About five years after the first grant was approved for the project and after months of yard signs and letters to the editor opposing the plan, Dunwoody City Council has approved the construction contract for the remaking of Dunwoody Village Parkway.

“In the end,” City Councilman John Heneghan said, “it is about the sidewalks, the bike lanes and about redeveloping our community.”

Heneghan joined four other council members Oct. 28 to approve contracting Johnson Landscapes Inc. for construction of the controversial parkway project. Johnson’s contract will cover about $1.62 million of the roughly $2.3 million project, city Public Works Director Michael Smith said.

Councilwoman Adrian Bonser and Councilman Terry Nall cast dissenting votes. “I don’t feel like we’ve found the proper compromise yet,” Nall said.

The city plans to narrow the four-lane parkway to two lanes, remove a median and add sidewalks and bike lanes. City officials hope the project will create a “Main Street” for Dunwoody and revitalize Dunwoody Village.

Work is expected to begin next year. Smith said the project should take seven to eight months. City officials intend for the work to be done or substantially completed in time for the city’s annual July 4 parade, he said.

The Dunwoody Village Parkway project is the first of several large intersection improvements the city plans over the next five years. Plans officials have been drawing up over the city’s first five years will soon be rolled out as construction projects.

“We’re now starting to see the actual construction,” Smith said. “There shouldn’t be long lapses between one project and the next one.”

The city’s intersection improvement plans call for:

–In 2015, a $3 million project to add turn lanes and sidewalks at Tilly Mill and North Peachtree and $1.3 million project to add turn lanes at Mount Vernon and Vermack;

–In 2016, a $1.35 million project at Chamblee-Dunwoody at Spalding;

–In 2017, a $1.28 million project at Mount Vernon at Tilly Mill;

–In 2018, a $1.2 million project at Tilly Mill at Mount Vernon Place;

–In 2019, a $2.75 million project at Chamblee-Dunwoody at Peeler;

–In 2020, a $6.2 million project on Chamblee-Dunwoody from Cotillion to Old Springhouse.

The Dunwoody Village Parkway project produced debate until the final vote.

“I’ve heard some good comments from a lot of good citizens,” Councilman Denny Shortal said. “If you buy a house and you keep it 40 years and you never do anything with it and you put it up for sale, nobody’s going to look at it. This could be the impetus for the revitalization of Dunwoody Village.”

Before the vote, residents spoke both for and against the project.

“The village is aging. The parkway is terrible and something needs to be done,” Bev Wingate told the council.

But Frank Lockridge said he was confused by plans to rebuild the parkway. “It seems we’re tearing up a street and taking up trees and we’re putting down a street and putting back trees – at a really big cost,” he said.

Sixth grader Liam Harris argued the road should be safer. “Anything you can do to make it safe would be greatly supported by many middle and high schoolers,” Harris said.

Jim Dickson, one of the original members of the group Save Dunwoody, which was founded, in part, because of objections to the parkway plan, asked that the council delay its decision until after the Nov. 5 election. Several candidates have questioned the parkway plan.

“The reason young families are moving to Dunwoody is because they like the way it is now,” Dickson said. “The fact this item is even on the agenda before the election can only be described as arrogance.”

Dickson said city officials have dismissed public complaints about the parkway and other city projects as problems with communications between city officials and residents. “The real problem isn’t communication, it’s the project,” he said. “Perfume the pig and it’s still a pig. We need to get rid of the pigs, the unpopular projects themselves.”

The city has budgeted up to $2.4 million for the overall project.

The construction contract, according to a city memorandum outlining costs, includes a base bid amount of $1,355,730 plus $33,458 to include irrigation in the landscape buffer, $40,000 to increase the number of benches and trash cans to meet the requirements of the Dunwoody Village overlay plan, $40,000 to install underground electrical conduit and pole bases for lights and a 10 percent contingency.

The city also authorized $300,000 to install overhead lights and $40,000 to pay engineers Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. to oversee construction.

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.