A new project was unveiled this week, bringing excitement and a little trepidation to Plaza Midwood. The project titled “Commonwealth” will sit at the intersection of Central Avenue and Pecan Avenue where the current Central Square shopping plaza sits. The site has long been home to shops and a large parking lot that has been the setting for community events. The total of 12 acres will be redeveloped by Crosland Southeast in partnership with Nuveen Real Estate. BB+M, Axiom, Land Design and 505 Design are the architects for the project.

The plan for the site includes apartments, retail, and offices. There are some historical buildings on the site from the old mill and they will be incorporated into the design. Additionally there will be a pedestrian-friendly “main street” for the project with green space and artwork.

Developers have worked closely with the neighboring community to determine the community needs and wants and to help refine the plan. They have landed on a mix of retail and restaurants, a boutique hotel, a 383-unit luxury apartment complex, and over 400,000 square feet of office space.

Residents have expressed concern that the new project needs to preserve the character of the neighborhood which trends towards the quirky. Unique businesses have left over the past few years to be replaced by chain restaurants and national brand stores. Residents want that trend to reverse so that small, locally owned businesses can thrive. This project is hopefully going to buck that trend. 

Some of the longtime tenants from the property have closed or relocated since the property was purchased last year. Developers paid almost $50 million for the site and it is not clear if those businesses will be coming back to the project once build-out is complete. Bistro Le Bon and The Roasting Company are still operating on the site and it looks like building will start in the fall and could be completed in phases. This means that existing tenants could potentially keep operating in the current spaces until construction is underway.

Proponents of the project are heralding the fact that the property has been underutilized for years. A large parking lot is not the highest and best use of the land. They hope that it is enough to overcome community concerns about the height of the buildings and if there is enough space for artists and musicians. It should become a vibrant part of the community.

The recently expanded Lynx Gold Line will eventually run right by the property with a stop nearby. This will likely bring people from many other parts of the city and could be a great draw for the businesses who end up leasing office and retail spaces. It can also be great for people who live in the apartments to commute to work. The Lynx Silver Line, which has yet to be built, is supposed to have a stop right on the property which could further increase property values and boost the community.

The project is set to begin construction in the next few months. There are already construction fences at the site. The first phase will include apartments, offices, retail, and restaurants. Completion is expected in 2024. The next phase is the hotel and more offices set to begin in 2023 and fully wrap up in 2026.