State Farm plans massive Dunwoody campus

Insurance giant State Farm said Friday it will add 3,000 metro Atlanta jobs over the next several years as it builds a massive new campus in Dunwoody.

State Farm and developer KDC said they plan a complex of office towers, stores and restaurants and a hotel on 17 acres along Hammond Drive near Perimeter Mall. The insurer last year said it would move existing jobs and create new ones to a national operations center in Dunwoody, and Friday’s announcement fleshes out the plan.

The project would rival the nearby Concourse business park, home to the iconic King and Queen buildings, and would rank among the largest real estate projects announced in metro Atlanta since the Great Recession. Work on the more than 2 million-square-foot Dunwoody complex will start this summer.

The complex promises to bring more traffic to the already congested Perimeter Center area. A KDC executive said that will be mitigated by its location across from the Dunwoody MARTA station and the growth of housing in the area.

“The concept behind these (regional) hub projects is … to create the workplace of the future,” said Larry Wilson, regional president of Dallas-based KDC.

The Central Perimeter area has become a more residential community, with growing amenities for shopping and entertainment, Wilson said.

“We believe a large number of the employees will live in that immediate area and will be able to walk to work,” he said.

Illinois-based State Farm last year started the consolidation in rented space in Dunwoody.

The company now has 5,000 workers across the metro region — including 2,600 hired in 2013 — with plans to grow to 8,000 through relocations and new hires “over the coming years,” it said. The insurer also has a large campus in Johns Creek that it sold last year but continues to lease.

“This is a decade-long project that will continue to evolve based on the needs of our customers,” State Farm spokesman Justin Tomczak said.

The first office tower – planned for 19 stories –would be followed by three to four additional phases planned over the next 10 years, Wilson said. The companies declined to disclose projected development costs or financing details.

It’s unclear how many State Farm employees will be based in the new campus, but much of the new job growth and consolidation is likely to occur there.

Many of the recent jobs State Farm has sought to fill in metro Atlanta include “customer-service, call-center, claims, information technology, underwriting and sales-based support,” Tomczak said.

The first tower is planned for a four-acre parcel that currently houses a Chequers seafood restaurant and a former Fuddruckers. Wilson said his firm is in negotiations to keep Chequers as a tenant on site.

Last year, State Farm acquired that site and the adjacent 10-story Hammond Exchange building where it houses some of its operations and 13 acres of undeveloped land around it. Wilson said the Hammond Exchange property has entitlements allowing for apartments or condos, but it is unclear if the final project will include residences.

Development plans will be submitted in the spring to Dunwoody officials. Wilson said one potential plan calls for knocking down the existing 10-story office tower and replacing it with a new buildings, while another would surround the existing building with new development.

The new campus will be similar in scope to other new State Farm regional hubs planned near Phoenix and Dallas. The project will be owned by a joint venture of State Farm and KDC. State Farm will lease the property.

While MARTA provides north-south service along its Red line and bus service in the area, there is no east-west rail connection in the area.

“I think this area is going to be congested for the foreseeable future, the question is how do you give people an alternative,” said David Emory, president for Citizens for Progressive Transit, which promotes rapid transit services.

Yvonne Williams, the president and CEO of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, said the self-taxing district has invested millions to become more walkable, and the area has grown its residential stock.

“The whole image of the Central Perimeter has been transformed as an urban center,” she said.

A pending I-285/Ga. 400 interchange project, the Hammond Drive exit and the new interchange at Ashford Dunwoody Road at I-285 have helped reduce congestion, Williams said.

Those projects have helped convince companies including State Farm and AirWatch to expand or relocate to the region, she said. But she said more transit options are necessary, particularly along the top-end of the Perimeter.

“We need to look at how we connect from Cumberland to Perimeter to Doraville,” said Williams, who has advocated rapid bus service along I-285.

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