A plan for a road network in the Perimeter Center area that was dreamed up a decade ago finally is beginning to take shape.
Dunwoody city officials say plans are underway to develop a $20 million connector road coming off I-285, going under Ashford-Dunwoody Road and connecting with Perimeter Center Parkway. The road is part of a network of connectors planned for the area as new, high-rise developments are being built.
“We can sit on our hands and wish this wasn’t happening or we can look at reality and figure out ways to deal with it,” Mayor Mike Davis said. “This is one of the steps that we have found that we can actually make an improvement in the situation.”
Davis said “the horse has left the barn” in terms stopping growth in the area. Property owners won the right to build high rises and dense development in the area before Dunwoody became a city, he said, and the development is inevitable.
Dunwoody has to have a vision to get cars in and out, the mayor said. “Unfortunately, there were no real plans made with the county and developers to make sure we gridded all this out before [development started],” he said.
Davis said if Dunwoody can add connector roads, such as the one planned between Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Center Parkway on the State Farm campus, commuters will use them to get to highways, instead of cutting through neighborhoods. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” he said.
The city of Dunwoody will spend $500,000 toward engineering and design, and the city is hopeful a grant from the State Road and Tollway Authority will match that, Davis said.
Davis said the state’s planned $1 billion remake of the interchange of I-285 and Ga. 400 will take about three years to complete and that construction of the Westside Connector would start afterward. “We’re looking at four or five years,” Davis said.
The Westside Connector was conceptualized in the 2011 Perimeter Community Improvement Districts’ 10-year plan, but wasn’t a reality until this year.
The Westside Connector plan started “when the owners of Crown Holdings, who own the old Gold Kist property, came to us and offered us the property for the road at no cost,” Davis said.
Charles Brown, with Crown Holdings, offered to donate about 2 acres of the 15-acre site to the city of Dunwoody. An affiliate of Crown Holdings Group — Dunwoody Crown Towers LLC — acquired the former Gold Kist/Cotton States headquarters in 2013.
Dunwoody’s public works director, Michael Smith, worked on the core team that came up with the 10-year plan for the PCIDs. “If you read the description in the PCIDs’ plan, these kinds of connections were contemplated with private development participation or cooperation,” Smith said.
Davis said the land itself could be worth more than $8 million, so the connector project would have been prohibitively expensive without the land donation. “State Farm paid $8 million an acre for the property right next door,” Davis said.
With improvements planned for Ga. 400 and I-285, Davis said getting the Westside Connector project “on the board” will allow the city to seek additional funding from state and federal agencies.
The PCIDs’ LCI study shows a connector road coming through the old Gold Kist site, with connections to build out a grid, but not connecting to I-285, Smith said.
“That’s the part of the project we brought forward, but it did show a roadway in here with connections to Hammond,” Smith said.
Dunwoody will have to work with the Georgia Department of Transportation as well as the Federal Highway Administration to secure money to finish building the Westside Connector, but the money for the design is in place, Davis said.
Doug Hooker, the executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said he feels confident about the project’s future.
“I think it’s a good possibility that it’s a project that Georgia DOT will want to support,” Hooker said. “It’ll be a matter of timing and when they can work it into their budget.”