Rezoning for the Dunwoody Crown Towers development to add a condominium tower, retail space and a luxury hotel would not impact traffic at major intersections surrounding the area, according to a recent traffic study conducted for the developers.
“There are no new improvements required to facilitate the addition of this residential development …,” the study states. “Additionally, there would be a slight reduction in overall traffic because a small percentage of the residents of the condominiums would typically work at the office towers and office workers and residents would frequent the retail center. Also, the residential traffic peak hour movements are reverse from that of the office towers; therefore the residential traffic would not create the need for additional capacity on the roadway network.”
Crown Holdings commissioned the traffic study as part of its rezoning request to the city of Dunwoody. Crown Holdings wants approximately 5 acres of land at the Gold Kist site, along Perimeter Center Parkway, to be rezoned to allow for a 380-unit high rise condominium tower, a 3-story retail center and a luxury hotel with approximately 150 rooms.
Fifteen acres of proposed development on the Gold Kist site does not require rezoning and would include two 24-story office towers, a restaurant, a conference center and a 28-story high-rise hotel. The project is expected to be completed in 2026. The traffic study is focused on the rezoning, but it accounts for the entire project.
The developers are expected to have their rezoning request heard at the April 12 Planning Commission meeting.
Heyward Wescott, a member of the Planning Commission, said he is not sure how he will vote on the proposed rezoning request. However, he acknowledged, he is a fan of mixed-use developments near MARTA stations.
“This kind of dense development near a MARTA station to me makes all the sense in the world,” he said. “I’m open to the idea of having a live, work, play development, especially in the [Perimeter Center Improvement District]. I’m pro making that area livable and walkable.”
But City Council member Terry Nall, who also said he is still studying all the information on the proposed project, said adding more density to the area can only mean more traffic despite what the study says.
“There are 15 acres [of Crown Holdings] that already has certain entitlements, High Property and State Farm already have entitlements. These entitlements are very dense and to add two towers – are we over saturating that area,” Nall said.
Study looks at major intersections
The study, completed by Moreland Altobelli Associates, also states there would likely be a “slight reduction in overall traffic” because a small percentage of condo residents would also work at the office towers and office works would shop at the retail center.
“Also, the residential traffic peak hour movements are reverse from that of the office towers; therefore the residential traffic would not create the need for additional capacity on the roadway network,” according to the study.
The traffic study looked at five key intersections: Perimeter Center Parkway’s intersections with Hammond Drive, Gold Kist Drive and Lake Hearn Drive; Hammond Drive at Ashford-Dunwoody Road; and Hammond Drive’s intersection with the driveway of a shopping center anchored by Best Buy and Marshalls.
What’s missing, said Nall, was a look at what will happen at the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and I-285.
“You can’t just look at the six intersections immediately around the area — that interchange is the bottleneck that backs up everything,” he said.
According to the study, Perimeter Center Parkway has an approximate average daily traffic volume of 8,060 vehicles per day. Hammond Drive has about 22,720 vehicles per day. Ashford-Dunwoody Road has about 28,650 vehicles per day.
Gold Kist Drive is a two-lane local road that ends at the driveway to the Gold Kist Office building. There are currently two other office driveways on Gold Kist Drive.
Peak hours for these intersections with traffic signals in 2014 were determined to be between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. by another engineering firm.
Current conditions show that, for example, there is a 13.4 second delay at the intersection of Perimeter Center Parkway at Hammond Drive during morning peak hours. In the evening, there is a 19.9 second delay. At Hammond Drive at Ashford-Dunwoody Road, delays are 19.2 seconds in the morning and 29.6 seconds in the evening.
These intersections are currently the busiest, according to the study, but the delays are still considered a “B” grade on a scale of A-F, according to level of service standards designed by traffic experts.
With the proposed zoning and completion of the project in 2026, traffic is not expected to change very much, the Crown Towers study states. The gross number of trips traveling into the mixed-use development without zoning is estimated at 13,445 weekday trips; with the rezoning, the weekday daily trips are estimated at 18,006.
“The increase in traffic just for rezoning is 34 percent,” Nall said. “How are we going to mitigate 34 percent?”
If the proposed zoning is approved for the Crown Towers, the traffic shows intersections will operate at acceptable levels of service except these two intersections, which already have poor performance, according to the study:
• Perimeter Center Parkway at Hammond Drive – a 42.4 second delay in the morning and a 45.1 second delay in the evening, with a grade of D.
• Hammond Drive at Ashford-Dunwoody Road – a 54.6 second delay in the morning and an 84.2 second delay in the evening, for an F grade.
Density equals more traffic snarls, some say
Residents and City Council members have raised concerns that bringing in this kind of density will make traffic that more intolerable for motorists.
Some members at the March Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting expressed their hesitancy to give the project their blessing.
Mayor Denis Shortal has said the proposed Westside Connector road will play a significant role in discussion of this project moving forward.
The Westside Connector is still just an idea at this point. It is a planned road coming off I-285, going under Ashford-Dunwoody Road and connecting with Perimeter Center Parkway. The idea for the Westside Connector plan started when the owners of Crown Holdings came to the city and offered the city 2 acres of its 15-acre property to be used as right-of-way for the road.
The road is estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million and would require state and federal funds to be built, Shortal said.
Crown Holdings agrees with the need for a Westside Connector.
“There is an existing traffic problem that is being made worse with every new development in the Perimeter Center area. Traffic congestion at the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody Road at Hammond Drive is the result of a traffic pattern caused by the poor interstate access to properties along Perimeter Center Parkway,” the study states.
“Traffic from the I-285 westbound Ashford-Dunwoody Road ramp turns right onto Ashford-Dunwoody Road and then turns left onto Hammond Drive to reach destinations along Perimeter Center Parkway. This maneuver is a complex weave across three lanes and has the potential to have frequent crashes.”
The proposed Westside Connector would be key in alleviating dangerous traffic patterns in this area, according to the study.
Nall said the fact the study admits there are traffic problems already in the area and that it is “made worse” with all new development in the Perimeter Center area is a “telling sign in the report.”
He also questions whether MARTA usage will really go up by 25 percent as estimated in the report, leading to a reduction in traffic.
“There is no empirical evidence for this,” he said.