assemblage, is probably worth as much as 1.75-2x more than it is now. Joe Glancy, the host of the meeting, threw a number out there that right now to buy the properties, as is, would be anywhere from $14-17 million to purchase right now so we're talking about a big swing and potential profit for the owners.

Lastly the Commercial & Industrial Property Rehabilitation Incentive Program (the legal name for the Blight Tax) is only halfway through the process on the former bowling alley parcel and if all goes through would only raise their General Fund portion of property taxes from $2,500/year to $17,000/year. Probably not enough to make the developers move much faster when they could be making millions, but it does show the county is trying to do something, and is something that will probably be much more effective on smaller blighted parcels.

All in all a very informative meeting. You could see the built up emotions in pretty much everyone there, especially those with loved ones buried in the cemetery.

Angry Cobb resident said...

Our home located just down the road from the shopping. Cobb county just raised our property taxes another $1000 this year. How can a piece of property be in such a horrible state be allowed but our taxes go up? Shame on Cobb county. Either lower the taxes around the property or make the owners repair it. Both of my children have attended Sprayberry Academy. I am glad the school does have any nighttime events because I would not feel safe being around the rundown buildings.

Anonymous said...

Spent a lot of time at Bumper's...and the bar that Travis Tritt performed at was Chico Dills. This area, however, has been a disaster for way too long.

Jen said...

LOL darn right!

Jen said...

When I die, I pray to God my family does not keep me in a drug infested, crime riddled, run down parking lot. And good heavens, I will come back and HAUNT my family if they make my body get in the way running off gang members and drug addicts from setting up camp right next to a daycare! That is NOT how I want my body to rest. Move my butt to a bigger cemetery where I can rest in peace and those poor kids can go to school!

Shoot, what a way to treat a poor loved one! :(

Anonymous said...

Avondale Mall has a cemetery / mausoleum in there parking lot. Read in WaPo just recently about an AA cemetery in Baltimore that made way for a shopping center decades ago. Arlington National Cemetery is built on the land of Confederate Robert E Lee's wife's family estate, and she was a great granddaughter of Martha Washington. My hometown has a cemetery in the middle of a shopping center parking lot that has been thriving for over 50 years. Don't act as if these are the only grave sites that have disrespected for "progress".

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