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Dyana Bagby Posted by on April 14, 2017.

Brookhaven’s new medical center wants to grow

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is seeking to have 11.4 acres along the Northeast Expressway annexed into the city of Brookhaven for a proposed 8-story office building as part of a massive expansion of its new 45-acre campus at North Druid Hills Road and I-85. The expansion includes buying out a church.

It’s just part of what city officials say is major medical-related redevelopment coming after years of anticipation to the Executive Park area.

Emory Healthcare and the Atlanta Hawks teamed up to build the 90,000-square-foot sports complex in Executive Park. It is expected to be completed later this year. (Dyana Bagby)

CHOA filed the annexation request with the city on April 5. It also is asking for a special land-use permit for some of the property in order to build the 8-story, 340,000- square-foot building on land currently zoned only for five stories. CHOA also wants to build a parking deck.

The annexation and SLUP requests are expected to be taken up by the Planning Commission and City Council in June.

“If the annexation and SLUP is approved and follows the anticipated timeline, construction would begin by the end of the year and be completed in the first quarter of 2020,” said CHOA spokesperson Brian Brodrick in an email.

Plans are to raze the one-story office and clinical buildings in CHOA’s business park on Tullie Road to make room on that land for the new $1.3 billion hospital that was announced in February, Brodrick said. Adjacent to these buildings is the site of the new 8-story Center for Advanced Pediatrics, already under construction and set to open next year.

The staff and personnel providing pediatric care in the current office buildings in CHOA’s Office Park would then be relocated to the proposed 8-story office building on Northeast Expressway, just a stone’s throw from where the hospital and Center for Advanced Pediatrics are located.

This new “support building” on the Northeast Expressway is a separate replacement office space that will allow CHOA to “preserve space on its new campus for clinical operations that directly benefit children,” said Brodrick.

The property CHOA wants annexed now is in unincorporated DeKalb County and includes the site of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta on Cliff Valley Way. CHOA is buying the church, approved by the congregation in March, and giving the congregation up to 18 months to move out.

CHOA approached the congregation late last year about purchasing its building, according to Rev. Anthony Makar, senior minister. “It was not something we were looking for,” Makar said. “It was a very surprising reach out.”

Makar said UUAC has been located on Cliff Valley Way for 50 years. When the church became integrated in the 1960s and was seeking a site to call home in Atlanta, it was turned away numerous times amidst controversy because it welcomed black members. “The church became a pariah in the Atlanta community,” Makar said.

The only site where there was no controversy for the church was the spot on Cliff Valley Way “in the middle of nowhere,” Makar said. Then, when the I-85 overpass was built, the church became hidden even more.

Selling to CHOA with its mission to serve children as it grows its North Druid Hills campus makes sense for the congregation at this time in its history, Makar said. “We’re looking forward to a new chapter … and now we have the chance to choose a strategy of where we want to go,” he said.

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Center for Advanced Pediatrics is under construction at North Druid Hills Road and I-85. (Dyana Bagby)

The bold move by the nonprofit children’s health care system portends, once again, substantial growth at the highly visible and accessible North Druid Hills Road and I-85 interchange.

Emory University last year purchased 60 acres of Executive Park directly across the street from CHOA’s North Druid Hills campus, leading to speculation that the area would become a new “Pill Hill.” Pill Hill in Sandy Springs is home to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Northside Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

Brookhaven Councilmember Joe Gebbia, whose district includes the CHOA and Executive Park properties, said he doesn’t know what Emory is planning, but he envisions an area developed more with medical offices than hospitals with beds, leading to much less density than Pill Hill.

“I expect it to have a medical overtone,” he said. “More like a Pill Hill Jr.”

Executive Park is currently zoned for high-density multi-use development, including a 200-room hotel, according to the city of Brookhaven. Emory’s property also currently includes 400,000 square feet of space in nine office buildings.

Zoning for a planned redevelopment in 2008 of Executive Park dubbed The Park at Druid Hills and approved by DeKalb County matches up fairly closely with how Executive Park was zoned when Brookhaven annexed the property in 2014. The zoning conditions and restrictions also match up fairly well with the plans submitted to Brookhaven by Emory last year. HGOR Planners and Landscape Architects designed the plans for The Park at Druid Hills in 2008 and also for Emory in 2016.

The 2008 and 2016 plans include numerous parking lots, hundreds of thousands of feet of retail and hundreds of thousands of feet of office space as well as numerous parking decks.

The zoning for Executive Park allows a 10-story, 200-room hotel at the corner of the property closest to North Druids Hills Road and I-85. Office buildings on the property are approved for up to 12 stories and parking decks for up to seven stories; 785 apartments are also included in the zoning.

Both Emory University and CHOA are supposed to submit master plans to Brookhaven officials for what is planned on their properties, but to date no such plans have been filed.

CHOA’s major developments include the hospital and the Center for Advanced Pediatrics; Emory’s major development underway now and expected to be completed this fall is the “Emory Sports Medicine Complex,” a partnership between the Atlanta Hawks and Emory Healthcare.

The sports complex will serve as the official practice and training facility for the Hawks, the home of the Hawks Basketball Operations Team, the Emory Sports Medicine Center, Emory Physical Therapy and Peak Performance Project (P3), a world leader in applied sports medicine that is expected to attract athletes from around the world.

Ask Emory what else they are planning and the response is basic.

“Emory University is still in the early planning stages for its development of property at Executive Park. Other Emory plans for Executive Park will be announced when they become available,” said Dr. Jonathan S. Lewin, Emory University Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, in a statement.