As many as 10 new high-rises could propel the urbanization of the Perimeter Mall area in coming years if two projects announced this week ever take off.
On Friday, longtime Atlanta area developer Charlie Brown and partners unveiled Crown Towers, a planned five-tower project just south of the mall. Brown and Crown Holdings Group plan as many as two condo towers (one potentially with a hotel on its lower floors), two 24-story office buildings and a high-rise hotel on the site along I-285 a block south of the Dunwoody MARTA station.
That came just days after a mysterious group proposed three high-rise residential buildings and two office towers around an existing hexagon-shaped office building at 1117 Perimeter Center West in neighboring Sandy Springs, about a mile north.
At this stage both proposals are little more than developers’ dreams. Neither have tenants and both need to go before local governments for crucial zoning changes.
Both projects are tied to neighboring MARTA stations and will likely be pitched as self-contained, live-work-play projects, but they also will likely bring loads of traffic to already congested areas.
“Traffic mitigation is a very big factor,” newly-elected Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal said Friday. The mammoth overhaul of the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange is the area’s most important transportation initiative, he said, and it will likely take into 2020 to complete.
Dunwoody is working on new zoning standards to encourage more density near its MARTA station, with less density in residential areas to the north, he said.
Crown took control a few years ago of the site near the mall, which now has a dated, low-rise office building previously used by poultry producer Gold Kist. Redevelopment was expected, and the land is already zoned to allow the office towers and standalone hotel. However, the developers would need zoning changes for high-rise residential.
Brown said the residential could be condensed into a single 40-story tower if the state’s plans to overhaul the nearby 400/285 interchange infringes on too much of Crown’s land.
Crown Towers sits along the route of a planned road, to be called the Westside Connector, that would link I-285 to the expanding campus of State Farm. The insurance giant is building the first of a group of new offices adjacent to the MARTA station. Brown and his partners are donating land to the city of Dunwoody to build the new road.
Brown acknowledged the growing road congestion in the area.
“That traffic is killing the goose that laid the golden egg in Dunwoody,” he said.
But he said Crown Towers is “a solution” to traffic problems rather than a cause, because residents could use MARTA and walk to work.
Along with State Farm, Mercedes-Benz is also set to start its U.S. headquarters this year along Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs. Seven Oaks Co. is set to start an office building just south of I-285 at Perimeter Summit in Brookhaven, and longer range plans for the Central Perimeter area include thousands of apartments along the traffic-clogged top end of the Perimeter.
The Crown Towers site is also hemmed in by a retail strip center to its north. Just to the northwest across Hammond Drive, a partly-vacant tract called the High Street site is expected to be redeveloped with new office towers, residential units and retail in coming years. (The AJC is currently in a building on the High Street site.)
Beyond the 400/285 project, the biggest step to relieve current and future congestion is the proposed $16 million to $21 million Westside Connector. It is in advanced planning now.
The road would take westbound motorists from I-285 under Ashford Dunwoody Road to Perimeter Center Parkway near State Farm’s new campus. The road would also feature an eastbound lane giving motorists another option to connect to westbound I-285. Another road in Sandy Springs would connect the State Farm site to Peachtree Dunwoody Road.
Brown said he is in discussions with neighboring property owners about ways to connect his project to Hammond Drive and help improve traffic flow.
Brown said the team is probably on “plan 43A” after years of tinkering.
The condos would be marketed to workers in nearby office developments and aging suburbanites looking to downsize from their homes, stay in their current community and rid themselves of yard work. He said it is likely few tenants would have young children and it would not overly burden local schools.
The condo units would likely cost about $250,000 to more than $1 million.
Brown, 77, was a co-developer of Atlantic Station and Technology Park Atlanta.
He also was also involved in the proposed Roswell East mini-city along Ga. 400 before the real estate collapse scuttled plans there. A Crown partner has proposed a lower density project on that site, known as Riverwalk Village, but development so far has not gone forward.
Though building activity for office campuses with dedicated tenants is hot in metro Atlanta, few speculative office projects in metro Atlanta are underway, despite limited office vacancy. But more development proposals are likely, as witnessed by the week’s announcements.
Among the major projects pending in the area of Ga. 400 and I-285:
—State Farm operations center
— Mercedes-Benz U.S. headquarters
— Five towers at 1117 Perimeter Center West
— Office building at Perimeter Summit
— Boston developer GID’s High Street site
— Gold Kist headquarters revitalization
— Ga. 400/I-285 interchange reconstruction