Published on January 19th, 2016 |10
Branch Properties, Peachtree Hills work out high-rise project changes
The reasons this meeting was calmer than one held Nov. 11were: Branch Properties had agreed to several concessions in advance of the Jan. 13 meeting at Covenant Presbyterian Church and the demeanor of the meeting was established in advance by Peachtree Hills Zoning Committee chair Kathleen Moriarty.
Through a series of meetings with neighborhood representatives, Branch executives and their attorney Carl Westmoreland had drawn up an agreement to reduce the height of the building from 21 stories to 15 and reduced the amount of retail space from 30,000 square feet to 15,000.
In addition to those two concessions, Branch had addressed neighborhood objections to demolishing a historic former book bindery company building on the site by agreeing to retain the front 2,600 square feet of the building (the historic part) as part of the 15,000 square feet of retail space. The back part of the historic building was added in the 1950s and 1960s.
The major issue consistently brought up by residents—as they one-by-one asked questions of Branch representatives during the hour-and-a-half meeting—involved controlling traffic through the Peachtree Hills neighborhood streets.
The property involved is 1.866 acres at the corner of Peachtree and Terrace and is currently occupied by a Burger King, Design Within Reach and the
antique store. The Burger King and antique store are zoned C-3, unconditional, as is the balance of the Peachtree Battle Center. The Design Within Reach property was zoned C-1 with conditions to permit the Loop Pizza restaurant several years ago.
The application proposes to zone the property C-3 conditioned on a site plan and other conditions for a residential building with parking accommodated in a deck under and to the rear of the building. The development would include approximately 251 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
In terms of vehicular access, the building will use the existing drive from the upper Publix parking deck onto Terrace Drive and also have access through the shopping center to the Peachtree/Peachtree Battle traffic signal, as well as other shopping center driveways to Peachtree. There would be an additional non-signalized curb cut on Peachtree.
Branch Properties has owned Peachtree Battle Shopping Center since 1982 and this would add a residential component.
The four major issues the neighborhood had previously identified in meetings with Branch were:
- They wanted the historic book bindery building to remain;
- The height of the building
- Too much retail footage overall
- Did not like the look of the Peachtree Road retail frontage.
Westmoreland told the Peachtree Hills residents that an agreement had been worked out to deal with the neighborhood’s issues that would reduce the height of the building, would retain the front 2,600 square feet of the former book bindery building, would eliminate the low level Peachtree Road retail of the former plan and place the reduced retail space on the first floor of the high-rise residential tower while retaining the former book bindery for retail as well. .
He said the agreement also would ask the city to take the approximately $120,000 in impact fees generated from the project and dedicate it to sidewalk and road work as the neighborhood sees fit.
In addition, Branch has agreed to make improvements to the intersection Terrace Drive at the back end of the shopping center that would shrink the road width, add a median strip and a stop sign to slow down traffic.
Westmoreland also said Branch agreed to pay Peachtree Hills $1,000 per month to cover the cost of any additional security the neighborhood felt it would have to engage because of the apartment/retail development.
Representing Branch Properties at the Jan. 13 meeting were Executive Vice President Richard Lee, Senior Vice President Jack Haylett, Morris Manning and Martin Attorney Westmoreland, project architect Bob Preston and a traffic study person with Kimley Horn consulting firm.
Quietly sitting in the audience throughout the meeting was real estate and zoning attorney Pete Hendricks who was hired to work with the
neighborhood association. Also attending the meeting was Dist. 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook.
Shook primarily got involved in the discussion of traffic and sidewalk issues brought up by residents in the neighborhood and their requests that Branch provide additional sidewalks and traffic-calming instruments through an extended area of Peachtree Hills besides that immediately adjacent to the new project.
For instance, more than one resident asked for sidewalks extending along Terrace Drive all the way from Lindbergh to Peachtree roads. Shook told the audience that city engineers have to make the decisions on sidewalks and 75 percent of the property owners that would be affected by the new sidewalks have to agree they want them.
Responding to what he was hearing from those asking questions at the meeting, Shook also said “the neighborhood needs to get together and discuss a more holistic approach to the improvements being discussed—and which the developer cannot be responsible for—and bring them to the city.
The Branch representatives were asked what the mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments would be and what the rental rates would be.
Haylett said there would be 45 percent one-bedroom and 55 percent two-bedroom and they would rent for about $250 per square foot. He said that meant the apartment rents would range between $2,500 and $4,000 per month.
Haylett also said the anticipated tenant mix would be 55 percent between the ages of 35 and 54, 25 percent over age 55 and 20 percent below the age of 35.
One resident asked the Branch Properties team, “What is the benefit to the neighborhood?”
Attorney Westmoreland responded, “Not sure there is a benefit. But, something is likely to happen here. The property is zoned high-density commercial. We may not have satisfied everybody, but we have tried to,” he added.
The development is likely to again be on the agenda of the Neighborhood Planning Unit-B Zoning Committee for its meeting Jan. 26. Since there appears to be agreement on most of the major issues with the neighborhood, it likely will be heard this month after Branch taking deferrals for the past two months.