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Guest donaltopablo

Over using "mixed use development"

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Perimeter Mall area plan stirs concern

By ERIC STIRGUS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

- Atlanta/South Metro community page

A developer's plan to build a $100 million retail, residential and office complex near Perimeter Mall is meeting resistance from residents and regional officials who are worried about the project's impact on already-clogged streets.

Florida-based Sembler Co., which has offices in Atlanta, proposed plans last month to convert the vacant BellSouth office complex near the mall's north entrance on Perimeter Center Parkway. The development would include nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space, a 225-unit, multifamily residential building and 42,000 square feet of office space.

The project would generate about 1,200 jobs and add nearly $1.4 million a year to DeKalb's tax coffers, according to an Atlanta Regional Commission impact report.

The company's representatives promote the project as a mixed-use development, the trendy term used for areas where people can live and walk to work or to mass transit. But some residents say the Sembler plan bears no resemblance to a mixed-use project.

The Dunwoody Homeowners Association, which represents about 18,000 homeowners, was worried about crowding at nearby schools and increased traffic. Dunwoody resident Eric Hovdesven, a member of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority board, compared the original plan to "putting lipstick on a pig."

"To me, it was a big box development with some residential dressing on it," he said.

In less descriptive terms, an ARC subcommittee agreed.

The ARC's report on the project said a "true" mixed-use development would require more housing than was proposed.

The 21-page report also said the proposal would add to traffic congestion and negatively impact other retail space in the area.

Jeff Fuqua, Sembler's president of development, declined to comment about the project this week .

Because of the size of the project, it must be approved by the ARC and GRTA in addition to the DeKalb County Commission.

Last week, Sembler representatives gave a second set of plans to GRTA. They should be reviewed within a month.

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I think if a city uses alot of mixed use development, it should be downtown. When you make things too convient for people who live closer to the suburbs, they won't really come to downtown to eat at restaurants, shop or engage in other activities. too much mixed-use development in the suburbs counteracts every effort to bring people downtown.

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For suburban centers such as Dunwoody (where this project is), I don't have a problem with them trying to make the community denser and more walk friendly. The fact is, it's already a major retail and commerical center with a significant amoutn of residential, so improving upon what is already there is fine since the damage of being a suburban center to begin with has already been done.

What does make me laugh is these phony mixed used developments that are in the deep suburbs almost rural regions of metro Atlanta.

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Well said D.,

I'm really an urban designer and city planner. I wrestle with the issue of making the suburbs more "urban" every day. I don't think it's appropriate everywhere, but IF it's done, it should be done to eventually evolve into a new core. Dunwoody is already fairly urban, right?

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Well said D.,

I'm really an urban designer and city planner. I wrestle with the issue of making the suburbs more "urban" every day. I don't think it's appropriate everywhere, but IF it's done, it should be done to eventually evolve into a new core. Dunwoody is already fairly urban, right?

Dense is probably a better term for Dunwoody than urban. Dunwoody certainly has a large employment center, including many high rises (a cluster of which is probably unmatched just about anywhere but Houston), strong retail base and a lot of multi-family housing (condo towers and apartments). Even the single family resident near by is older and a little more dense than the average Atlanta suburb.

But in terms of a walkable "urban" enviornment, it is seriously lacking. It's still very car based, although it showing some signs of becoming a little more urban with some of the newer developments becoming walk friendly and the addition of the MARTA station. However, just because of the areas character and the fact that most of it was built out in the last 20 years, this area will be slow to change into something a little more urban.

But I agree, some suburbs can become (and should) more urban. Dunwoody is a prefect example of a location that could easily be an urban area, despite being in the burbs. Some suburbs should be just that, burbs. Dunwoody's lack of planning means it's loosing new developments because traffic is choking the area to death, literally. HP built a 22 story building, however, traffic complaints from employees pushed HP away from building a second, matching tower, instead choosing to lease space in several locations in N Fulton for expansion, rather than consider a second tower.

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P., HP's actions indicative of a new trend (I believe) and come to think of it, not all that different from the one used by corporations in the 60's and 70's as reasons for leaving the original CBD's. Up here in RDU Cisco made it clear that they would not expand if the region didn't pursue mass transit and other measures to address traffic.

Has anyone heard about this happening elsewhere?

M.

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Obviously the situation is a little different here in Atlanta since we have mass transit, so nobody is talking about not expanding because of no mass transit. However, we do have some similar "good" corporations. Turner choose to expand in the city. Bellsouth consolidated some 20 suburban and urban offices into 3, all within walking distance of MARTA stations.

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North Raleigh( Suburbian) is into these "gated communities that are self-sufficient and encourges the need not to go downtown for anything.

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