A walkable “Town Center” with a wider variety of development and maybe even a signature bridge are ideas for a new master plan for Chamblee’s historic downtown. The vision likely means City Hall and the police department would move.
In January, the city’s Downtown Development Authority hired Seven Oaks Company for $150,000 to create a master plan for the Town Center that will include public-private redevelopment of the area centered around Broad Street just off Peachtree Boulevard.
Considered the heart of the downtown area, where one-story retail businesses, an antique mall and City Hall and police department are now located, the historic district is ripe for bringing in retail and residential development as well as green space to create a destination location, according to the master plan.
Bob Voyles, principal with Seven Oaks, presented the master plan in July at a combined event of the Chamblee and Brookhaven chambers of commerce.
The plan includes creating a zoning overlay district for the downtown area. The plan was approved by the DDA in June and the mayor and City Council in July.
“City staff have been working on the recommendations and next steps that Seven Oaks provided in the plan, which include the creation of a sub-district for the downtown area and designing the streetscape along Broad Street,” city spokesperson Tisa Moore said.
“The next official action would be council approving the contract with whatever firm is selected to help with the rezoning this fall,” she added.
The city owns about 17 properties between Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Ingersoll Rand Drive around the Broad Street area. The city is looking at acquiring or entering into ground leases for many more of the tracts in the area, Voyles explained.
Voyles said City Hall and the police department will likely have to be relocated from the area, although a precinct station would be located in the new district.
Chamblee is not new to redevelopment. Since 2000, the city has seen dramatic development that has “marched up” the split at Peachtree Boulevard and Old Peachtree Road, Voyles said, including the Peachtree Crossing shopping center anchored by Whole Foods.
A market study for the area shows a demand for 644 apartments in a transit-oriented development with structured parking, including a portion of these apartments targeted toward empty-nesters and those wanting to downsize from large single-family houses.
The market study also shows some demand for 60 attached townhomes and 47 single-family homes on the outskirts of the Town Center area.
A 120-room hotel including a lobby bar, meeting space and shuttle service can be supported in the Town Center project, according to the market study. And there is plenty of demand for neighborhood retail and a combination of fast-casual and full-service restaurants with community gathering areas and a safe, accessible walking urban environment.
Parking is an issue that faces many small cities, Voyles said. In many cities with thriving downtown areas, such as Decatur, parking decks are “hidden” in pockets of development. There is also a movement toward paid parking, he said. The city is also looking to start an autonomous shuttle service to provide connection to Doraville’s Assembly site.
A major challenge in developing the master plan is that Chamblee’s roads were created for large warehouses and industrial buildings as part of its railroad history. This means long roads with no blocks, Voyles explained, which are not conducive to creating a walkable community.
That means new roads will have to be built to break up the large blocks between Peachtree Boulevard and Peachtree Road, Voyles said. The new roads, combined with on-street parking to help slow traffic, are also intended to encourage pedestrian accessibility.
The master plan recommends development in phases. The first phase focuses on taking downtown Broad Street to incorporate existing buildings into a new pedestrian-oriented boulevard from Peachtree Road.
The second phase includes allowing for construction of a traffic circle on American Industrial Way (to be renamed American Way), as well as implementing streetscape improvements along that road and Broad Street.
The third phase will encourage private owners to take part in the overall master plan to transition the area from industrial use to office, residential and other retail or commercial uses.
Creating a gateway into the city is also a crucial part of the Town Center project, Voyles said, and the idea of an iron bridge at Peachtree Boulevard and the newly named American Way or Peachtree Road at the Chamblee-Dunwoody overpass are being considered.