JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The early stages of developing a downtown Johns Creek are underway.
At a recreation and parks committee meeting on February 16, members offered recommendations for the development and use of Creekside Park, the city’s first stage of the proposed downtown.
The park will occupy space behind City Hall within the 21 acres currently owned by the city. It includes two ponds and much of the land surrounding the ponds.
City council members discussed preliminary sketches for the development and shared recommendations with city staff, but during a business meeting on Feb. 7, members asked Deputy Director Kimberly Greer to collect the comments from the recreation and parks committee.
Initial plans include an amphitheater directly behind City Hall, terraced seating around the North Pond, and a pathway along Medlock Bridge Road.
City council discussions also included the construction of several fountains in the North Pond. Councilman Larry DiBiase floated a potential “fire and ice” fountain that could spout water and pyrotechnics.
At the February 16 parks committee meeting, Greer asked members for their thoughts on several design points before submitting the project to a consultant for a formal visual render. Rendering is the first step before the project can move on to collecting quotes and proposals from contractors.
However, Greer said no construction could begin on the land within the next 24 to 30 months. This is his estimate of how long it will take the city to receive the proper permits and complete the hydrological and environmental studies necessary to determine the impact of construction on the ponds, watershed and surrounding ecosystems.
Think about pedestrians
In his first request from committee members, Greer asked for suggestions on the placement of the Medlock Bridge trailhead connection point. The trail, included in the city’s proposal for local sales tax dollars for special transportation purposes, should connect to Medlock Bridge Road to match plans, Greer said. If the trail winds too far from the road, it may not be eligible for TSPLOST funding.
The committee considered three options, but the majority settled on a plan that the trail would follow the western shore of the North Pond and connect to Medlock at East Johns Crossing.
The other two options had the trail connecting Medlock Bridge further south.
Committee members could not come to full agreement on the width of the trail. While the city council has already opted for a 15-foot-wide path, committee members have suggested widths of 10 and 12 feet.
The trail from Webb Bridge Park to Alpharetta is 12 feet wide and in most places on the Atlanta belt line, Greer said, the trail is 14 feet wide.
The committee also disagreed with the city council on the best method of providing pedestrian access to the park from the west side of the Medlock Bridge. Council members said they were inclined to prefer a tunnel, citing cost as a key factor.
Greer’s “back of the napkin” estimates for a bridge were around $6.5–7 million, about twice the cost of a tunnel.
Johns Creek Seeks Grants for Transportation Projects
Even so, committee members said they would like council to reconsider, citing their admiration for the recently installed pedestrian bridge at Peachtree Corners.
Some members, including Christi Wynn, said they wanted the bridge to serve as a “show piece” for the town and that it would help with “branding”.
Further talk about the crosswalk, Greer said, will likely be put off until more work has been done on the park itself.
Also during the meeting, committee member and technology professional Adam Cleary raised a concern about the location of the amphitheater. He suggested the city conduct a sound study to ensure that the planned location for the amphitheater behind City Hall would not be plagued with issues such as feedback and echoes due to proximity. from the pond.
Moving event sites
Later, Johns Creek Director of Recreation Kirk Franz outlined proposed changes to the town’s annual events that would integrate and draw residents into the town center. At their January 29 retreat, City Council members discussed the desire to increase recreation and events around the downtown core to build excitement around the project.
Franz proposed that the city’s Easter/Spring Park Party and one of the city’s summer movie nights be moved to downtown from the tech park.
Historically, the Easter Extravaganza/Spring Park party was held at Shakerag Park. Summer movie nights were held in Newtown Park.
Additionally, Franz suggested combining the city’s Founders’ Day parade with its Christmas tree and dreidel lighting ceremony into a holiday festival in and around City Hall. City council members have previously discussed buying a 60-foot Christmas tree to sit atop City Hall during the holiday season.
“We think this could be an opportunity to really create a signature event that can stay here at City Hall, and continue as a new tradition,” Franz said.
Chris Jackson, chairman of the recreation and parks committee, agreed.
“I think while we’re building downtown, you want these things here long term anyway,” Jackson said. “If you want to attract people, those are the kinds of things that can help attract those people rather than having them in different parts of town…you have a central focus.”
The committee accepted all the proposed changes for special events.
The next Recreation and Parks Committee meeting is scheduled for March 23.