COVINGTON, Ga. — A mixed-used development project underway in Covington could create a more than $350 million impact in Newton County.
Phil Johnson, a local attorney who represents Neely Farms Family Limited Partnership LLLP, said that figure was a rough, yet conservative estimation for Neely Farms, located at 9135 Martin Luther King Ave. (Covington Bypass Road).
According to plans, the development will consist of 1,162 residential units including 330 houses located within two single-family detached neighborhoods; 227 townhomes; 39 up-scale estate homes; several condos and apartments; and a variety of retailers and restaurants. Johnson said developers intend to locate a brewery to the property and also construct an amphitheater.
The Covington project has already drawn comparisons to Avalon in Alpharetta, but when factoring in size alone, Neely Farms stands on its own.
While Avalon is listed as an 86-acre site that includes approximately 500,000 square-feet of retail space, Neely Farms is a 200-acre site with roughly 60 acres of commercial space for retail opportunities.
However, Neely Farms will be different from recent developments within Newton County. Rather than molding a community around a single retailer, or a “big box store,” Johnson said the goal was to establish a community and find retailers and restaurants to compliment the area.
“The goal is to make this more of a destination,” Johnson said. “It will be more focused on a live, work, play community — an overworked phrase, but that’s what we’re after.
“We didn’t lay this out and create any big spaces for retail to go in because we’re not looking for the big box,” he said. “We’re looking for a community flare — a neighborhood.”
An approximate 11-acre quarry is located on the property. Johnson said it was originally put in during the 1950s to supply gravel for the construction of I-20.
Johnson said the quarry would be instrumental for the development.
“It’s a beautiful pond,” he said. “If you haven’t been over there in the last few days, we’ve cleaned out around the quarry so that you can see it from the street. We’re still working with the DOT to get a line of trees removed.”
Surrounding the quarry will be 39 “up-scale” estate lots, two six-story condos, a brewery, dog park, 60-room hotel, wedding venue and three restaurants. Johnson said the hotel would be likened to a bed-and-breakfast.
At the time of publication, developers were negotiating with several companies looking to locate to Neely Farms, Johnson said.
Blue River Development LLC has the two single-family detached neighborhoods located east and south of the quarry under contract, according to Johnson. One neighborhood is planned to be located north of Scenic Parkway; the other is located south of Scenic Parkway below the quarry. The northern neighborhood will consist of 180 lots, and the southern neighborhood will consist of 150 lots.
All 227 townhomes to be located on a tract directly east of the quarry are under contract with Taylor Weaver, of Weaver Grading & Hauling, Johnson said.
Plans for property north of the townhomes and quarry include designated areas for retail, a grocery store, apartment buildings and an amphitheater/event center surrounded by more condos.
Johnson said the amphitheater space, which was inspired in part by Suwanee’s event park located in front of city hall, would serve as the development’s “town center.”
“We think that will give a community flare to all of this,” he said.
To better serve the area, Johnson said developers were working with the DOT to install a roundabout near the property, in front of Nitro 2 Go.
“It will slow traffic down and it will give a means for their left hand traffic to get out there,” Johnson said.
A second roundabout to be located in front of the amphitheater space is also being planned.
Johnson said Neely Farms remains in the early development stages. As of Tuesday, a preliminary plat had been approved for the neighborhood north of Scenic Parkway and construction drawings were under review.
Preliminary plats for the neighborhood south of Scenic Parkway and the townhomes had also been presented but would not go before the city’s Planning Commission until June, Johnson said. He anticipated preliminary plats for the remainder of the property would be presented and go before planning commissioners in June or July. No rezoning is required, he said.
In the meantime, Johnson said, developers have submitted a land disturbance application for interior road construction with hopes to receive a permit and begin work in June. The goal is to build the interior roads and roundabouts at the same time, he said.
Johnson said the goal is to have everything in place and ready to start building houses in both single-family detached neighborhoods by the end of the year.
The anticipated completion date for every aspect of the project is Dec. 31, 2023, if all goes according to plan, Johnson said.
“We’re really excited,” Johnson said.
Ted Neely, who was a lifelong resident of Newton County and decorated World War II veteran, purchased the property around 1981 from the state, Johnson said, before the bypass road was constructed a decade later. Neely died in 2008.
Johnson said he and Neely had been working on the piece of property since the 1990s, “getting ready for an opportunity like this to come,” beginning with infrastructure, rezoning and annexing all of the property into the city.
Johnson said they were “preparing property to have a plan.” That plan eventually came together over time.
“We knew we wanted something that was community oriented,” Johnson said. “[Neely] had a vision, always, that this would be a residential community at its core.”