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Conyers The Y to anchor development
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Local leaders got a peek Monday at the renewed effort by developers 4A International, which owns 600-plus acres of Conyers land south of Interstate 20, to design a community centered around healthy living anchored by a potential new Metro Atlanta the Y facility. 

During the reception at the Corner Market, which kicked off two days of design brainstorming, designers sketched out some guiding principals for the 300 acre plot — healthy living, walkability, community and sustainability. Designers cited the Centers for Disease Healthy Communities check list.

Emcee Jackie Benson said health would be the driving concern for the yet unnamed mixed-use community. “We want it to be inspiring. It’ll be a connected community. It’ll be innovative. A lot of the green techniques will be used here.”

“You can have all the gyms in the world, but (you need to) have communities to encourage people to be outdoors.”

The Conyers Y facility would be a crucial piece to the plans. Tentative discussions with The Y, city, county and other community officials have been ongoing for the last 18 months. 

Eston Hood, the Metro Atlanta Y Chief Operating Officer, said he had never seen such high community interest and viability as reported in a recent 6-month study of Conyers/Rockdale. Although there already is a Boys and Girls Club facility in Conyers, Hood said the interest and demand for youth services was so high that even if multiple facilities were built they would be filled to capacity.

Hood outlined some of the new initiatives YMCA of Metro Atlanta would be undertaking, including building four new YMCA facilities and 23 new childcare academies across Atlanta. 

YMCA officials would like to see the proposed 60,000 square foot facility, which is roughly estimated to cost about $16 million to $18 million, be funded as a public-private partnership. The land would be donated by 4A.

“I see this one being the Taj Mahal of the whole system,” said Hood.

Hood also described examples of public-private partnerships, such as in Alpharetta or DeKalb, where the city or county paid for the building while the YMCA paid for the operation of the facility. 

Bill Brown, public relations for the 4A initiative, later said “The developer is assuming the YMCA will take care of the construction costs without an appeal to the government.”

David Roeper, with 4A International acknowledged this was private property but also said “This is not so much about private real estate development. This is about economic development.”

Architect Bill De St. Aubin, with the Bill Sizemore Group, briefly said there would be challenges, such as working with the plentiful rock on the land and service capacity. One of the questions that remained unanswered from previous development plans for the 4A property was sewage capacity and how Rockdale’s currently maxed out sewer would be able to handle such an increase of residences.

The property had originally been planned as a live-work-play condo/town home development before the economic recession. The Corner Market and Village at Almand Creek Apartments at the intersection of Flat Shoals and Parker Road were part of the original plans. The property is located between Interstate 20 and Flat Shoals, behind the Rockdale Career Academy on Parker Road and Johnson Road.