The long-discussed Westside Connector hit another bump in the road when Crown Holdings Group decided to withdraw its application to develop the former Gold Kist site.
Dunwoody City Council was expected to vote on the proposed development that includes a residential tower and a hotel on May 23, but uncertainty over how the council would vote led the developers to pull the project.
Crown Holdings Group, the developers, had planned to donate approximately 2 acres of land to the city to use for the Westside Connector, a road estimated to cost some $20 million. The proposed road would alleviate traffic congestion on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive.
Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said the withdrawal of the development does not halt efforts to build the connecting road, but acknowledged the future of the project is made more “uncertain” by not knowing what could happen with the property.
The Atlanta Regional Commission awarded the city a $200,000 grant to study the road and the city has also put aside $200,000 in this year’s budget for the study. However, nothing has moved forward on that study yet and a total cost for the study is still to be determined, according to Smith.
The Westside Connector would come off I-285, run underneath Ashford-Dunwoody Road and lead directly to the former Gold Kist site and the new State Farm development. It could take some 700 cars off Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive.
Instead of driving on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and then on Hammond Drive to travel west after exiting I-285, motorists would be able to take the connector to State Farm, for example.
“The Westside Connector is really designed to alleviate congestion on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive [by taking] traffic from I-285 to the developments [such as State Farm] and thus take that traffic off that intersection,” Smith said. “This would keep traffic from having to turn left onto Hammond.”
Talk of the Westside Connector began in 2014 when developers began showing interest in building major projects in the Perimeter. “Having a road that runs parallel to Hammond Drive provides benefit to the city and the developments,” Smith said.
Had the rezoning been approved for the Crown Towers, the developer would have been responsible for building the Westside Connector on its property, Smith said.
Charlie Brown, consultant with Crown Holdings Group, said the developers spent $1 million designing plans for the Westside Connector. He declined to comment further on the road.
State Farm is currently constructing Phase 1 of its project, the headquarters building. Phase 2, just west and on the other side of Perimeter Center Parkway, will include above-ground and below-ground parking decks, three office buildings, some retail and a restaurant, Smith said.
As part of Phase 2, State Farm agreed to build part of an “east-west connector” on the southern edge of its property that would nearly connect with the Westside Connector, except for a short jog on Perimeter Center Parkway.
The east-west connector will extend to Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs, where a major mixed-use development has been announced at the Palisades office park at 5901 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.
Pollack Shores, developers for this mixed-use development, has agreed to help pay for this new east-west connector road as part of the longer roadway planned to improve east-west traffic access through Perimeter Center.
The proposed roads also help create a grid-like network of streets in the Perimeter area, Smith said.
“A grid provides an alternative way for cars to get in and out of the area. This will have the most impact on alleviating traffic,” he said.
Bike lanes and multi-use paths are also being developed throughout the Perimeter to encourage people to use other modes of transportation. The city has also done work on signals to time them better so traffic doesn’t back up on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive. But the key to easing congesting is a Westside Connector and getting cars off those two roads, Smith said.
“This is the only significant way to alleviate traffic,” he said. “This is the best way to have a significant impact.”