By Jody Steinberg
A planning group is poised to unveil its comprehensive land use proposal for development, transportation and green space for the 2.5 mile stretch of North Druid Hills Road from Buford Highway to Clairmont Road.
On Jan. 21, the North Druid Hills Livable Centers Initiative hosted a community forum to present study results and solicit suggestions on its preliminary recommendations.
As a major road connecting I-85 with Buckhead and Decatur, North Druid Hills Road has been under intense pressure for redevelopment. Numerous mixed-use projects with regional impact have been developed or proposed. The goal of the LCI study is to get all parties to agree on a plan to guide growth and avoid a series of incompatible developments.
During the meeting Jan. 21, residents used stickers to choose their favorite recommendations.
The top choice: North Druid Hills as a widened boulevard with medians to separate lanes for through traffic and those for local traffic and protected bike lanes. The second most popular idea: a trail for bikes and pedestrians connecting. Six-foot wide sidewalks with planted buffers and buried utilities also drew support.
The study is a collaboration between county and regional government planning, development and transportation agencies, businesses, citizen groups and developers, with consultants to guide the process. The project is financed by a $120,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission with $57,000 matching funds from DeKalb County agencies and $3000 from Edens and Avant, co-owners of Toco Hill Shopping Center.
Consultants predict that three million square feet of new retail will be developed along the corridor in the next decade.
Hillsdale resident Tom Weber worries that new zoning would support the highest density retail and office use along I-85, where traffic backs up daily as cars enter and exit the highway.
“If they’re increasing density there, traffic improvements need to be made,” he said. “Already traffic is not manageable along there, and that affects everyone living in the area. It doesn’t make sense. If they want us to support DeKalb businesses, they have to make it accessible.”
But that development shouldn’t come at the cost of the neighborhoods or quality of life, said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. Protections for Peachtree Creek, which runs through much of the area between Buford Highway and I-85, will be part of any plan, he said.
“There is no need to put pressure on residential neighborhoods,” Rader said. “We can build where there is already a commercial footprint.”
The LCI’s recommendations, including maps and illustrations, can be viewed at http://www.northdruidhillslci.com.