Redevelopment has special meaning in Powder Springs because it is directly tied to a strong community desire to preserve the city’s historic character while providing initiatives to encourage future growth. Nowhere in Powder Springs is this more apparent than in redevelopment projects underway in the city’s historic downtown.
Recently, the City of Powder Springs and its Downtown Development Authority (DDA) launched phase two of a capital project to replace the old town square with a new central park, complete with a lighted outdoor pedestrian mall, live performance stage, parking, and unique features including ping pong tables, a children’s play area, shade landscaping and water sculpture. Groundbreaking is scheduled for spring 2019, weather permitting, and the park is expected to be complete by early 2020.
“Our new city amenity is an exciting project. It will anchor adjacent city buildings, townhomes, restaurants, and shops, while providing an inviting public gathering place symbolic of our legacy,” said Powder Springs Mayor Al Thurman. “Bidding for Phase 2 of the park project closed on January 25th and bids are currently under review.”
According to a 2018 study of city land use by Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, Powder Springs has the premier downtown access to the Silver Comet Trail across Cobb County. Located less than a mile from downtown Powder Springs, the Silver Comet Trail is convenient to businesses and neighborhoods along Marietta Street and to expanding amenities at the city’s linear park on Richard D. Sailors Parkway.
“The Silver Comet Trail and the city’s 5K-certified Wild Horse and Lucille Creek trails form a unique pedestrian and bike-friendly loop around the city’s historic core,” explained Mayor Thurman. “To enhance this connectivity, Powder Springs’ new downtown park will feature a trailhead entrance and inviting rest area where trail travelers can take a break to enjoy casual dining and browse in shops surrounding our new amenity. Taking a long-term view, we have the potential to create a citywide trail system linking together many of our parks, schools, business centers and residential communities.”
In addition to the new park project, Powder Springs’ downtown renewal is becoming a success story in its own right. Redevelopment with a nod to the city’s past has extended to new restaurants, retail shops, and residences as developers and entrepreneurs pursue opportunities in the heart of the historic center. A number of new businesses are presently in varying stages of readiness.
Making Old New Again
The Hardy family has a passion for making old things new and a vision to bring renewed life to downtown Powder Springs. Their approach to preserving and repurposing old buildings relevant to the original use of these structures has become a design standard for the city’s downtown redevelopment.
“There’s wind under our wings now as a city,” said Randy Hardy, president and co-owner of MSI, Inc., a large commercial contracting firm in Marietta, Georgia. “I’ve seen a few waves of development and this one is the biggest in 45 years – building on previous work with well thought out plans for growth.”
Randy Hardy was appointed to the Powder Springs DDA by former mayor Patricia Vaughn. He was reappointed as DDA vice chairman by Mayor Al Thurman. In his spare time, Hardy buys, renovates and leases historic properties. His two sons, Sam and Jake Hardy, also part of the MSI organization, are following in their father’s footsteps. Sam, a wood craftsman, builds and sells farmhouse-style furniture nationwide, and Jake, a general contractor, shares his father’s passion for revitalizing historic properties.
Hardy family renovations began 17 years ago with the White Rabbit Cottage, a 1920s bungalow on Due West Road. In downtown Powder Springs, their projects have created leased retail space in a home at 4385 Marietta St., converted a former barbershop to a photography studio, and transformed an old gas station at the corner of Lewis Road and Marietta Street into the Event Station, a private meeting and event facility owned and operated in partnership with Russ Blocksidge, a member of the Powder Springs Business Group.
Randy Hardy’s newest preservation project is the Country Store at 4455 Marietta St. This historical structure once housed retail activity in the main storefront (c.1860), contained cotton and livestock feed in the center section (c.1890), and included a livery stable and blacksmith’s shop in the back portion (c.1850). Hardy plans to renovate these spaces for retail, storage, and woodworking use — bringing the structure up to code and ADA requirements while creating a living connection to the building’s history. The back stables will feature large glass windows so that visitors can view furniture making in real time, and the retail area will provide a showroom for finished pieces.
“The exterior will stay the same. It is a city landmark,” explained Randy Hardy. “I’m surprised how many people stop and take pictures of the front of the building and the Coca-Cola® sign painted on the side wall. We are a year away, but I’m very eager to see this property blossom as an important part of Powder Springs’ downtown.”
Marietta Street Sets the Stage
The Marietta Street Café and Grill opened in the former Tea Room spaces at 4456 and 4458 Marietta St. in October 2018. Co-owners and veteran caterers Todd Kline and Susan Saar designed the brick and mortar restaurant, originally a grocery store in 1910, to offer casual dining, musical entertainment and historic ambiance. Their goal is to become an established local eatery well ahead of the new park opening.
“We have enjoyed a tremendous welcome by the community and have seen expanding growth since January 1,” said Susan Saar. “As we firm up our main menu and staffing, we will offer lunch service and reactivate our catering business.” The restaurant is open for dinner from Wednesday through Friday.
The restaurant is located in historic anchor spaces that allow casual dining in two unique settings: the Café side offers bar service and food along with live entertainment, while the Grill provides traditional dining and a private room for groups. Private parties have been successful on both sides and dates for 2019 are already being reserved, according to Todd Kline.
Both Saar and Kline agree that the location on Marietta Street bordering the new downtown park is a prime factor in their restaurant’s success. They plan to add alfresco dining in the outdoor paseo space where pets are welcome and boxed meals during the city’s outdoor events.
“We greatly appreciate the partnership and support we have received from the City Council and city leaders,” said Saar. “Growth is happening. We are glad to be one of the first restaurants to get established. It is encouraging to see additional downtown projects get started, because this will bring more interest and new patrons to our door.”
Powder Springs’ New Best Friend
“It started five or six years ago when I entered a barbecue competition and won the meat and sauce category. The journey took off from there,” recalled Nick Robertson, founder and co-owner of Hawg’s Best Friend LLC, with his wife Amanda. “We are both from northwest Georgia, and we’re returning to this area for family-focused values and an entrepreneurial experience.” They plan to base their Hawg’s Best Friend food venture in downtown Powder Springs, with the first phase of operations to begin in March 2019, at 4484 Marietta St. next to the city’s community development offices and the new downtown park.
According to Robertson, he and Amanda developed a business model based on time spent in Cary, North Carolina, and Nick’s nearly 16 years with Jason’s Deli as a district manager in central North Carolina and as a managing partner of two locations in Cobb and Fulton counties here in Georgia. They fell in love with downtown Powder Springs during their first drive through, and decided both time and place were right for launching their food business.
“Hawg’s Best Friend will start up with a mobile food service for casual daily dining and local events, then evolve to a brick and mortar location as soon as our desired downtown property becomes available,” Robertson explained. “We are glad to be here, and impressed with the partnership among city leaders, local developers and incoming entrepreneurs. Everyone is on the train to bring new life to the historic city center and provide lots of support to new businesses.”
Cheers for Craft Brewing
Railcat Brewing Company is the brainchild of Logan and Beth Hemphill, business owners with a passion for all things craft, especially beer. The brewery is set to open in the first quarter of 2020, at 3886 Broad St., a renovated c.1900 building adjacent to the train tracks and Country Store in downtown Powder Springs. The new brewery will have a chic-industrial vibe, with a community-centered taproom, a roof-top bar and event space, and family-friendly common areas. A full range of craft beers, craft sodas and complimentary food options will be sold on-premise.
“The craft beer scene in Atlanta is very collaborative and supportive of new start-ups. Opening a brewery will be very exciting and fulfilling for us,” explained Logan Hemphill, president and head brewer of Railcat Brewing Company. After discovering his love of home brewing, Hemphill worked for Red Hare Brewery in Marietta, first as a shift brewer and then as production manager. He is presently head brewer for daily operations at Dry County Brewing in Kennesaw, where he also develops new products with the brew master.
The Hemphills relocated their family to Powder Springs in 2017, attracted by the city’s picturesque Marietta Street. “We are hyper-local, which means the beer we brew and the food we offer is for our immediate community and surrounding areas, not mass markets. We heard about the vision for the downtown park, and when we saw the plans, we realized its potential for our brewery,” said Beth Hemphill, the company’s chief marketing officer and taproom manager. “Besides our craft beverages, we will have ongoing events including game nights, Mario-Kart competitions, and live bands to bring the community together. We’re excited to help make Powder Springs a destination for residents, trail riders and visitors.”
Living-Centered Downtown Development
“The recent study by Georgia Tech confirmed that our city has doubled in size in less than 30 years, growing from about 7,000 residents in 1990 to a population of 14,334 in 2018. Young families choose Powder Springs for its living-centered approach, with safe streets, friendly communities, ample green spaces, increasing amenities, and reputable schools like McEachern High School. Our living-centered vision is equally important to older residents, who maintain close ties with their churches, friends and families,” said Mayor Al Thurman.
In 2018, the city issued 192 building permits for single-family homes, an increase of 8% over 2017, reflecting approximately $36 million in new investment in Powder Springs. In particular, groundbreaking events held at the end of January 2019 highlight the residential dimension of downtown growth. Two new residential developments — The Gates of Powder Springs and Springbrook Estates — are positioned to benefit from close proximity to the Silver Comet trailhead and amenities at the new city park, plus easy access to Richard D. Sailors Parkway, Route 278 and I-20.
Land has been purchased and is being cleared for 56 new townhomes at The Gates of Powder Springs by owner and developer Hollywood Construction, a general construction company formed in 2012. The townhomes to be built and existing Park Place units at 4401 Pineview Drive comprise this new subdivision, located next to the city’s municipal court building and on parcels along Pineview Drive. The subdivision will overlook the new park and downtown dining and entertainment venues.
“Our company began looking at the growth in Powder Springs, the city’s hometown feel, and the appeal of the Silver Comet Trail. These are things homebuyers want,” said developer Neil Fitcher of Hollywood Construction. “When we met with city officials and learned about the opportunity to build at Park Place, close to the new park and other city neighborhoods, we were encouraged to make this investment.”
The Gates of Powder Springs will offer attached three-story townhomes, each with approximately 2,000 sq. ft., four bedrooms, three baths, and double garages. Energy-efficient systems and quality finishes are standard. The townhomes will be pre-wired for advanced security systems and WiFi door locks. Upgrade options and customization will also be available. The townhomes are expected to be ready by January 2020.
Fischer Homes is developing Springbrook Estates, a new community of 106 single-family homes, located on Lewis Road, conveniently close to new city-center amenities, ball parks, restaurants, and shopping. Family-friendly by design, the subdivision will include a clubhouse, lap pool, tennis courts and playground. Floor plans will range from 2,500 to 3,000 sq. ft., and include three to five bedrooms and flexible spaces for offices, bonus rooms, and living rooms in the Coastal, Craftsman, English, and traditional American designs. Priced from the low $300,000s to low $400,000s, Fischer Homes will release the first home sites in spring 2019, with move-in possible by fall of this year.
“Fischer Homes has had great success developing communities in West Cobb and we see many communities doing well in this area,” said Dave Roberts, market president for Fischer Homes. “We feel Powder Springs is an up-and-coming location, and we’re very excited to see the progress of downtown redevelopment by the city and new incoming businesses. These are factors that moved our project forward,” Roberts said.
With nearly 500 acres of land available for light industrial, commercial and residential development, plus access to major transit routes and nearby air, rail and inter-modal centers, Powder Springs checks off many important boxes for investors and developers. Innovative changes in land inspection, plan review, and permitting processes set in 2017 have continued to save significant project time for developers.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with our overall growth and especially the remarkable progress of redeveloping our downtown,” said Powder Springs Mayor Al Thurman. “As a city, we’ve stepped up to the plate, and hit that ball out of the park. To our advantage, the game is young, our team is strong, and we have more homeruns to come.”