Developers and business owners were recently taken on a guided tour of Brookhaven from Perimeter Summit to the Peachtree Creek Greenway, where officials spotlighted areas ripe for redevelopment during a day-long sales pitch of the city.
The tour was part of Brookhaven’s inaugural “Developer’s Day” Sept. 12, where city representatives openly courted more than 50 potential developers and business owners. The city plans to hold more events like this in the future.
Economic Development Director Shirlynn Brownell touted the city’s location; modern zoning regulations; such amenities as parks, a young and diverse demographic; and a MARTA station.
She also noted existing relationships with nonprofit giants Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, which together are investing nearly $3 billion in new development.
The tour also included a peek inside the Atlanta Hawks locker room during the stop at the NBA team’s state-of-the-art-practice facility in Executive Park.
Developers said they were impressed.
“I wanted to see what was going on in Brookhaven … and it’s encouraging to see a city be proactive and say, ‘Come, sit down with us, let’s talk,’” said Jay Weaver of Weaver & Woodbery, a company with experience in large office projects.
“I’ve not seen anyone else be this proactive and sometimes it can be tough to do business in DeKalb [and] the city of Atlanta … Sometimes [governments] can almost be adversarial,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see what [Brookhaven] is doing.”
There’s no question Brookhaven wants to go big. Those invited represented such development giants as Colliers International, Regent Partners and Portman Holdings.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce also attended.
Developers got to see a big vision for what the city wants at the current site of the Salvation Army’s southern headquarters. It includes an 18-story office tower overlooking I-85 at the North Druid Hills Road interchange.
The city tapped HKS Architects in June to dream up a mixed-use development on the property, where a Greenway trailhead is under construction just yards away from Buford Highway. The imaginary “Brookhaven Mixed Use Development Master Plan” also includes office and residential towers.
Another visioning project presentation, by design firm TSW, imagined a “City Centre” mixed-use development at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station. Planners included on the site a new City Hall, performing arts center, office and retail buildings, condominiums and an underground parking deck.
Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin explained some of the city’s zoning regulations that include “master planned development districts” where developers are encouraged to be creative and innovative.
“We will work with you,” she said.
Ruffin also touched on the city’s citywide inclusionary zoning, which requires new multifamily residential developments include 10% workforce housing.
While standing on the Greenway’s cement path near the North Druid Hills Road trailhead, some developers raised questions about how requiring affordable housing along the Buford Highway corridor would be feasible after the project increases property values.
Patty Hansen, a project manager for the Greenway, said the workforce housing zoning mandate includes density incentives. Next year, the Economic Development Department is scheduled to update the city’s Buford Highway improvement and economic development plan and include other development incentives.
Other stops on the tour included taking in spectacular views from the 42nd floor of the 4004 Perimeter Summit building, as well as stops at office buildings at 1277 Lenox Park Blvd. and 2700 Apple Valley Road. All are Class-A office buildings with room for new tenants.
Developer’s Day ended with dinner at Oglethorpe University and a panel discussion on what attracts developers and investors to a city or community in the current market.
“Another thing that’s important is the willingness of local government to encourage and support redevelopment and the reputation of an area,” said
Gary Cornell, a lecturer on city and regional planning at Georgia Tech. In 2017, Cornell led a class of graduate students in a study of Buford Highway and how to plan for its future.
Cornell lauded the Brookhaven for accommodating developers by having less restrictive zoning requirements than some other cities in the region.
Todd Long, former Fulton County chief operating officer and now at the engineering and management firm Moreland Altobelli, said most of the cities in Georgia are operating with policies that are 40 or 50 years out of date.
–Dyana Bagby and Kevin C. Madigan
Updated: This story has been updated to say that Developer’s Day is not planned to be an annual event but plans are to have more such events in the future.