By Chuck Stanley

A Florida-based developer has moved closer to approval for two residential towers in Buckhead after gaining support from Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board at the body’s July 11 meeting.

Despite concerns that the project might bring increased traffic to the busy intersection of Piedmont and Lenox Roads, the board voted unanimously in support of a zoning change that would allow mixed-use development at the site and bring the land into Buckhead’s Special Public Improvement 12 district.

The developer, Crocker Partners, obtained the 6.5-acre parcel when it purchased the Prominence in Buckhead office tower from TIAA-CREF, Equity Office, and the Blackstone Group in August 2012.

A second office tower was approved for construction on the site at the same time as Prominence, but was never developed.  Now, Crocker plans to build a pair of towers, standing 26 and 19 stories high, that would contain a total of 703 residential units.

“We’re excited about this project,” Crocker Partners’ Christopher Eachus told ZRB members.  “We acquired the site a little less than a year ago with the intention to rezone the land with the intention of going with multifamily development.”

Lawyer Carl Westmoreland, who represents Crocker Partners, told the board that Buckhead CID and NPU-B had asked the developer to request SPI-12 zoning in order to permit possible future streetscape improvements and incorporation of the land into PATH400, the proposed trail along Ga. 400.  NPU-B voted in support of the project at its June 4 board meeting.

Despite the NPU’s support, residents of the Meridian Buckhead condo tower, which stands on the opposite side of Lenox Road from the proposed project, are concerned about increased traffic related to the project, especially at the Lenox Road intersection where the residential towers’ entrances would meet.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that taking a piece of vacant dirt and turning it into 703 units is going to change traffic patterns there,” Kyle Williams, attorney for One Buckhead Loop Condominium Association, told the ZRB.

“Mr. Westmoreland and Mr. Eachus have been very generous and very transparent and very cooperative and have answered our questions,” added Williams.  However, this transparency did not change Meridian homeowners’ concerns over traffic at the developments Lenox Road and Piedmont entrances.

“[The intersections are] already at a failing score.  Based on their levels of service, they’re at a D or E out of a scale of A to F, and this is just going to make it worse,” Williams said of the project.  “Is there something that this development can do to make transportation easier and do something to alleviate it?”

In response, Westmoreland reminded the Board that the site was already approved for more than 400,000 square feet of office space, saying “I would suggest, and I think the traffic studies would support, that would have more of an impact on traffic in this area than would the proposed residential units.”

Although the Zoning Review Board’s decision is non-binding, support for the development from both the ZRB and NPU-B make it likely that the project will receive approval from Atlanta City Council.  The project should go before the Atlanta City Council Community Development Committee, July 30.