A mixed-use project that will soon overtake almost an entire block on Magnolia Avenue in downtown Auburn was recently reviewed by the Downtown Design Review Committee.
The Atlanta-based developer, Holder Properties, agreed to have the development — which will house five floors of purpose-built student housing atop first-floor retail space — vetted by the committee even though it is planned for property outside the committee's jurisdiction.
"We understood this is not a requirement, but we obviously saw the benefit, all of us did, by talking to you guys today," Andy Barfield, senior vice president of Holder Properties, said to the design committee. "We're excited about this project. We've been involved in some aspect for 18-plus months, and we have hired Niles Bolton (Associates) as our design architect. They're great; they've done student-housing all over the country. As you'll see, what we plan on developing is Class A in every sense."
A preliminary rendering of what the development will look like was shown at the meeting, but the developer did not release the rendering for print before deadline.
The project will be located on the block surrounded by Magnolia Avenue, Toomer Street, Genelda Avenue and Thomas Street. Eleven parcels were consolidated for this project, which will sit on about 3.4 acres and front Magnolia Avenue, between the existing Subway and an Auburn University parking lot.
The first floor of retail will include a Chick-fil-A with a longer drive-thru and larger kitchen, a coffee shop, leasing office, additional retail space and a parking deck for students. First-floor parking will be for commercial use and will be separate from the residential parking above.
The ceilings on the first floor will be tall, and the exterior will be covered in a light cast stone, which will extend out to create a covered walkway in front of the retail entrances. Pedestrians will also have access to a walkway to the right of the Chick-Fil-A and left of the coffee shop and other retail.
The coffee shop is likely to have outdoor dining — something Barfield said they want to encourage with future tenants.
"We want outdoor dining," he said. "We want the energy out on the street, so that's what we're trying to create."
A courtyard will sit directly above the retail component and will house a swimming pool and outdoor space for students, bringing more energy to the front of the development. Members of the DDRC expressed some concern about what railings would be used to promote the safety of students and pedestrians, and Barfield echoed their concern, assuring them it would not be something on which students could set drinks or items.
Because the courtyard will front the street, a segment of student housing will be set back from Magnolia Avenue. The five floors of student-housing units will be finished in brick veneer, with some stucco and prefinished aluminum.
The development will include 201 units with 719 beds. according to architect Jeff Smith, and the residential parking deck will only be accessible off Genelda Avenue, in the back of the development.
Two smaller courtyards will be built into the development on the west and east, with units surrounding them.
Overall, Anna Solomon and Dan Bennett of the DDRC said they were pleased with the design of the development. They each asked questions and offered suggestions about details, such as how to optimize the sight line of cars exiting the Chick-fil-A drive thru onto Magnolia Avenue. Solomon and Bennett both said they would be interested to see the color of the cast stone that will be used on the first floor once it is selected.
Bennett said the developers had a "good start" and Solomon agreed.
"I think y'all have done a very nice job," she said to Smith and Barfield. "I really appreciate the covered sidewalk; I love that idea because it gives you the opportunity, for one thing, to be in the shade, and if there are some interesting things the retailers want to do, I'm sure they'd appreciate the covered area."
Barfield did not mention the project's time line during the meeting.