A big crowd turned out for the Piedmont Village groundbreaking. Construction is underway, with streets and utilities in place. Pictured with shovels are (l to r) are Jasper City Manager Brandon Douglas, Pickens Chamber Executive Director Amberle Godfrey, Southern Investment Realty President Neil Hughes, Pickens Commission Chair Rob Jones, and Shelby Feinberg with Piedmont Residential. Developer Gary Copeland can be seen directly behind Feinberg.
City and county leaders and members of the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce gathered Monday morning, June 17, to break ground on a large mixed-use development being touted as a “high-caliber legacy project” many say will positively impact development here.
The Piedmont Village development is located behind Piedmont Mountainside Hospital on Highway 515. The first phase includes 72 townhomes for residents 55 and up. Construction is already underway on this phase. Phase II includes an assisted living facility and more townhomes. Groundbreaking on Phase II is expected sometime next year. Phase III is a retail area that will include a town square, amphitheater, hotels, spas, trails, restaurants and additional medical outparcels.
This is a project of MSMD, LLC, developer Gary Copeland, and Southeast Investment Realty. The property surrounds Piedmont Hospital and the three medical offices, which serves an 11-county area to the Tennessee border.
Piedmont Village is what Neil Hughes, president of Southeast Investment Realty called a “legacy project” for Copeland. He said the value of doing a first-rate project is that it sets a tone for the community and raises property values for the surrounding area.
“There’s a tendency when you’re a rural county, you want that tax revenue, you want that activity, but a lot of the times it happens without a lot of planning and so I feel like this is a great opportunity,” Hughes said. “Gary was very smart. He was smart enough to wait until the timing was right and wait until he knew it was going to be a top-quality project. He’s tied to this community. This project he designed is a legacy for him and for his family and for his community. He’s been really clear if it’s not good and it’s not first quality we don’t want it.”
The concept was designed by Wakefield Beasley & Associates, the architectural design firm also responsible for the landmark Avalon community in Alpharetta, and developments behind Walmart in Canton, where 90 homes have sold in the last two-and-a-half years.
Piedmont Residential has come on as builders. They have been involved in several successful projects across the state including the Canton developments near Walmart. Hughes called them the “most efficient home builders” he knows of, and added that because they construct around 400 homes a year they can offer lower prices that allow homes to be sold on the market in the $200,000 range.
Hughes said senior living options are especially important in Pickens County, where 22 percent of the population is over 65, above the national average of 13 percent, and 49 percent of the population is over 55.
“This kind of housing is needed,” he said. “It’s going to be age-restricted, and what I call ‘lock it, leave it, love it.’ There will be an HOA in place and maintenance provided. That way if you have say a 70-year-old couple and they can’t get out and deal with lawn care equipment they won’t have to. It will be taken care of. There is also a benefit to seniors and peace of mind for their families being so close to a hospital.”
Hughes said they have already received a “tremendous amount of inquires” for homes at Piedmont Village.
“We’ve heard from realtors that seniors want to put their houses on the market but don’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “People who need senior or assisted living like this have to move out of the community when they might not want to.”
Developers are also working with the Corps of Engineers and the Limestone Valley RC&D to raise the level of the lake at the property, which they said was lowered at some point in the past – likely as Highway 515 was being built – when an inlet pipe was tampered with. He said the lake can be raised 12 – 15 feet if the pipe is repaired, which would make a nice water feature for residents. They are also considering a north Georgia wine center as part of their mixed-used offerings for the community.
Speaking at the groundbreaking, Pickens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amberle Godfrey praised the impact of a community such as this.
“This development will not only provide a nice neighborhood for our active seniors, it will also have a snowball effect on our community,” said Godfrey. “The residents here will have visitors who will bring additional commerce to Pickens County.”
The 68.22 acres around the hospital was rezoned to a Planned Unit Development, or PUD. In a PUD designation, a developer is required to lay out a detailed development plan, which the city council must approve. Jasper Mayor John Weaver has called PUDs the “best way to build” as they are more transparent and require council approval in a public setting for any changes made to the original approved plans.