Published on September 23rd, 2015 |4
Garden Hills mixed-use plan delayed again to address neighbor concerns
Brand Morgan, CEO of Brand Properties, stated in an email to BuckheadView, “We have committed to defer to next month in order to work on a few items the
neighborhood will like to see changed.”
That apparently means there will be no discussion of the proposed mixed-use business/retail development during the NPU-B Zoning Committee meeting on the night of Sept. 29, nor before the full NPU-B board at its meeting on Oct. 6. The earliest it now will be considered is Oct. 27.
Brand Properties proposes an office/retail development for the former Garden Hills shopping center site, at 2815 Peachtree Road NE. The project is designed to have boutique office space—in addition to the headquarters of Brand Properties—in a six-story building atop a six-story parking deck podium, with only two of the parking levels above the Peachtree Road grade level.
The proposed commercial element would be in two two-story building elements fronting on Peachtree Road, with the specialty retail on the right side of an entrance drive off Peachtree and a retail bank element encircled by the entrance and exit drive off Peachtree to the left side.
Brank Properties had expressed a desire to begin construction by the end of this year or very early in 2016. That may
now be delayed due to the continued deferrals of zoning reviews.
BuckheadView first learned of this most recent deferral through a communication in the Garden Hills neighborhood’s Town Crier newsletter, stating the civic association had received “a great deal of communication about the proposed redevelopment of the site next to Fellini’s Pizza and La Fonda on Peachtree Road near Rumson.”
The Crier notice said, “A number of neighbors have expressed concerns about the size, scope and character of the project. Our Civic Association will be in discussions with the developer over the coming weeks with the objective of modifying the proposal to make it more acceptable to the nearby neighbors and our neighborhood as a whole.”
Acknowledging that “something will be built on the site,” the Crier notice said, “it is important to work with the party who owns the property to make the best effort to come to some agreement which minimizes the negative impact on our community while allowing a viable development to move forward. The Civic Association will strive to reach that objective.”
Although the Garden Hills Civic Association would not discuss the specifics of the concerns it is discussing with the developer, the president of the Alhambra condominiums home owners association (the Alhambra is directly adjacent to the property) did send an email with concerns.
Alhambra HOA president Ben Howard wrote to BuckheadView that his board was still debating its position on “the location of a bank teller window within 100′ of the property line with the Alhambra.”
Howard explained, “Several homeowners are against supporting the idea even though the developer has offered to
write into the site plan many restrictions on its use and site additions used to dampen any noise from this use.”
Howard also said, “The board, in line with all owners who have voiced concern, does not support the curb cuts on Peachtree at present as there is a fear of increased traffic and safety concerns. These safety concerns include all pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,” he added.
“A request for a road study has not yet been granted nor has a request for a diagram showing the relationship between the road cuts and all the surrounding driveways on both the East and West sides of Peachtree, though we remain hopeful for both,” Howard wrote.
BuckheadView passed the Alhambra’s concerns, as well as those of other surrounding residences, to Morgan and asked if Brand Properties would address them.
“Send me the concerns you are hearing about the project and I will address them,” Morgan told BuckheadView and he did so within a couple of days.
Regarding the concerns voiced about the bank drive-thru, Morgan wrote, “In an effort to accommodate the request of the residents of Alhambra, we are looking into other design options that would eliminate the drive-thru for the bank branch. We cannot commit to removing the drive-thru at this time, but we will have the redesign done prior to the October NPU-B meeting and will be sharing that with Ben Howard.”
Regarding Alhambra’s concerns about the Peachtree Road curb cuts, Morgan wrote, “There are approximately 52 curb cuts on Peachtree Road between Sheridan Drive and Peachtree Battle and only 2 are not full-access. We will be pursuing the same access to our property that
has been granted to our neighbors.”
That answer from Morgan also addressed concerns about how the curb cuts on Peachtree Road might affect the residents in condos across Peachtree from turning out onto Peachtree with southbound Peachtree traffic stacking up to turn left into the new development.
Responding to an Alhambra request for a road/traffic study, Morgan replied, “We will be providing these this week.” He said the studies will address traffic impacts on Peachtree Road, Rumson Road and through the Garden Hills neighborhood.
Although Howard told BuckheadView he thought the board of the 2828 condominiums had some concerns, the 2828 residents have not contacted BuckheadView with those concerns.
BuckheadView has heard a few comments from residents at the Gallery condominiums (which is across Rumson Road from the property) that the density is too much and it will increase traffic on Rumson near one of the drives into Gallery. Also, they don’t see the need for a bank operation to be located there, since there are several banks nearby.
Morgan replied to those concerns saying, “As previously mentioned, we are looking into the elimination of the bank drive-thru. As far as the density goes, the Comprehensive Development Plan prepared by the city of Atlanta lists MRC-2 as an appropriate zoning classification for this site. We have abided by the density that the city has stated as appropriate for this site.”
Garden Hills resident Wilson G. Stone, who lives on Rumson Road, delivered a four-page letter to his neighbors outlining his objections to the new development, most of which deal with the density of the project, changing the zoning classification which could allow greater density, and increase traffic—especially cut-through traffic using Rumson Road to enter and leave the development.
Since BuckheadView first published news about the proposed development in May, many comments have been received and posted online at BuckheadView.com at the end of each story. The following are a sampling of those comments, without the names of the writers and edited for clarity, brevity, punctuation and spelling:
“Based on the design quality of Buckhead Atlanta and Portman’s condo development further south, Brand needs to step up to the higher standard that is being demonstrated. Brand’s proposed design seems sadly lacking in architectural quality and interest, which I think is a polite way of saying that the proposed building, with its cheap looking, second-rate design, pathetically sucks.”
“Definitely not looking forward to this. Looks more like something that belongs further north on Peachtree. Not in Garden Hills.”
“It reminds me of that nasty Regions bank building in Midtown that tried to mirror the old IBM building… dated design, but density is justified along Peachtree.”
“This thing is just ugly. The frontage on Peachtree really needs to be softened, the mansard roof ditched, and perhaps something novel, along the lines of the proposed 2520 building, be built instead. This belongs way out in the burbs somewhere.”
“This whole thing should belong to the suburbs. Either leave the place as is now with the small park; or develop just one layer (street level) of small boutiques and a couple of restaurants or something similar to a café like we see in the streets of Paris with chairs and tables outside and inside. A small parking area in the rear – street level – would not hurt if approved by the neighborhood. No office space, no parking garage, and no layers of ugly buildings please! We love to walk in Garden Hills to those small shops and restaurants! And the view of openness is worth saving. I hope beauty will prevail! My wife and I agree with all those who commented objecting to this development; we hope many others are on the same side with us.”
“I too think this is very ugly and only hurts the Garden Hills community. Would much rather see a nice smaller development of shops/restaurants. But at the least, actually design something that does match the surrounding developments.”
But not all of the comments posted by readers of BuckheadView were negative about the development. Here are a sampling of those that voiced positive reactions:
“Great looking building. Excited to see them break ground.”
“Kudos Brand! And appreciate the efforts taken in transition.”
“I’d like this to be office buildings/retail/restaurants so it adds value to the established neighborhood. Please no more condos! Buckhead traffic is bad enough.”
“Any development on the Brand property is going to change the complexion of the neighborhood. But if the rendering and stated plans hold true, it seems to be much less invasive and a whole lot less objectionable than some development might have been! I’m just glad it’s not another high-rise condo that would really impact parking and traffic on Rumson. The little charming strip center that was there ‘forever’ is a fond memory of the past.”
And, there were those comments that addressed concerns about increased traffic problems:
“The 58 minimum spaces required for bank and retail are to be accessed from Peachtree Rd., but the 299 required for the high rise office can be accessed from Rumson? Bad idea. This is too big of an impact for a neighborhood street with kids walking to their schools and neighborhood pool. Rumson Road is already feeling the impact from renegade restaurant parkers no longer able to sneak their cars after-hours into the Brand lot, which is no longer there. This is a nice piece of commercial property; surely someone will buy it as-is without the need for re-zoning, which once done opens the property as pre-approved for everything from car washes to auto repair shops.”
“An easy tweak of the site plan can take some traffic pressure off the neighborhood by allowing for ingress and egress using Peachtree northbound (right turn only on and off Peachtree).”
“If Rumson is to be the entrance for southbound traffic from Peachtree, a turn lane and arrow light from Peachtree (and longer green light times out of Rumson) will be needed to prevent traffic backup into the new parking decks.”
“The tenants will be subjected to several cycles of red lights before they could get out if Rumson is to be the primary access.”
“The medians on Rumson will prevent even traffic flow into the parking deck and would need to be reconfigured or removed – perhaps for a dedicated turn lane to southbound Peachtree? Once the office building is done, the cars using the exit from the Gallery condo would probably only be able to do a right turn and not be able to exit at the traffic light due to the new traffic from the development.”
“Without a few tweaks to this site plan, this will create a new daily traffic snarl.”
Because of the deferral, Morgan again has time to face the neighborhood groups and address the concerns voiced, and maybe even tweak the development plans a little to satisfy some of the neighbors. Time will tell.