By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

The plans of a Boston-based developer were supposed to materialize last year into thousands of residential units, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space and hundreds of hotel rooms in the Central Perimeter area.

But because of the downturn in the economy, a development that will take a decade to complete on 42 acres at Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway won’t begin until 2012 or 2013, according to a company official.

[googleMap name=”‘High Street’ development” width=”500″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]Hammond Dr & Perimeter Center Pkwy NE Dunwoody, GA 30346[/googleMap]

The proposal, unveiled in 2007 and known as High Street, was the single largest proposed development planned in what is known as the Central Perimeter Submarket, an area loosely framed by Ashford Dunwoody Road, I-285 and Roswell and Abernathy roads.

High Street is the largest of several projects in the Perimeter Center area that have stalled.

“The financial market has not been good for these developments in the past few years,” said John Darrah, vice president of Boston-based GID Urban Development Group, which aspires to build the High Street project.

Will things improve? “There are some reasonable signs of improvement in the capital markets,” he said.

GID, which bought the Perimeter Center Parkway acreage for $83 million, planned to develop High Street over the period of a debeginning in 2009 with 3,000 residential units, 400,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail space and 400 hotel rooms in the form of a “vertical-urban” community.

Darrah said the company is sticking with its plans for the site. But he recently said that the company now plans to begin construction in 2012 or 2013.

The proposed High Street development represented the first major mixed-use development to be planned directly adjacent to one of the four MARTA rail stations since they were developed in the Perimeter area.

What GID has envisioned for its 42-acre site is something quite different, Darrah said when the development was announced. “We saw that as an opportunity to create the center of Perimeter Center. There are a lot of disjointed land uses around Perimeter Center,” he explained. “When you picture Perimeter Center, where is the heart of this place? That is very much the focus of the GID plan for this property.”

The central theme that the development group is working on is, “How do you create a sense of place?” Darrah has said. “The first notion that we worked on with master planners was to break the site into an urban street grid. What we are proposing is to break it up into walkable city blocks. The proper distance for a walkable city block is about 200 feet,” he explained.

“We would provide 10- to 15-foot wide sidewalks, with plenty of room for street trees. We would provide parallel parking so that people feel they can park there, but also to shield pedestrians from the street. Provide narrow two-lane streets so that people can drive, but only slowly in order to encourage people to walk back and forth across the street,” the Bostonian said at the time.

“By putting retail with office above or retail with residential above, and vary the heights and architectural style, it starts to feel like a real city evolving, framed by open spaces.”

Pointed out at the time was the possibility of developing community nodes that promote walking and can provide connectivity to other surrounding nodes. For example, the High Street project would cross the city lines of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

There were other elements to the plan, but most have sputtered in a down economy and are waiting for a better market.

In that same area, at Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and I-285, property owner Tishman Speyer has planned a redevelopment of the Palisades office park site. Novare had bought the site on the southwest corner of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway, directly across Hammond Drive from the GID property.

Next to the Novare property along Hammond Drive, the owners of a two-story retail center that includes The Derby sports bar are also talking about redeveloping that center. Across Peachtree-Dunwoody and at the corner with Hammond Drive, the owners of Concourse have had that corner property rezoned from office space use to residential use.

On the west side of Ga. 400, almost all of the older one- and two-story office centers on Barfield Road between Mount Vernon and Hammond Drive are slowly being redeveloped.

And three prominent local developers—Ackerman & Co., Russell New Urban Development and the Lane Company—had teamed up for an announced $270 million mixed-use project called, “Abernathy 400,” overlooking Ga. 400 on the southwest corner of Abernathy Road. It was to include 550,000 square feet of office space and more than 20,000 square feet of ground level retail and restaurants space over two buildings, a 400-room luxury hotel and a 150-unit condo community. Only the condos were built and the economy forced them into foreclosure.

Yvonne Williams, executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement District, said she has no inside information on the timelines for these developments.

“They don’t share that from their personal portfolios,” she said. “But they stay very engaged with us, trying to understand all of the transportation projects coming on line, any of the governmental land use policies or land use plans. “

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