Brookhaven officials say they are ready to begin the master plan process for a “City Centre” with a new City Hall to be located on or near Peachtree Road. Past talks have included building a new center as part of a redevelopment of the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station, but city leaders say they are not necessarily tied to that site.
The City Council at its Feb. 8 retreat discussed the rapid redevelopment of Peachtree Road, which bisects the city, and that a city center master plan is needed to guide future development. Included in that future development is the tearing down of the current City Hall building to make way for a commercial project. A temporary moratorium on new construction for a portion of Peachtree Road could be implemented as the city defines what it wants in a city center.
“Development is encroaching fast,” City Manager Christian Sigman told the council. “If we don’t have a plan, the next thing could be, we do not have a City Centre but have a Roswell Road.” City Centre, spelled with an “re,” differentiates the project from other city center plans, according to the city.
The city expects to put out a request for proposal within the next several months to hire a firm to guide city officials and the public through a master planning process for the city center. Planning would include detailed land uses, streetscapes, green space and aesthetics that go beyond just zoning regulations.
Sigman provided the council with numerous examples of other city center master plans with a wide mix of uses. One was the Sandy Springs City Center Master Plan adopted in 2012. From that plan came the 14-acre City Springs civic and performing arts center, as well as redevelopment guidelines for public and private entities to create a wider downtown district.
Talks in Brookhaven have focused on building a city center as part of MARTA’s expected redevelopment of its Brookhaven-Oglethorpe station, but officials say they want to consider other sites. The council members did agree by consensus the city center should be located near the MARTA Station.
In 2017, MARTA wanted to build a Brookhaven “town center” as part of its approximately 6-acre transit-oriented development at the station but canceled the project after a breakdown in talks with the city over tax incentives and density. The city continues discussions with MARTA about any planned redevelopment of the property in what they have dubbed “MARTA 2.0.”
But when MARTA 2.0 may occur is still unknown. A City Centre master plan could dovetail with MARTA talks as it gives the city negotiating powers with developers and builders, Sigman said.
Sigman said the city continues to hear from people wanting to know what is happening at the MARTA station, but the question now should be, “What is going on with your City Centre?”
“Because we don’t want to be focusing on just the acreage of that little lot,” Sigman said.
The City Centre area could extend to Camille Drive east of the MARTA station or include the full length of Apple Valley Road, Sigman said. The footprint of the study area for the city center is expected to be decided in the next month.
Redevelopments planned for Peachtree Road include a mixed-use project at the former Hastings Nursery site and a hotel and retail project where City Hall now stands. The city’s lease on City Hall expires in 2024, but the building’s owner can break the lease with a nine-month notice. No construction timeline has been given to the city.
“There is an iceberg sitting out there,” Sigman said. “We are not going to be here forever.”
The city spends about $440,000 a year on City Hall, which includes lease payments and utilities. The current building no longer meets the needs of city staff, Sigman said.
Sigman said the city also needs to ensure there is plenty of ways to provide public input on the city center project as part of its RFP.
“We want buy-in and excitement from residents that this is our City Centre,” Sigman said.