By Maggie Lee
Opinions from residents vary widely over the proposed major city redevelopment project at Dunwoody Village.
Known as the “heart of the city” in Dunwoody’s planning documents, the area surrounding Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads is, for the most part, an aging shopping center anchored by the historic Dunwoody Farmhouse.
About 80 people attended a Nov. 18 meeting and provided opinions on several redevelopment concepts that could shape Dunwoody Village in the next five to 10 years.
As it stands today, many residents said they don’t have much use for the village, which is marked by its Colonial-style architecture.
“What would I do there?” Queenie Ross said. “It needs life.”
The fact that the village is no longer a major draw for city residents is part of why Dunwoody wants a makeover for the shopping center area.
But start asking citizens what they want, and the major question arises: Should the village become an area with a mix of residential, retail and commercial space, kind of like an urban downtown?
Some disagree with that concept.
“Dunwoody is a bedroom community that used to have a lot of greenery,” said long-time Dunwoody resident Jacqueline Granath.
She said she’s not interested in a mixed-use development for Dunwoody Village. “There’s already a lot of empty residential property around here,” she noted, adding that newer apartments and townhouses have already displaced the trees she used to enjoy.
All six draft concepts include new residences, offices, shops and a park. Those three components are necessary for the economic viability of the project, city officials say.
Residents have called loudest for parks. However, to make the project attractive in the real estate market, green space will be capped at 2.5 acres, city planners estimate.
Joe Wilson calls himself “pro-urban.” He lives near Dunwoody Village and, commenting about a five-story mixed-use building, says a redone city center sounds like a place he’d like to live. Barring that, it should at least be more convenient for shopping.
“I want a place I can pull up, park in front of, shop and get back in the car,” Wilson said. All the plans would reduce parking spaces in the area. By city planners’ calculations there are too many anyway.
Pictures of proposed layouts for a revamped Dunwoody Village show parking spaces on the streets or behind buildings, some of which will house ground-level retail space topped by one or two stories of lofts or small offices. Townhouses will have their own garages.
One plan shows the historic Dunwoody farmhouse making room for 250 yards of green rolling hills. The signature park caught the attention of several people, including Ross. “We’d like more green space. I think this is the time to get it,” she said.
Wilson, meanwhile, said that while parks are important, the economic components of the revamped Village will decide its fate.
“The Village now is not sustainable,” Wilson said. “Without residents, it dies.”
Planners are suggesting between 16 and 75 residential units.
But they’re all planned to be very high-end and as big as 2,000 square feet. A potential market could be wealthy empty nesters. A few homes may be flats and stair-free for easier mobility.
That niche market housing sounded good to Megan Batcheller. Because Dunwoody schools are already overcrowded, she doesn’t “want it to be a desirable place for people with families.” It’s nothing against schoolchildren, but “there are plenty of neighborhoods around here you could move into.”
Components of the Village that exist today that could be on the chopping block are a post office, the Dunwoody Plaza shopping center and Dunwoody Village Court homes. The last two are on Dunwoody Village Parkway, a circular road running behind the shopping center. And there’s talk of relocating a library a block north.
The six concepts for a new Dunwoody Village should appear on the city’s website shortly. At this point, all the drawings are conceptual and malleable. The city is not committed to anything, according to city officials. The last public meeting on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 20.