13178 Brookhaven Walgreens 05-02-14

After years of contentious debate, the Walgreens project on Peachtree Road is moving toward construction.

Brookhaven’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 on July 16 to allow a series of zoning variances needed for a new proposal for the project.

Developer Jay Gipson said the vote provided the final zoning approval his company needed to move forward “This is it,” Gipson said. “I think we’re done, and we are so excited about moving forward and creating this.”

Gipson’s plan calls for a three-story, brick-faced building with a parking garage at the corner of Peachtree Road and Colonial Drive. He said the structure will look like a “classic, old urban building.” Walgreens will operate a pharmacy on the first floor, and offices will fill the second and third floors, he said. He said construction could begin by the end of the year and be completed in 2015.

Walgreens has been trying to locate a pharmacy on the property for years, stretching back to before the creation of the city of Brookhaven. Its plans drew opposition from neighbors because they said the proposals violated terms of the overlay zoning district. The overlay, which governs aspects of development in the area, was created to give the area an “urban look,” and requires multi-story buildings built along the street.

Residents in the past objected to plans to create a single-floor building to house the pharmacy and to the property’s curb cut onto Peachtree.

Some residents continued their objections to the project’s curb cut on Peachtree, telling members of the zoning board the curb cut violates terms of the zoning overlay and had been denied in the past. The curb cut is designed to provide a right turn into and right turn out of the development.

During the zoning board’s meeting, some residents and board members said the vote would create a precedent for the area. “This [project] has been kicked around five plus years,” Bill Roberts of the Brookhaven Peachtree Community Alliance told the zoning board members. “This is the first project the overlay has been brought to bear on. It’s a beacon for everything that will happen over the next 25 years, up and down the road.”

Resident Kathy Forbes also objected to the plan. “Granting these variances to Walgreens would be giving special consideration,” she said in a statement read at the meeting.

But the project drew support, too. Zoning board member Jed Beardsley, who voted for the variances, later said the project would provide needed office space in the area. “This is not just a Walgreens, it’s two stories of office space, and it’s the first new office space in Brookhaven along Peachtree Road in years and years,” he said. “I think that’s a nice part of the project. … There is a dearth of office space in our corridor.”

The board approved the variances, with Beardsley, Don Bolia and Glenn Viers voting yes, and Chairman Tim Nama and member Coey Self voting no.

Gipson said the building will enclose 32,000 square feet of office space and 14,100 square feet of space for the Walgreens, and it would have “a high-dollar finish.”

Gipson said he was born in Brookhaven and had spent much of his life there. He is developing the project with his father. “I’m a native,” he said. “When I was born, my parents lived on Dresden Drive.

“At the end of the day, I live there. I shop there. So the impact this building has on the community, it has on me.”

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.