Published on February 4th, 2016 |0
Consider Village charm in new development, Alliance Residential told
The Phoenix, Ariz-based company showed its renderings for a 12-story residential building with approximately 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail and four levels of parking decks to the SPI-9 (Special Public Interest district) DRC members and a renowned landscape architect guest.
The development will stretch along Irby Avenue between Cains Hill Place and Paces Ferry Place, facing the back side of the Whole Foods Market. It will add approximately 275 new residential units to the area.
The project design met virtually all of the development criteria of SPI-9, but did not get a joyous acceptance by members of the committee or Edward Daugherty, who has been at the forefront of the Modernist movement in landscape architecture in the southeastern U.S. since the 1950s.
After a brief introduction of the project, DRC members Denise Starling, Sally Silver and guest Daugherty turned the discussion into a lengthy and thoughtful discourse on the desire to preserve the Village charm, making the whole area aesthetically pleasing and cohesive with the upcoming new developments, such as those anticipated by the Edens Company.
Both Starling and Silver said the building design by The Preston Partnership LLC seemed very much like so many of the other buildings going up in other areas of Buckhead and Atlanta—a safe, traditional design. They were concerned it does not fit with the Village environment.
Bob Preston, principal of The Preston Partnership LLC, said the style of the building is transitional, not traditional, with a “warehouse” sense to it. He said the character could be changed to more modernistic by simply changing some of the building’s color applications.
Preston showed a preliminary rendering of the ground-floor retail part of the project, which indicated will still be tweaked before the plans are finalized. Looking at the ground-floor retail renderings, Starling said they met a lot of her concerns.
City planner Karl Smith-Davids suggested Alliance might try to work on-street parking and outdoor street-level eating into the design of its development. Preston said he could move the building footprint back two feet, which would provide two traffic lanes on Irby plus an 8-foot parking lane in front of the building. He also suggested the outdoor dining option could be worked into the design.
Preston also told the committee that his firm is currently working on two projects in Charleston, SC, and said that city has design criteria for the various districts in the city and design committees that make sure those criteria are closely followed. It is much tougher than the SPI-9 specifications, he indicated.
Daugherty told both the development team and DRC members he is “concerned about the loss of the charm and human scale and walkability” in the West Village. “I think that scale is important,” he added. He spoke affectionately and with a southern drawl of the “tawdry charm” of the West Village area.
He pointed to what OliverMcMillan did with The Shops Buckhead Atlanta as a good design with attention to human scale.
Silver encouraged Alliance Residential to keep in mind that the reason people want to live in this area is because it is the Village. She referred to the Buckhead Action Plan, drawn up around 2000 by a diverse group of Buckhead leaders, which called for retaining the Village flavor.
Starling said that she feared the entertainment flavor and small shops of the West Village area will disappear as more and more of the area is bought up by major developers. She wants to keep much of that flavor in the West Village so that it will continue to attract the younger crowd. “Without that, the young people will not come,” she added.
The Alliance development will bring about some changes in the Village. For one, Henri’s Bakery and Café will be displaced from its present location during construction of the new development and when the Alliance project is completed, Henri’s will return there, but in a very different form.
Alliance development manager Mike Grill told DRC members Henri’s does not plan to do any of its baking or cooking at that new location. He said that is likely to be done at its shop in Sandy Springs in the future.
Also, the Alliance development will remove some of the parking areas that are now contracted out to bars and restaurants in the area for after-hours use. That means those establishments will have to find new parking areas to put under contract or they will fail to comply with city ordinance parking requirements.
Starling said that could force some of those establishments out of business. Alliance said it has no plans to allow any of its parking spaces to be put under contract for after-hours use by other establishments.
Daughterty pointed out there are 80 tracts of land in the area bordered by West Paces Ferry, East Andrews and Roswell Road. More and more of those parcels are being bought up and controlled by fewer and fewer owners.
Edens has bought up the East Andrews shops building and some property along Cains Hill Place, to go along with its earlier purchase of the Whole Foods shopping center. The Edens properties surround the tract where Alliance Residential plans this development.
Several of the DRC members voiced concerns that Alliance and Edens are not talking to each other and trying to work together to ensure that there is a compatibility between their development plans.
Dwight Bell, who represents the Buckhead Community Improvement District on the DRC, said he hopes Edens and Alliance will get together and work together on the buildout of their projects. Bell pointed out it could be a good relationship since Alliance is a residential developer and Edens specializes in commercial/retail development.
Grill told the DRC members, “Those talks (between his company and Edens) are going on….but not with specifics.”
It was pointed out that Edens, which bought the largest retail/restaurant complex on East Andrews Drive some months ago, plans to remodel but not redevelop the buildings, thus retaining some of the present flavor of the Village.
Silver encouraged Grill and Alliance Residential to set the trend and standard for where future development should go in the West Village area, since it is one of the first new projects to come before the DRC.
In a discussion of making the area more walkable with the new developments, Daugherty said to Grill, “I hope your residents will have a place to go,” suggesting the new development may displace all of the present charming destination spots.
The DRC members thanked Alliance Residential for coming in early for a “preliminary” discussion of its project and Grill and Preston thanked the committee for its guidance. Alliance will return to the DRC when it seeks a Special Administrative Permit (SAP) for the development.