Published on February 3rd, 2016 |1
2 major Peachtree Rd. mixed-use projects pass zoning votes in 2 days
On Monday, the Atlanta City Council gave final approval to a change in zoning for Brand Properties planned office/retail development at 2813 Peachtree Road. The building will replace the burned out Garden Hills shopping center.
On Tuesday evening, the full board of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B approved by a vote of 22-1-1 the zoning change request of Branch Properties (Brand and Branch developer names the first similarity) for its planned 15-story residential/retail development at the corner of Peachtree Road and Terrace Drive (actual address 2395-2451 Peachtree Road).
Brand Properties will now be going through the process with the city to obtain a Special Administrative Permit (SAP) before it can begin construction on its project at 2815-2839 Peachtree Road, near the corner of Peachtree and Rumson roads.
Branch Properties will head next—either Feb. 4 or Feb. 11—for a hearing before the city’s Zoning Review Board. If successful with that hearing, the next steps would be a hearing before the City Council’s Zoning Committee and then before the full City Council, presumably in March.
The two developments differ in many ways—one is a 9-story above grade office building with retail on the ground floor and a parking deck under the offices and street level; the other is a 15-story residential tower with 15,000 square feet of ground level retail with a parking deck and some surface parking. But there are several similarities in the negotiations.
The first common element is that real estate attorney Pete Hendricks, who was the lawyer representing Brand Properties’ application and negotiations with the Garden Hills neighborhood, was hired by the Peachtree Hills neighborhood to negotiate on their behalf with Branch Properties.
Some of the concessions gained by the two primary neighborhoods affected by the developments also were very similar.
In both cases, the developers agreed to reduce the heights of the buildings—Branch from 19 to 15 stories, and Brand, from 11 stories to 9 above grade—to accommodate the neighborhood requests. In both cases, the buildings were redesigned to move the focus of the buildings more to Peachtree Road and away from side and back streets at the neighborhoods’ requests.
Branch Properties, which owns Peachtree Battle Shopping Center adjacent to the proposed new development, agreed to reduce the retail component of the project from 50,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet and to retain some of the former National Book Bindery building as part of the retail component of the project.
In both cases, Brand and Branch agreed with neighborhood requests to move the primary vehicle entrance from residential side streets to Peachtree Road.
Both companies also have agreed to work with the neighborhoods to address reducing the impact on neighborhood streets from increased vehicle traffic caused by their projects. In both cases
traffic issues were major discussion points throughout the zoning discussions.
In both cases, curb cuts on Peachtree Road for vehicle entrance/exit became a major discussion point—whether they should be allowed at all and, if allowed, if they should be restricted to right-in/right-out rather than full-access driveways.
A major difference between the two projects came to light during that discussion. With the Brand Properties project there is a request for a new curb cut where none had previously existed. With the Branch Properties project, four present curb cuts on Peachtree would be reduced to one. It is considered more difficult to get a new curb cut on Peachtree than to retain an existing one.
Alhambra condominiums resident Ben Howard, who also is president of the Buckhead Condo Alliance, has argued against any curb cuts on Peachtree Road in both the Brand and Branch development hearings. So far he has not won his case with either development.
Both new developments are replacing single-story former and present development with mid- to high-rise, higher density development. And both fall within the guidelines of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan for their locations on Peachtree.
The negotiations for both projects was possibly best summed up by France Campbell, who represents Peachtree Hills at NPU-B, just before the vote at Tuesday night’s board meeting on the Branch project. He said, “We had to reach a balance with a lot of things.”
In both cases—Brand Properties and Branch Properties developments—the developers and the neighborhoods were able to accept compromises and reach agreements that seemed to be acceptable
to both sides, with the exception of a few individuals who did not get their way.
Ben Howard lost his bid for no curb cuts on Peachtree Road and Peachtree Hills resident Laura Dobson failed to force Branch Properties to retain 6,000 square feet of the former National Book Bindery building rather than the 2,600 square feet Branch agreed to save.
But that happens in negotiations. As Branch Properties attorney Carl Westmoreland stated: “It’s a compromise.”