Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Buckhead take action to create gathering places
A team is considering how a 200-acre neighborhood along Peachtree Road could become the pedestrian hub of Brookhaven. New projects are bringing community gathering spaces around Perimeter Shopping Center and Dunwoody Village. Sandy Springs is studying how to expand its downtown area to include more restaurants and possibly a hotel. And developers are reshaping Buckhead areas with new tenants and community events.
This is an effort to create more walking opportunities across communities.
Other suburban cities have led the way, such as Roswell, Alpharetta, Woodstock and Duluth, which have each transformed their historic downtowns into modern ones.
What is driving the trend? It’s about building a better quality of life, city leaders told Reporter Newspapers.
“These projects build the connective tissue of the community,” said Rusty Paul, mayor of Sandy Springs, who is now looking to expand his project to downtown City Springs. “It really created a sense of unity, cohesion and identity for the whole community.
Here’s a look at the development efforts at Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Buckhead:
Sandy Springs opened City Springs in 2018. It didn’t have a historic downtown to recreate, so city officials had to build their own.
This effort was launched shortly after the incorporation of Sandy Springs in 2005. The city gathered land and partnered on the 14-acre project with Atlanta developers Selig Enterprises and Carter.
Today, City Springs is home to the city’s Performing Arts Center and Town Hall. It also has a central green space, flanked by restaurants including The Select.
“It had a real effect throughout the community,” said Mayor Paul. “It created a place where the community comes together. ”
Now, planners are studying how to expand City Springs. In October, Sandy Springs selected Goody Clancy and Associates Inc. to update its master plan for the district.
The city has an additional four or five acres just south of the development, between Mount Vernon Highway and Hilderbrand Drive, Paul said. The hope is to expand City Springs by at least a block.
“How do we extend the incredible success we’ve had with City Springs and continue south? Paul said, adding that the hope was to bring in more restaurants and maybe a hotel. The city would probably partner with the private sector again on a project.
“It won’t quite double the existing City Springs, but it will make it considerably bigger,” said Paul. It would probably take 12 to 18 months to start a project, he said. The master plan should be completed, along with the community input sessions and a bidding process.
Another project is underway nearby that could extend the pedestrianized heart of the city.
Atlanta developer Jamestown is planning to remodel part of Parkside Shops, a mall near Roswell Road, a few blocks from City Springs. A large parking lot could be transformed into a mixed-use environment with a green space, new restaurants, a loft office, apartments and condos.
Dunwoody officials see the Perimeter Mall and Dunwoody Village areas as two new pedestrian centers. Both have new projects in the works.
The long-planned High Street project would occupy 36 acres west of the Perimeter Mall. It would include an iconic park, hundreds of apartments and new shops and offices. In September, a new location for the Puttshack mini golf bar was announced for the project, which may soon start construction.
Dunwoody’s Director of Economic Development Michael Starling sees the Perimeter Mall area as a regional hub. In recent years, it has attracted massive projects, most notably the State Farm campus.
“You have a thousand people a day coming to work there,” he said of the mall. “The perimeter is definitely changing, becoming much more walkable… away from this suburban, car-oriented center.”
The Dunwoody Village area would have a different feel, he said, suited to the neighborhood with smaller-scale development. The neighborhood spans approximately 165 acres, including Dunwoody Village and The Shops of Dunwoody shopping malls.
The city recently approved a new zoning district for the area which paves the way for more modern development. The Town of Dunwoody does not own property there but works with the existing owners.
“It will be a small step here, a small step there,” Starling said. “But, the good news is that we are starting this process.”
A project is already underway. Dash Hospitality is building an entertainment complex at Dunwoody Village Shopping Center, grouping several restaurants and bars around a central courtyard. The first, a bar called Bar (n), opens in November.
“I just want it to be ‘Cheers’ for Dunwoody,” Dash Hospitality’s David Abes said in a recent interview.
Brookhaven is now considering what a downtown project might look like.
Planners are well advanced on a “downtown” master plan, which spans a 212-acre neighborhood along Peachtree Road. It includes areas such as the town of Brookhaven, Oglethorpe University, Brookhaven MARTA station, Dresden Drive and Apple Valley Road.
One of the goals is to find a location for a new town hall. A potential location could be the large parking lots at MARTA station. There is no agreement in place, but MARTA has been active in the planning process, said Patrice Ruffin, deputy general manager of Brookhaven.
The master plan also contemplates new connections through Peachtree Road to make it more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists. “It’s a tough river to cross,” said Meg Robie, landscape architect at HGOR, the Atlanta-based company working on the master plan.
The hope is to have a draft plan early next year. After community feedback, the plan would go to city council for adoption, likely in the second quarter of 2022, Ruffin said.
There is no timetable yet to start downtown projects.
But the great hope is to create a new centerpiece for the community. “Brookhaven needs a central place so that we can establish an identity,” said Robie.
When asked, Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, struggled to define the pedestrian center of Buckhead.
But there are recent investments in the village of Buckhead and around Lindbergh MARTA station that are leading the way, she said.
In 2019, Jamestown acquired The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, a collection of upscale stores and restaurants on Peachtree, East Paces and Pharr Roads. He renamed the project Buckhead Village District and adjusted the tenant mix (which includes luxury brands such as Dior) to be more accessible. For example, a new location for Fetch Park, a dog park bar, is in the works.
Jamestown has also revamped its community events, with a whole range of vacation activities planned.
“It’s not just about having the ability to walk, it’s actually programming,” Starling said, adding that Livable Buckhead is focused on creating more community events. “I can’t really stress the importance of programming… which is part of economic development. “
Real estate firm Edens has also had a significant impact in Buckhead’s West Village, acquiring and remodeling several properties, including Andrews Square in recent years.
Another important investment was the acquisition of Lindbergh City Center by Rubenstein Partners. It renamed Project Uptown Atlanta and found new tenants, including an esports gaming center.
“I think it has a lot of potential there,” Starling said of the area around the Lindbergh MARTA station. “It’s at the connection of PATH400, Peachtree Creek Greenway and BeltLine. So this whole area is going to appear on the map as soon as the BeltLine gets there. “
Another ambitious project, HUB404, could create a pedestrian center for Buckhead. The project would cap Ga. 400 in downtown Buckhead. Fundraising for the design of the project would restart after taking a break during the pandemic.
“This is definitely the key project that would create a workable heart for the community,” Starling said.