There were 200-plus residents in the room. They were asked, “How many people are happy with the way the Winters Chapel area looks?”
Not one hand went up.
“Right now Winters Chapel has no aesthetic value,” Dunwoody City Councilman Doug Thompson said after describing the neighborhood meeting in February at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church.
The area can become a vital part of both Dunwoody and Peachtree Corners, but it needs more “love and care,” said Debbie Fuse, who lives in the Winters Chapel area and has been pushing the idea of revitalizing the area for years.
A recently completed area study that both cities approved is a “streetscape project,” which Thompson said meant it includes all the aesthetic elements of the street view design.
“Sidewalks to pocket parks, trees, benches, trash cans, streetlights…it covers that aspect of it,” he said.
“That’s one project that the public’s really behind,” Thompson said.
But the area study is just a first step, and now a plan for future economic growth needs to be put in place to generate income for the area as a whole, which would affect not only Dunwoody and Peachtree Corners but also in Doraville, Chamblee and Sandy Springs.
“The way I look at it, as they redevelop the GM plant location, the entire surrounding cities will see changes and opportunities for growth and a positive economic impact, if we plan for that now,” Fuse said.
The Integral Group announced on April 3 plans to develop a film and television production studio, called Third Rail Studios, at the site in Doraville of the former General Motors Plant. Integral’s Project Executive Eric Pinckney said the name Third Rail Studios references the three rail lines that previously served the assembly plant.
Upon completion, the media complex will be a 270,000-square-foot-facility, becoming the first film studio of its magnitude north of Atlanta and inside the I-285 Perimeter, the company said in a press release.
“The creative energy of the studio environment calls out to industries in search of like-minded neighbors,” Pinckney said.
Todd Pinkerton and his wife, Donna, own Empire State Pizza & Growlers, a restaurant on the Dunwoody side of Winters Chapel Road. They opened the location–their second–in 2013.
“I like the way this area is heading,” Pinkerton said. “This is an important part of Dunwoody and it deserves a neighborhood place like this.”
Pinkerton is excited to be part of the revitalization, he said.
Though technically a Doraville project, Fuse said the surrounding cities will see an overall economic difference from the development at the former plant. She said she believes that the Georgetown area could become more central to Dunwoody.
“I believe we can be a desirable area for people to want to come,” she said, noting the area’s proximity to Brook Run Park and Georgetown.
A stable, long-term plan would help “pull all the pieces together so that this area looks like the rest of Dunwoody and Peachtree Corners,” Fuse said.
The only “grumbles” residents had at an April 30 meeting about the area involved individual businesses and traffic lights, Thompson said.
Sandy Springs connects to Winters Chapel Road, but though the city didn’t wish to participate in the area study, Thompson said that didn’t mean they were opposed to it. Thompson said he thinks that when sidewalks, benches, multiuse trails and such start going in, Sandy Springs will likely join.
“They didn’t participate in the study, but I expect that they will participate in the improvements,” Thompson said.
The scope of the project brings the community together, Thompson said.
Fuse said she wants to see the Winters Chapel area become more of a destination, and not just a place where people drive through, but they need to have a reason to stop.
“We need to plan the growth and not be left behind in the process,” she said.