Pedestrian bridges across North Druid Hills Road and I-85 are included in the city of Brookhaven’s requests to Emory University as part of Emory’s plans to build out a $1 billion mixed-use project on 60 acres in Executive Park.
Emory’s plans includes 1.84 million square feet of office and medical space, 60,000 square feet of commercial, a 140-room hospital, four multiunit residential buildings with 718 units, and a 200 room hotel. The project is expected to be built out in several phases over 15 to 20 years.
Construction of a new Musculoskeletal Center building as part of Emory’s existing Orthopaedics & Spine Center is expected to begin this year.
Besides the pedestrian bridges, the city is also requesting Emory build a nearly 2-acre transit “transfer hub” within the development to accommodate plans in the proposed DeKalb County Transit Master Plan. That plan includes an arterial rapid transit connection from the MARTA Medical Center Station to the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station as well as a bus rapid transit station on Buford Highway.
These are just some of the infrastructure improvements Brookhaven officials are seeking to have included as part of the “Emory at Executive Park” master plan. Emory officials call the mixed-use development a “health innovation district” that expands Emory’s health care mission, especially in the growing areas of orthopedics and spine and brain health services that are already located in Executive Park.
By making the site pedestrian friendly and offering other modes of transportation, city officials hope to alleviate some of the notorious traffic at the I-85 and North Druid Hills Road interchange. The interchange is where Executive Park is located west of North Druid Hills and where Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is currently building out a massive 70+-acre medical campus on the east side of North Druid Hills.
Emory is seeking to rezone 60 acres in Executive Park from office-commercial-residential (OCR), O-I (office institution) and C-2 (general commercial) to OCR. The rezoning would create a space for office and medical uses rather than a retail-centric site.
The Brookhaven Planning Commission at its Sept. 4 meeting voted to defer making a recommendation on the project and to ask the City Council to send back the rezoning request to the commission so more details on the project could be acquired. The City Council is expected to take up the request at its Sept. 24 meeting.
Several commissioners had questions about locations of planned buildings, such as the hotel and retail buildings. Other questions included how Emory plans to fulfill the city’s workforce housing ordinance. The ordinance requires developers include a certain number of workforce housing units as part of new multiunit residential developments.
Chair Stan Segal said he wanted to see visually in illustrations and drawings where Emory planned to construct 1.5 miles of sidewalks, a multiuse trail that will connect to CHOA’s trail to the Peachtree Creek Greenway and also where Emory planned to build green spaces.
City Attorney Chris Balch explained to the Planning Commission at its Sept. 4 work session that city and Emory officials are in negotiations on a “community investment agreement” to address some of the infrastructure needs of the city, such as the bridges and transit station. This agreement falls outside the Planning Commission’s purview, he said.
Carl Westmoreland, attorney for Emory, added during the Planning Commission’s regular meeting that Emory is in discussions with city staff, the city attorney and City Council members on finding various funding sources for these particular requests. There are scant details on the bridges, including size and width, Westmoreland added.
One pedestrian bridge is proposed to be built across North Druid Hills Road to connect to the CHOA campus. The other pedestrian bridge would cross I-85 connecting Executive Park to West Druid Hills Road.
The city purchased for $1.5 million an empty parking lot at 2751 Buford Highway, the Druid Pointe office building, that connects to West Druid Hills Road specifically to be used for a bridge across I-85.