City officials think it may be time to think outside the Dunwoody Village Overlay district box to attract businesses and restaurants they say residents are clamoring to see in the city.
Renowned for its Williamsburg-style architecture intended to create a town village space, Dunwoody Village is home to anchor stores Walgreens and Fresh Market, a U.S. post office, some small businesses and local and chain restaurants – and a vast paved parking lot.
But more and more, city officials say they are getting pushback from developers and business owners who do not want to deal with the numerous restrictions required by the overlay district on parking, signage, windows, even paint colors, and so are taking their business elsewhere.
“Dunwoody Village was built in 1975 … and we still hold onto those architectural standards,” Community Development Director Richard McLeod said at June 4 retreat with staff and the City Council held at the Donaldson-Bannister Farm.
“We should expand our thinking a bit,” he said.
Council members generally agreed at the retreat it is time to take a close look at the overlay district and update it.
“Let’s not throw the overlay out window, but fine-tune it,” Mayor Denis Shortal said.
Councilmember Terry Nall cautioned against too much change because the intent of the overlay is to create a clear separation between suburban Dunwoody and urban Perimeter Center.
“How do we keep it from turning into Perimeter Center,” he said. “That’s the struggle we have.”
The city is going to have make some quick decisions. Crim and Associates, the developer wanting to build a new building at the corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road on the edge of the overlay, said it can’t find a business that wants to locate in old-fashioned Williamsburg-style architecture, with brick facing and peaked roofs. The developer is now seeking approval for a sleek, industrial-style building with a flat roof – far different than anything in the overlay now.
And Regency Centers, owner of Dunwoody Village, reached out a few months ago to city staff to say they may eventually have a 4,000 square-foot opening for a restaurant.
Regency Centers hired a firm to draw up a design for the potential redevelopment of an existing space that also includes a flat roof, said Economic
Development Director Michael Starling. But the design does not meet the requirements of the overlay.
“Regency is waiting for us to tell them if this is a good direction to take or should they move into another direction,” Starling told the council.
Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said Regency Centers is starting to focus on revitalizing and renovating their current centers.
“They recognize the potential here,” she said.
At the same time, Dunwoody Village is filled with tenants and is making money, Deutsch added.
“It is full and works for the tenants … but doesn’t seem to be meeting what the residents want and need,” she said.
No specific decisions were made about what to do about the overlay other than relax restrictions and update the architectural style, but council directed McLeod to come up with proposed changes by August.