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Proposed ‘largest spa in North America,’ south Forsyth mixed-use development headed to BOC
passport springs and spa
Proposed site plan for Passport Springs & Spa. Photo courtesy Passport Experiences.

A project that has been referred to as the “largest spa in North America” and mixed-use development in south Forsyth County are among projects heading to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

Both projects were discussed at the Forsyth County Planning Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, June 28, where planning members voted to recommend approval of the spa project and denial of the mixed-use development.

Here’s what the planning board had to say. 

‘Largest spa in North America’

Applicant Passport Experiences has plans to build what has been called the “largest spa in North America” through a request for a conditional-use permit to build an outdoor commercial recreational facility and a massage parlor associated with a personal service establishment in buildings totaling 76,811 square feet with 261 parking spaces on 10.6 acres currently zoned commercial business district (CBD).

In a unanimous vote, planning members recommended approval of the project. 

“I’ve been on the planning commission a long time, I think there’s never an application in my district or countywide that’s appeared that I have been more excited about than this one,” said District 2 planning commissioner Stacy Guy. “This will really be a shot of adrenaline for The Collection [at Forsyth]. The Collection has had trouble for a long time. This is the type of experience that I think is a regional draw, not just for metro Atlanta but the southeast United States. I think it will literally put our community on the map.”

The proposal shows the spa located at 410 Peachtree Parkway, which is adjacent to The Collection.

Variances have been requested to reduce the pedestrian landscape zone on the south, east and west sides of the facility from 8 feet to zero feet, reduce the sidewalk zone on the south and west sides of the facility from 6 feet to zero feet and reduce the façade landscape zone on the south, east and west sides of the facility from 6 feet to zero feet. 

“What’s being proposed is an outdoor recreation facility. We despise the fact that it is described as a massage parlor, but that is what is in the code. This will be a professional spa, massage facility,” said Ethan Underwood, an attorney representing the developer.

“This is going to be, I think, giving that shot in the arm to The Collection that we’ve all been looking for and they say they have been looking for years and years,” Underwood said. 

Passport Experiences CEO Jacob Bloch said the development would emulate spas across the world, including those from Japan, Italy, Costa Rica and Israel. 

“This is going to be the first hot spring in this metro area, but it will also be the first one in the world because we are going to be recreating the most incredible hot springs experiences from around the world but doing it all at one place,” he said. 

“What that means is recreating not just the mineral content itself of these pools but the landscaping and hardscaping, architectural features, cuisines, sounds, smells from these areas,” he said.

Bloch said projections show that over 10 years the spa would bring $551.7 million in economic impact, 466 jobs, $6 million in property tax, $10 million in sales tax and $5 million in lodging tax 

The proposal is scheduled to be heard before county commissioners at the BOC’s Thursday, July 21 meeting. 

Northpoint Capital Investment Holdings 

A planned mixed-use development in south Forsyth is headed to county commissioners for a final decision after the planning board voted to recommend denial of the request due to density issues. 

The applicant Northpoint Capital Investment Holdings has requested to rezone 140.6 acres on Fowler Hill, Union Hill and Mullinax roads from agricultural (A1), neighborhood shopping (NS) and single-family residential restricted (R2R) districts to master-planned district (MPD) for 250 residential lots and 228 attached residential units with a density of 3.40 units per acre and commercial buildings totaling 63,650 square feet with 294 parking spaces.

District 3 planning member Jessica Thorsen said the developer had met with nearby property owners and “really the only hang-up still left on this is the density.”

The three figures given for density were 3.28 units per acre, 3.4 units per acre and 2.98 units per acre.

“I guess my frustration is that we had the public hearing in the hopes that we could come to some sort of settlement and get some consistency and some sort of compromise, and I feel like we’re almost there but there’s a lot of unknowns out there that make me uncomfortable,” said Kerry Hill, planning commissioner for District 1.

Thorsen said she felt the only unknown was the density, which would have a difference of about 40 residential units in the development.

According to the concept plan submitted for the project, the development will be separated into four districts:

Commercial district at the southern end of the property, at the intersection of Mullinax and Union Hill roads;

A low-density residential district north of Fowler Hill Road;

A medium-density district south of Fowler Hill Road;

And a high-density residential district between the commercial and medium-density districts.

The plans also show the breakdown of the project to be 7.5 acres (about 5.4% of the project) of commercial and office, 90.9 acres (64.6%) residential and 42.2 acres (30%) of the project open space. 

Variances are being sought to reduce the commercial component from 15% to 5.38% and increase the percentage of total residential units for townhomes from 30% to 50%.

A public hearing for the project was held in May and no hearing was held at Tuesday’s meeting.

The project is planned to go to the BOC on July 21.