Published on September 2nd, 2015 |2
22-story apartment/retail project unveiled for Peachtree at Pharr Road
Mill Creek outlined its plans for the 500,000 square-foot project at Buckhead’s SPI-9 (Special Public Interest district) Development Review Committee meeting, including a request for six zoning variances for the proposed project at 3005 Peachtree Road, across Pharr Road from OliverMcMillan’s Buckhead Atlanta.
Three of the six variances were denied, although the door was left open for further discussion on one of those. and three were approved by the five members of the SPI-9 DRC.
BuckheadView announced in late June that Dallas-based Mill Creek had a contract on the 1.1-acre site that had been owned since 2007 by Buckhead real estate executive Dion Meltzer and his company Meltzer Group LLC. It presently is the home of Promove apartment locating service and a few small tenants short-term leases.
The properties just south of the Mill Creek tract on Peachtree—where Grand China restaurant and the Exxon service station have been located for years—also reportedly are under contract to Preserve Properties LLC for a possible apartment complex with ground-floor retail or office space. (Read earlier report on that property here.)
In June, Chad DuBeau, Mill Creek’s senior managing director for North Florida & Atlanta, confirmed that the company had a contract on the property at 3005 Peachtree Road, but told BuckheadView he could not say much more “because we are in our due diligence.”
At that time, BuckheadView speculated that the Buckhead development likely would be a high-rise building—like the one Mill Creek recently broke ground for in Midtown—because the tract of
land is only 1.1 acres. (See earlier story here.)
The Modera development in Midtown will be 23 stories tall with 435 apartments and 12,000 square feet ground-floor retail space.
“We are excited about the (Buckhead) project, but it is just too early to discuss specifics about it,” DuBeau, who is based out of Mill Creek’s Atlanta office, said in June.
He told BuckheadView he was aware the company would have to go through the review process for a Special Administrative Permit (SAP) and would have to present specific plans at that time. Wednesday was that time and the SPI-9 DRC meeting was the place.
The six zoning variations Mill Creek sought for the proposed development, which were presented to the DRC by its attorney Jessica Hill on Wednesday, include:
• To reduce the required walk zone from 10 feet to 8 feet on Pharr Road;
• To allow continuous planters in the amenity zone on Peachtree Road and Pharr Road consistent with the streetscape at Buckhead Atlanta;
• To allow alternative sidewalk paving consistent with the streetscape at Buckhead Atlanta;
• To reduce the number of loading spaces from four to three;
• To reduce the minimum required parking spaces from 773 to 592, or 1.3 spaces per residential unit in addition to 1 space per 300 square feet of retail; and,
• To allow a driveway to be closer than 100 feet from the nearest intersection or driveway on the same block face.
The first three variations were denied as presented at the Sept. 2 meeting because the committee members said they run against the intent of SPI-9 regulations for standardized streetscapes within the Buckhead Village area they and have been points of challenge by members of the DRC even with the development of Buckhead Atlanta.
The first to be denied was the reduction of the walk zone on Pharr Road from 10 feet to 8 feet, which was proposed to put in a 7-foot-wide continuous planting strip, which is not allowed for in the SPI-9 zoning regulations.
The other two denied variances have to do with matching the streetscape—continuous planters in the amenity zones along Peachtree and Pharr roads and alternative sidewalk paving—of Buckhead Atlanta. The SPI-9 DRC fought those variances with the OliverMcMillan folk regarding Buckhead Atlanta. They do not conform to SPI-9 zoning regulations and the committee denied the requests.
However, the committee left the door open for some compromise if Mill Creek can modify its plans and use pavers that conform to SPI-9 regulations rather than matching the ones used at Buckhead Atlanta.
As DRC member Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, told BuckheadView, “The SPI-9 zoning regulations, which were adopted after many months of negotiations and public participation meetings, are all about standards”—having standard streetscapes, building designs, etc. “OliverMcMillan was all about not being standard,” she added.
Now Mill Creek Residential wants to follow OliverMcMillan and break away from those standard streetscape designs that were adopted as part of SPI-9.
Harvey Wadsworth, vice president of development for the southeast for Mill Creek, told the DRC that the investor in the project wants to follow the Buckhead Atlanta look and wants to do longer planting strips rather than short planting areas separated to provide access to the roadway as prescribed by the SPI-9 regulations.
Starling told the Mill Creek group she did not feel they could use Buckhead Atlanta as their rationale to support the variances they are requesting, since it doesn’t follow the standards.
DuBeau seemed to accept the inevitable and told the committee, “We are here to cooperate. We have an investor who wants this, but we can manage that as well.”
Both DuBeau and Wadsworth said they were surprised at the committee’s rejection of their plans for the streetscapes. “We thought this would be celebrated as an upgrade,” DuBeau said.
Wadsworth told the DRC members, “The caliber of retail we are putting in there will demand the same emphasis as is present at Buckhead Atlanta.” But DuBeau countered, “I don’t think changing the planters from 7 feet to 5 feet is going to be a big deal. We have an equity partner who is very supportive of doing something high end and they like what is done at Buckhead Atlanta,” he added.
The single building is being constructed in an H shape to give the visual impression of two towers. It will have two courtyards on either side of the podium, which includes the 20,000 square feet of retail fronting on Peachtree and wrapping around the corner on Pharr Road, and several levels of the parking deck behind that the front units of residential.
Three levels of parking will be below ground and 70 percent will be either underground or hidden behind the retail and residential. The parking decks will have two access points–one on
Peachtree Road that will be right in/right out only, and one on Pharr off of Pharr Road at the back of the building.
“We are hiding the parking as best we can,” DuBeau told the committee. He said the parking is complicated because there is so much emphasis on the ground-floor retail. “It was a real challenge.” They will even have a special retail elevator from the underground parking.
All of the residential is above the retail level. There will not even be a leasing office or fitness center on the ground floor, only a residential lobby.
The Buckhead project will be Mill Creek’s third project in the city of Atlanta announced and/or started within about a year. The other two are its high-rise Modera development in Midtown at the intersection of Eighth and Williams streets and Modera Morningside, a low- to mid-rise development on Piedmont at Cheshire Bridge Road with apartments and ground-level retail.
Mill Creek Residential develops, acquires and operates high-quality apartment communities coast-to-coast. Since its start in 2011, the company has developed more than 15,000 apartment homes across 50-plus communities and acquired more than 2,000 apartment homes in some top national apartment markets.
According to the company’s website, it expects to deliver an additional 5,000-plus apartment in 2015 to its portfolio. Modera Morningside and Modera Midtown projects, total almost 750 of those new apartments and each includes ground-floor retail space. The Buckhead property would put the city of Atlanta’s contribution to Mill Creek’s new apartment total over 1,000.
Mill Creek Residential is also developing properties other metro Atlanta areas, including Sandy Springs and Cobb County through its Atlanta office, located at 3715 Northside Parkway, Building 200, Suite 725, in Buckhead.