Excavation work on the Riverview Landing project is extensive, with a mix of layered fill areas, good soils and rock throughout the project site.
Against an idyllic backdrop, construction crews in Cobb County, Ga., are converting an abandoned industrial site into a sustainable planned community. The mixed-used project, known as Riverview Landing, will offer dining, retail and residential space, along with walking trails and other amenities.
“This is the first development on the Chattahoochee in about 40 years, so that alone makes this a really exciting project to be a part of,” said Devin Blankenship, senior development manager of Prestwick Companies. “On top of that, this whole development has been discussed for about eight years, and we are the first phase to get started, so it's significant in rebranding and jump starting this section of the river.”
Located 10 mi. from Midtown Atlanta and not far from the new Braves stadium, the project is expected to appeal to a broad base.
“Any chance to be on the river is a big deal, just from the access to parks, the activities and lifestyle it provides,” said Blankenship. “It is truly an amenity that can't be built.
More than 430 mi. long, the Chattahoochee River rises in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and flows southwesterly toward the Alabama state line. It ultimately merges with the Flint River and other tributaries at Lake Seminole near Bainbridge, to form the Apalachicola River that flows into the Florida Panhandle.
“For years this part of the river had been looked down on as industrial and dirty, but many groups have been and continue to work toward cleaning up the river and making it safe for use. That goal has been accomplished by groups such as the Chattahoochee River Keeper, along with many others, and now it is one of few areas close to downtown that has great opportunities to allow people to live on the river.”
Blankenship said the City of Smyrna has been a key partner in completing the deal.
“As part of the development, they are getting a new 12-acre city park located directly on the river. There are also discussions about how this park will be connected by various paths that will tie into the beltline, so this is really just the beginning.”
The master plan of Riverview Landing first surfaced about 10 years ago, and has changed hands a couple of times.
“When the most recent master developer got hold of it and approached Prestwick, we jumped on it,” said Blankenship. “This is close to our office, and we really believe in the site and vision.
“Our total development cost for the apartments is roughly $50 million.
“There will be 310 apartments. The rest of the development will consist of townhome and single-family development.”
The Eddy, the first phase of development, will include apartments, a public park, retail, a coffee shop, pet spa, dog park and resort style pool and fitness center. The first building is expected to open in April 2019, with the others completed six months later.
Riverview Landing Phase I will total 378,000 gross sq. ft. with five stories. Bryan Croft, senior project manager of Prestwick Companies, said the assignment is not without its share of issues.
“This project site has multiple earthwork and utility installation challenges with the proximity to the river and various soil conditions, and is a brownfield site we are cleaning up. Maintaining traffic flow on Riverview Road while construction is underway is also a concern. The road has heavy industrial traffic, and serves as a cut-through for many people commuting, so we are diligent in make sure that our disturbance to them is minimal.”
Maintaining open access to all areas while managing the delivery and unloading of construction materials is another concern, as are outdoor conditions.
“Weather is always a challenge on multi-family projects, since our construction duration usually goes through multiple seasons, from extreme amounts of moisture to drought conditions,” said Croft. “Atlanta has experienced a lot of rain this year, which has added to this. We plan ahead and prepare the site to handle the weather with the least amount of impact, as well as scheduling the individual tasks so that there's generally something to accomplish each week, with or without weather delays.”
Work began in February 2018 and should be completed near the end of 2019.
“We are working on mass grading operations and underground utilities, and the installation of our retaining walls,” said Croft. “We recently began the structural concrete work. We've been continuing with the mass grading and site utility work, which has been ongoing, but have already completed the install of geo-piers for our site closet to the river, and have completed the rough grading for the city park that will be dedicated at the end of the job.”
Building the apartments involves numerous stages of construction.
“We began work with a site that was lightly forested and grassed with a few small structures to be removed,” said Croft. “Following structural concrete installation, the framing process begins, followed by exterior dry-in and interior finishes. This is standard wood framing with a mixture of brick and facades. Our interiors are Class-A finish quality, so we will make sure the level of craftsmanship is up to par. Getting the asphalt base installed and the buildings dried in will be the key turning point in our schedule.”
Some of the milestone tasks during construction include: utility hookups, completion of structural concrete, building dry-in and final inspections and completion of the city park. Because crews are working at an abandoned industrial site, Croft said the prep work was more involved.
“With any site that had a former use, there's always a concern about buried materials, such as tree stumps, concrete or other materials that must be removed and hauled off. With this being a brownfield site, we have gone the extra mile to make sure the soils are being tested and recorded properly and that our haul-off goes to the appropriate sites.”
Croft also noted that the tree save buffer and erosion control measures required along the Chattahoochee River are extensive; however, they are necessary to protect the river from uncontrolled run-off.
“Our design is very thorough; the installation took quite a bit of time and the continued maintenance has allowed us to perform above the standard project site. We are very proud that we have not suffered a failure in our erosion control measures to date, and will continue our diligent maintenance of the measures to ensure the quality of our project.”
Croft said the park will be a great asset to the neighborhood and surrounding community.
“Our plan is to provide a separate parking area for the park, as well as refurbishment of the existing dock and stage, addition of an impervious foot path, a grassed field area, an outdoor amphitheater, as well as other landscape and hardscape improvements. The retail areas of the building tie into the park nicely, so we are working closely with the owners and the designers to ensure the transition and future public use of these areas are flawless and flow well together.”
Excavation work on the project is extensive, with a mix of layered fill areas, good soils and rock throughout the project site.
“During our erosion control sediment pond excavation, we found soils that required screening, as well as 'soft' spots that required the addition of aggregate piers. We encountered rock areas that required additional equipment and measures for removal. Overall, the total site has been an interesting mix of materials that required a unique approach to overcome.”
Workers are moving approximately 75-100,000 total cu. yd. of material on the project site. Equipment being used during construction includes: large-scale excavators, dozers, off-road dump trucks, sheeps-foot vibratory rollers, a soil screener and a rock busting ram-hoe. Materials include structural concrete, wood framing, structural steel, cementitious siding, asphaltic shingle roofing, EPDM roofing, granite and quartz countertops, LVT and ceramic tile flooring, as well as typical insulation, sheetrock and paint.
As for the most time-consuming part of the job, Croft said, “Site work and utilities always take a long time on a project this size, followed by framing dry-in and then the general finishes portion of the project.”
He added, “We are proud to be a part of the revitalization of this area and provide a quality place to live near this iconic river. We are very pleased to work with the City of Smyrna and Cobb County through this exciting venture. We believe the river park and dog park will be a great addition to the outdoor lifestyle that is vibrant in our community.”
Brad Lutz, Associate AIA of Humphreys & Partners Architects, said “The Riverview Landing project is located in what was, and still partially is, an industrial corridor, so the vision for the project was to create an entirely different feel and experience of a community that's a much more suitable neighbor to a riverfront location and park area.
“The Eddy development is the only multi-family component of the master plan, so there was a unique opportunity to introduce elements to the buildings that would be a bridge between residents of the development and members of the greater community as a whole,” he added.
“One of the elements of the existing site was a farmer's market that brought neighbors and members of the public to the area of the site and aimed to create a meeting place along the river,” Lutz explained. “The new development tries to build and expand upon that idea, bringing both a higher intensity of residents within close proximity to the riverfront, but also introducing amenity elements like a coffee shop, restaurant and co-working spaces, which didn't exist previously in the area, and offer a host of reasons to make better use of the riverfront setting.”
Lutz said the topography on the site posed a major challenge in finding a way to accommodate the basics of the program on the site, while still having buildings of appropriate scale and style to create a residential and walkable feel.
“Another challenge is the fact that the site is bisected by a somewhat busy Riverview Road, so quite a bit of attention was paid to create safe and recognizable crossing zones that allow a bridging between the development to the north with all of the shared amenity areas on the riverfront portion of the site. This includes instruction of landscape medians, bike lanes and wide pedestrian friendly sidewalks to reinforce the walkable community feel.”
The style of the development aims to capture a feeling of a clean, modern, but relaxed, atmosphere.
“The actual materials and massing is fairly traditional in composition, with a mix of brick, siding and other typical elements, but the look is simplified with a more monochromatic 'white-washed' appearance, as well as high contrast for the trim and door elements — somewhat of a 'modern farmhouse' feel,” said Lutz. “The areas we're most excited about are the ones that are more open to both residents and non-residents, including the café space at the corner of the main building, with its walk-up service window along the main elevation.
“One other element of the main building amenity space is a co-working type element, which provides a great flexible space for entrepreneurs or work-from-home residents to have an area walkable to their home with the feel and support of a full office space. We've also seen these spaces as great areas for interaction and opportunities for neighbors to meet and collaborate. The exterior areas around the site really drive home the connection between the development and the surrounding natural amenity, including laid back bocce courts on the back of the building fronting the river, a unique elevated pool area with a fitness center and cabanas that also face towards the river and several top-level open roof deck spaces.”
The development also will be animal-friendly.
“In addition to paths throughout the site for walks, there is a pet spa near the pool area where residents can pamper their pets a bit. All of these areas make sure the users of the spaces experience the connection with the river, and feel an overall sense of community throughout the development.”
Lutz explained that having a river on the job site was an opportunity not lost on the creative team.
“Many residents are searching for communities that don't just check the boxes on amenities or features, but are drawn to something that offers a unique character or story behind it. Riverview Landing is such a rare setting that truly reinforces a lifestyle that is connected with the riverfront, and makes it a key amenity in itself.
“Residents in the target demographic are also drawn to a community that offers a more active experience, so having access to the river frontage and park area for running or outdoor activities, in addition to the typical fitness type facilities, is another key differentiator.”
According to Lutz, a sustainable approach was extremely important in the overall design of the community.
“The redevelopment presented a huge opportunity to transform the site from a flawed industrial site to a new community that's directly focused on the natural elements of the location. The buildings themselves are stepped along the fairly steep grade to preserve the natural fall of the terrain, and also to draw further focus towards the river.”
Lutz added, “Once the various elements are complete, the desire is for Riverview Landing to be seen as a true community and neighborhood. Careful consideration was paid to balance the buildings and amenities areas to encourage walkability and opportunities for interaction throughout the site.
“We are also very hopeful that the public spaces will become a meeting place for both residents of the community and people from the larger surrounding area to be able to interact and experience the backdrop of the river and park, and change their perception of the Chattahoochee from one of a blighted industrial past to one of a beautiful natural amenity.”