The public had its last chance at Wednesday's town hall meeting to voice opinions on the final Norcross Town Center Downtown Plan, an update on the that intends to be the city's land use and transportation plans for the next 20 years.
For the past six months, engineering firm Pond and Co. and a city committee have been holding to hear the public's opinion on the plans. The consultants considered the community's ideas and wants, drafted concept maps from it, asked for the people's input again, and narrowed it down to one final plan.
From parking decks to five-story buildings to sidewalks, the concepts detail what could be implemented in practically every lot between Langford Road, Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Cemetery Field and Valley Road.
Showing one transportation map and another dedicated to land use, the final town hall meeting at the was an open-house forum where citizens could come at any time to comment and ask questions.
One of the major plans that many were excited about was opening to the Buford Highway. The plan is to make Lillian Webb more visible from Buford Highway by placing a plaza next to the highway and having one- to two-story retail shops around it.
"There are a lot of ideas on little details on how it could be finalized, but I think the overall goal of the plaza was captured," said Joel Reed, project manager of Pond and Co.
Lifelong resident Greg McFarland likes the idea of the gateway and believes it could benefit the landscaping and improvements along Buford Highway. Adding parking spaces along Wingo Street is something the city needs, too, he said.
Another area that many were pleased to see is the Skin Alley revitalization. While the city by the end of July, the map shows what that area could potentially be.
Reed explained that a plaza could connect Skin Alley to College Street and also extend the same type of pavement, and essentially the plaza-feel, along the alleyway. The backs of the buildings would look more like storefronts, and it would be possible for more retail to move in.
"It'd just become more alive as more businesses open up back there," said Reed.
There were a few concerns from citizens, though. Dominic Perello, whose residence was recently annexed to the city but has been living there since 1987, said he wasn't too happy about the highrises and density of all the commercial offices, such as around Cemetery Field and along Britt Avenue.
"They have us packing more and more into less and less space, and we don't have to constrain ourselves to this space," said Perello. "There are industrial parks all around us we could buy pretty cheaply."
He also said that because Norcross is a suburban town, the highrises would be out of place and could possibly make downtown lose its historic feel.
Chuck Cimarik, one of the board members of the study, disagreed. He believes Norcross is urban or is at least on the cusp of becoming urban, and this is the direction we should be going in.
"Urban means walkability, a little more cohesion, a little more condensation, and smarter use of land," said Cimarik.
Perello agreed on one thing with the plan, though: transportation.
Many of the priority transportation projects include calming downtown traffic and improving foot traffic, such as widening sidewalks with streetscapes alongside Bostic Street; adding sharrows, which are painted signs on the ground to remind drivers to share the road; creating a multiuse trail along Holcomb Bridge Road and around ; and adding streetscapes and enhanced sidewalks along Buford Highway.
City Planner Chris McCrary said the next step in the town center plan is for Pond and Co. to revise it once more with the community's input. It then would go in front of the city council to be approved. If it passes, McCrary said he could start obtaining government funds for the transportation projects and pitch the land use concepts to developers.