The video moved through renderings of a seemingly idyllic community with visions of a town square full of greenspace, a movie theater and a food hall, restaurants and retail shops, a fitness center and a craft brewery. It weaved through hypothetical streets lined with upscale houses and townhomes.
The video was met with curious silence from the crowd gathered in a meeting room at Sharon Forks Library on Monday, until it moved to a section of apartments.
Instantly, the room grumbled.
“I’m going to address that,” said Terry Shook, a co-partner of the architecture firm Shook Kelley based in Charlotte, N.C.
Shook presented the latest iteration of Fuqua Development’s controversial mixed-use development proposed for 76 acres at the corner of Peachtree Parkway (Hwy. 141) and Brookwood Road.
Called Brookwood Quarters, the project would feature 29 private homes, 129 townhomes and 250 apartments with a density of 5.36 units per acre, along with commercial buildings totaling 304,138 square feet with 1,579 parking spaces, according to a rezoning request filed with Forsyth County on Dec. 7, 2018.
The request will be considered for recommendation by the Forsyth County Planning Commission before going to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in mid-February.
Shook presented a slick multi-media slideshow that crafted a narrative around the demise of the town center that once held together the social fabric of the community and Shook Kelley’s mission to resurrect such spaces.
The centerpiece of Shook’s pitch was Birkdale Village, a mixed-used development that his firm designed more than 15 years ago in Huntersville, N.C., a suburb just north of Charlotte. He showed pictures of Fourth of July festivities and children playing in the community square’s water sprayground.
“It is the de facto downtown,” Shook said.
Shook envisioned Brookwood Quarters filling the same role.
“I would love to put one in your community,” he said.
The crowd was largely unmoved. They instead honed in on the proposed 250 apartments that would sit atop retail space and the potential impact the four-story units might have on traffic congestion, overcrowding of schools and the surrounding area’s character.
“Apartments are a scary word in Forsyth County,” said one resident.
“We love this area the way it is,” said another.
“We don’t want these kinds of things here,” another resident said.
Kristine Torre, a nearby resident and realtor, said she’s been in private meetings the last two years with Jeff Fuqua, the principal founder of Fuqua Development, and community stakeholders about the project. She likes the idea of a walkable shopping village, she said, but wishes it didn’t include the residential component, especially the apartments. She’s started an online petition against their inclusion in the project. It has more than 800 signatures, she said.
“It’s a transient element,” Torre said. “I think if people are buying a home or townhome, they’re more invested in the community because they’re financially invested there.”
Some lamented the lack of Class A commercial space, the kind that might bring more jobs to Forsyth County and thus balance the county’s tax digest, which currently relies more on property taxes. A few worried about the impact on Caney Creek Preserve. Others wondered how the apartments would be managed after Fuqua Development left town.
Fuqua tried his best to assuage residents’ concerns. He called Brookwood Quarters a “pretty amazing, glamorous project” that “happens to include a lot of fascinating things.” He guessed that rent for the apartments would cost around $2,000 a month, and that a real estate firm willing to invest upwards of $90 million to own the units would be good stewards.
Greer Scoggins, Fuqua’s vice president of development, explained adjustments made to the project’s street system and the efforts made to preserve nearby Caney Creek. Monte Hewett, president of Hewett Homes, described a residential area that would reflect the current trend toward walkable communities that appeal to empty nesters, baby boomers and millennials, and Shook insisted such communities alleviate traffic congestion since residents make fewer trips in their vehicles.
Some in attendance supported the project.
“This is a project that will add life to south Forsyth,” said Claudia Castro, deputy director of Smart Growth Forsyth County. “South Forsyth has nothing. This is a gem.”
Said resident Ken Griffey: “You can’t stop progress, folks. What you have to do is decide what kind of progress you want.”
Still, at the end of the meeting, it came back to the apartments.
Previous versions of Brookwood Quarters had not included apartments, according to Torre. Why, she asked Fuqua, did the project suddenly include apartments again?
“Are you willing to do this project without apartments?” Torre asked.
“No,” Fuqua said.