A new plan for the area of Chamblee and Doraville that includes the site of the former GM factory calls for a mix of office and retail space, housing, parks and plazas and a new road to connect North Peachtree and Shallowford roads.

The 25-year development plan was drawn up based on community discussions about what should be built in the area, Caleb Racicot, project manager for the team of consultants that drew up the plan for the city of Doraville, told members of the Chamblee Business Association on Jan. 20. The plan was developed as part of Doraville’s Livable Centers Initiative program.

“We’re putting in place a framework,” said Racicot, a senior principal with Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, “but all the development will have to be market-based. We’re planning for a project that we really have no control over.”

That is one of the problems facing the planning effort, he said, because the planners believe GM is asking too much for its property. GM, which closed its vehicle-making plant at the site in 2008, owns about 165 acres of the 680-plus-acre LCI area, Racicot said. GM reportedly has sought $60 million for the property.

Development may require that GM’s price can be met by a developer interested in the project, Racicot said.

A development proposal for the property collapsed last year after DeKalb County officials voted against giving public money to help a Florida developer buy the site.

The draft plan is the second LCI plan developed by the city of Doraville in recent years, according to TSW’s website. The first study, completed in 2005, focused on Buford Highway.

The LCI plan for the GM tract and surrounding area covers about 523 acres in Doraville and 162 acres in Chamblee, Racicot said. The plan will be presented again in a public meeting March 2. “We want to give the councils of both communities a product that has been vetted and gone through the process,” Racicot said.

The planners are proposing a new roadway between North Peachtree and Shallowford roads to better connect the LCI property to surrounding areas. Racicot said the planners considered two alternatives – building a bridge or building a tunnel – to connect the roads.

“The biggest challenge we have is not only what do you see on the GM site, but how do you get there?” Racicot said. “The transformational potential …is really dependent on people being able to walk into MARTA and into downtown Doraville.”

Planners also proposed extending several dead-end streets from Chamblee into the GM site. “Both the residents of Doraville and also the residents of Chamblee should be able to got into the site by biking or walking,” Racicot said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.