Published on May 2nd, 2016 |2
Garden Hills Fellini’s, La Fonda to be razed for new, larger Fellini’s only
Harper told BuckheadView May 2 that future plans are very much in the initial rough and evolving stage at the moment, but the company has filed plans to rezone the one-third-acre parcel from C-1 to MRC-2 and a July 7 hearing date has been set for the application review.
BuckheadView called Harper recently for an update on the site after seeing a notice by What Now Atlanta about the zoning application. However, Harper told BuckheadView his wife, Stephanie Gwinn, had just died and he was handling funeral arrangements at that time. As promised, Harper called BuckheadView back on May 2.
Harper said because he has been dealing with his wife’s seven-month battle with a brain tumor, he had not been tightly focused on the plans for the new Fellini’s project. However, he said he now is prepared to get back into detailed planning.
Harper is working on the plans with his longtime architect friend Ron Stang, principal with Stevens & Wilkinson (the firm that is doing the design work for the Georgia State University’s new College of Law Building). It was Stang who filed the rezoning application for Fellini’s.
After originally announcing last year that LaFonda was being closed down for total renovations but would reopen this year, Harper told BuckheadView it was determined the site was not large enough to house two successful restaurants. The decision was made to focus on Fellini’s.
While not discussing any specific details involving the new Fellini’s, Harper said the new restaurant building will be “nice and simple” and “will keep the essence of Fellini’s.” He added, “That corner needs some work.” He suggested the new restaurant may face more toward the south than the present building.
Harper suggested the new Fellini’s would most certainly have a large patio dining area—“That’s what Fellini’s is known for,” he said—a larger indoor dining area and considerably more parking to serve customers than is presently available on the surface parking lot behind Fellini’s.
Stang earlier had told What Now Atlanta that the Zoning application “is for a new Fellini’s restaurant with under building parking.” Pressed on the parking configuration, Harper told BuckheadView those details have not yet been worked out but “there will be no parking deck.”
Even though the application is for rezoning to mixed residential commercial use, Stang had said the application is only pertinent to a new Fellini’s and not any new residences.
The former Garden Hills shopping center site has been in a state of flux and transition since it suffered significant fire damage in 2013. That led to demolition of the strip center (and the former
Garden Hills Cinema theater), followed by a drawn-out rezoning approval process for a mixed-use office/retail development for the majority of the site by Brand Properties, which would encircle the Fellini’s location.
When Brand Properties’ impending renovation of the rest of the block was approved by the Garden Hills Civic Association’s board last year, Harper told BuckheadView he “would have been happy to negotiate a way for the two restaurants to be incorporated into the new design, but Brand Properties was not interested in discussing that.”
Harper is committed to doing something “nice” with the new Fellini’s….”something that doesn’t look like a blemish” on that corner—the major entryway into the Garden Hills neighborhood off of Peachtree Road. He added it will not be a big building. “It will be a classy pizza restaurant.”
For many of his younger years, Harper lived in the old apartment building directly across Rumson Road from Fellini’s at 2795 Peachtree Road. Those apartments were replaced by the present Gallery condominiums.
Also, Harper’s wife, Stephanie, was one of the most popular teachers of English as a second language at Garden Hills Elementary School for about 20 years, until around 2012 when she was hired by a school district in California after she and Harper moved there for some years.
“Many of the former Garden Hills Elementary students and their parents, as well as the school’s principal, remember Stephanie fondly,” a proud but still distraught Harper told BuckheadView on May 2.
BuckheadView will continue to follow up with Harper and his team in the weeks and months to come before the July 7 zoning review meeting. Presumably the project will be on the agendas of the NPU-B Zoning Committee and full board before then, which will require detailed plans.