For the first time, Milton residents will have access to a food hall concept, office space, restaurants and condo units all in one place.

The Market District at Crabapple development—a high-density, mixed-use development under construction on the east side of Birmingham Highway and just south of Crabapple Crossing Elementary School—is on track to open three of the project’s eight buildings beginning this fall, according to Brent Beecham, partner and developer of the project. Construction on the site began in early February, but total build-out will not be complete for three or four years, he said.

“Everybody wants to protect the farmland in Milton, and I love that. [My family and I] used to have a horse farm off of Birmingham Road. That’s what makes Milton special,” Beecham said. “But how do you protect farmland and still adapt to the growth? You have to build upwards, rather than only outwards.”

In preparation for the food hall concept, Economic Development Manager Sarah LaDart is working on an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance, which would allow food halls, breweries, craft beer and/or wine markets, courtyard markets and other alcohol-related establishments to be accepted into the city.

This amendment would also revise the annual alcohol-to-food sales ratio for licensed establishments to accommodate new restaurant concepts planned for the city, LaDart said.

“Thirteen years ago [before Milton’s incorporation in 2006], it wasn’t a thought that downtown Crabapple should have a food hall or a micro-distillery or brewery,” LaDart said. “The opportunities that our developers, beyond even Market District, are building in downtown Crabapple lends itself to these cool concepts.”

Creating a new downtown

Beecham, who grew up in Milton, said Crabapple used to be known as a “sleepy place” defined by the three red-topped silos—which still stand today—near Hwy. 140 and Crabapple Road. However, after Milton became an incorporated city in 2006 and developed the Downtown Milton/Crabapple Placemaking Plan in 2017, this began to change.

The placemaking plan focuses on the cross section of Hwy. 372 and Broadwell, Mid Broadwell, Mayfield and Crabapple roads, and it includes 109,350 square feet of mixed-use developments; 19,400 square feet of new retail space; 1,124 additional parking spaces; 53,700 square feet of office space; 21 condos above retail spaces; 104 townhomes; six single-family homes; 14 senior-living units; and 26 live-work units, all phased out in five to 10 years.

“This project is a key component in the creation of a downtown core for the city—a walkable area where people can eat, socialize, live and work,” Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood said in a Feb. 28 email.

Market District at Crabapple falls in several of these categories, one of which is the live-work units. According to Stephanie Krank, commercial real estate agent and director of sales and leasing for the project, the plans include 42 condos—80% of which are for active seniors ages 55 and older—as well as a total of nine to 12 restaurant tenants in 27,000 square feet of restaurant space throughout the project, and between 24,000 and 34,000 square feet of office space.

“Office space is important because you bring in the lunch crowd. But in order to have consistent people eating dinner, going to the craft beer and wine market, you have to have people that live here,” LaDart said. “If everybody leaves Crabapple at 5 p.m., that’s not sustainable. Having people who live here is what makes it a vibrant and sustainable development.”

Bringing in a food hall, restaurants

Part of the draw of the Market District development is the 9,000-square-foot food hall, LaDart said, because it is the first of its kind in the Milton area. However, bringing in a food hall meant the city’s alcohol ordinance had to adapt to the new developments coming to Milton.

LaDart is working with City Council members to pass an amendment to the city’s alcohol ordinance, which would allow for a licensed establishment to derive a minimum of 30% of its total annual gross food and beverage sales from the sale of food—leaving 70% of the sales open for the sale of alcoholic beverages. This is a change from the city’s current ordinance, which mandates a 50-50 food-to-beverage ratio.

LaDart said the ordinance change would mean higher-end spirits can be offered in Milton without the standard bar scene.

“Midtown and Buckhead chefs are interested in coming up here, but with a 50-50 food-to-alcohol ratio, their concepts don’t work. But we don’t want bars—bars are strictly prohibited in Milton,” LaDart said. “But at that 70-30 [ratio], you still have responsibility of serving food, but you’re able to serve that craft cocktail or that $100 glass of bourbon.”

The food hall—which will house five restaurants—also has a 2,100-square-foot mezzanine bar and restaurant area, featuring patio seating as well, according to site plans. Beecham said the food hall is slated to open in late summer 2021.

One restaurant in the development will be named Billy Allen’s, featuring a late-night breakfast menu with two outdoor patios, a piano bar and access to the rooftop, Krank said. Owner Billy Allen is an Atlanta native and also owns Whisky Mistress and Blue Martini in Buckhead.

Additionally, Cup of Joe Holdings LLC—a locally owned business—will open a licensed Starbucks coffee shop in building one of the project, combining a national brand with local ownership and operation. While design plans are still being finalized, this will be the first shop in the country to house Starbucks’ brand new designs, Krank said.

Both restaurants are expected to open by this fall.

“All of our restaurant and office tenants so far have been Milton residents—even our one very large national brand that’s coming in, has a Milton resident behind it. These are your neighbors, your friends,” Krank said.

In addition, LaDart helped start a city program called Meet Me in Milton, a block party in downtown Milton that features various events and live music as well as food and drinks from local businesses from 4-8 p.m. The program, which was designed to help draw people to Milton after 5 p.m., kick-starts its 2020 season April 18.

“We wanted to start small before all of the development is out of the ground,” LaDart said. “Market District will help make Milton a place that people think of to go.”

Traffic, density concerns

With the goal of developing a live, work and play environment in the Crabapple area, Beecham said traffic is always a concern for these types of projects because it means more people will live, shop and work there.

However, he said walkability was a major point for this project, especially with the shops along Crabapple Road near City Hall, Milton High School, CCES and the variety of neighborhoods within walking distance of the project. There will also be 15,322 square feet of basement-level parking in the Market District development, site plans show.

“There’s a density in this area that allows us to build a walkable community around this, which is why we have sidewalks and trails near us,” Beecham said.

To get a head start on the potential influx of traffic, the city of Milton is in the process of completing the extension of Charlotte Drive from Mayfield Road to Birmingham Highway—which falls right at the southern portion of the Market District development—by this spring, Lockwood said in the Feb. 28 email.

The city is also working on completing a roundabout at the intersection of Charlotte and Mayfield to help with the already-congested area, Beecham said.

“Our whole goal is to bring people together and make Crabapple the place to be,” Beecham said.