By John Schaffner

A year after it acquired 55 Washington Mutual bank branches in Atlanta, New York-based financial giant JPMorgan Chase is furthering expansion in Buckhead.

Among other moves in the area, Chase plans to open a bank in The Peach shopping center, 2900 Peachtree Road, in 5000 square feet of the former Linens n Things retail space at the south end of the center and closest to Peachtree Road.

It doesn’t seem to bother Chase that it is moving into a shopping center where two other banks already have facilities — an RBC Centura Bank retail space just a few hundred feet away and a SunTrust branch within the Publix super market.

But, in order to open this branch, Chase, working with The Peach management company’s principal Robert Bradshaw, had to gain approval for three special exceptions from Atlanta zoning regulations to accommodate four drive-through banking lanes — one a commercial drive through that will be adjacent to the bank, and three stand-alone drive-throughs in the part of the center parking lot closest to the bank and to Peachtree Road.

Two of the drive-throughs in the parking lot will be for teller-assisted transactions and the third will be for the bank’s ATM machine.

In order to get approval for the zoning exceptions, one of the first steps was for Bradshaw and Chase to go before the Zoning Committee of Neighborhood Planning Unit B (NPU-B) on Aug. 26 after having requested a couple of deferrals due to not being ready for the presentation.

The first of the zoning exceptions was to reduce the parking spaces in the shopping center from 487 identified spaces to 445, below what is required by the city for the center’s retail and restaurant space.

The second exception was to allow the commercial drive-through adjacent to the bank within 100 feet of a residential district.

The third exception was to reduce the number of stackable spaces for the drive-throughs from six spaces to three.

As part of the negotiations between the shopping center management and the adjacent neighborhoods —principally Garden Hills — it was agreed that an attractive screen of pillars and cross members, with vines and plantings, would be put in place situated between the drive-through lanes and Peachtree Road. Between the columns would be 36-inch shrubs, which would all help to screen the drive-through lanes from passing traffic on Peachtree Road.

It was pointed out that the screening proposal would fit with the architectural standards of the new proposed SPI-9 Overlay Plan for Buckhead Village, which is expected to go far enough south along Peachtree Road to include The Peach shopping center.

After the shopping center management presented letters from the adjacent residential buildings and the committee heard from members that they really never saw all the parking spaces filled on that end of the shopping center, the NPU-B Zoning Committee unanimously approved al three exceptions by a vote of 8-0-0.

Having been approved by the Zoning Committee, the approval by the full NPU-B board on Sept. 1 was routine, with no representatives of either the shopping center or JPMorgan Chase Bank present at the meeting.

The requests for the three special exceptions are expected to go before city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment this month.

Chase Bank will only be taking 5,000 square feet of the 23,200 square feet formerly occupied by Linens ‘n Things, which still leaves 18,200 square feet of that space to lease, presumably to a retail client. That became part of the discussion over the amount of parking left after the drive through lanes are put in place, but no one at the NPU felt it would be a serious problem.

A sign presently in that space announces that a Halloween retail shop soon will be occupying the space on a temporary basis.