Hard to believe it’s been six months since an ultra-mega development proposal in Clayton County lifted eyebrows—and furrowed many others—across metro Atlanta.
A more predictable scenario, perhaps, is that a novice development team isn’t knee-deep in building “The Roman,” a glistening collection of luxury skyrises on a befuddlingly large scale, about eight miles south of Atlanta’s airport.
Half a year after a company called Roman United, helmed by newcomer developer Jacques Roman, led extravagant groundbreaking proceedings in a Clayton County parking lot, a long-vacant former big-box shopping center along Lake City’s main thoroughfare remains exactly that, as the AJC reports this week. And some Clayton County officials are mulling whether to cast the development team aside and potentially rake back more than a half-million dollars the county paid Roman and company for engineering and architectural design work.
Touted as having an $800-million price tag, The Roman proposal was pitched as a replacement for the eyesore former Ingles grocery that would help establish Clayton County as a regional—if not global—destination, rising from 26 acres straddling Lake City and Morrow.
In August, Roman United set an ambitious goal to complete phase one of project—a 7,500-seat amphitheatre and 27-story condo building—by August this year. Eventual plans call for four luxury high-rises standing at least 25 stories tall with no workforce housing component but designs that wouldn’t be out of place in Dubai.
But as the AJC relays, the old Ingles (vacant for more than a decade) remains standing, and no indication of site work is to be found.
Beyond that, Roman has yet to apply for permission to demolish the building—or for a state-level assessment required for projects of such scale. Roman cancelled a scheduled interview with Urbanize Atlanta in late August, and he’s not retuning the AJC’s calls at the six-month mark after the groundbreaking ceremonies, the newspaper reports.
Given the delays, the Clayton County Commission is considering different ways of having a $4-million, 17,000-square-foot business incubator built on site to serve as a springboard for local entrepreneurs. Legal discussions with Roman are limiting how much the county can say about the $559,000 paid to Roman for design work, or whether those funds might be recouped. Meanwhile, Lake City Mayor Ronald Dodson is expressing frustrations that “absolutely nothing has happened” at the 3,000-person city’s largest piece of unused property, the deceased Ingles, as the newspaper reports.
Clayton County’s development authority, Invest Clayton, put out a call for proposals for the former Ingles site in 2019 and selected Roman United’s bids from three placed.
Roman previously said he’d scoured metro Atlanta for the perfect site to build a futuristic, state-of-the-art complex with international architects but was won over by Clayton County’s “philosophy and mission.” Officially titled “The Roman at Clayton County Entertainment Complex,” or “The Roman at CCEC” for short, the project’s site is a dozen miles from Atlanta’s commercial center, where projects of such scale are traditionally built. The deal goes that Roman would lease the site from the county for just $10 annually for the next 50 years.
The county has agreed to supply $4 million in sales tax funding to cover construction costs that won’t be shelled out if the incubator component falls apart. Only time, it appears, will tell.
Find a reminder of The Roman proposal's context—and mythical scale—in the gallery above.
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