Dunwoody City Council deferred voting Sept. 26 on a rezoning request for a 20-story office tower next to the Dunwoody MARTA station, and asked developers for more information on traffic and on the possibility of expanding green space in the area.
Developer Transwestern is seeking a special land use permit to construct the officer tower across the street from the 21-story State Farm building that is nearly finished. The current zoning of the property, a 4-acre parcel on an unused corner of the parking lot of Perimeter Mall, only allows for a two-story building. The Planning Commission and city staff have recommended the Transwestern project be approved.
“I’m struggling with the lack of green space,” said Councilmember Lynn Deutsch. “In my experience, when a developer asks to up density in an area, the government gets something in return. I don’t see what benefits the city is receiving … in an area full of concrete.”
Jessica Hill of Morris, Manning & Martin, an attorney for Transwestern, said the developers agreed to allow the city access to a triangular piece of property for a possible park underneath the MARTA tracks, dubbed Perimeter Park, at the request of the city’s Planning Commission. But the small size and location of the property doesn’t allow for much more than the building itself, she said.
“There’s not much opportunity to put any green space on the property,” Hill said.
Transwestern originally filed plans with the city seeking to construct a 16-story office tower, but are now asking for 20 stories, Hill said. The office tower will be about 356,000 square feet, with 13,000 square feet designated for retail. A restaurant and shops are planned for the ground floor. No tenants have been finalized for the building, according to developers.
Deutsch also asked about a traffic study. Hill answered that a regional traffic study was not needed because the project was about 140,000 square feet smaller than what is necessary to trigger the study.
Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith told the City Council that Hill was correct that the project did not reach the threshold for requiring a regional traffic study. He also said the city requested a traffic study in June but has yet to receive one.
“This area has been studied … for State Farm,” Hill said. “The plans are being implemented now. We’re connecting directly to MARTA.”
Councilmember Doug Thompson asked Hill if the developers would have any objection to having a traffic study done.
“Yes, we would. The city staff has recommended approval of this project. From a timing perspective, this is the year in closing,” Hill said. “Providing a traffic study at this time would not be acceptable. We’ve made it this far without providing one.”
Shortal and Deutsch also questioned the height of the building.
Councilmember John Heneghan noted that because two council members, Pam Tallmadge and Terry Nall, were absent due to other commitments, it would be prudent for a deferral.
“I personally think it’s a pretty good project,” Heneghan said. “But based on concerns from others, I think we should defer to the next meeting.”
Thompson also said he believed the project was a good one but asked the developers to speak with city staff about the height of the proposed office tower. He also addressed traffic concerns.
“This is a good project and I know it’s on MARTA, but we want to make sure there are no unintended traffic concerns,” he said.
Transwestern is also seeking a tax abatement from the Dunwoody Development Authority. Transwestern would save approximately $14.5 million in property taxes over 12 years, according to an analysis by Georgia Tech.
The project is a speculative project — meaning no tenants are signed on to locate there — so how many jobs the project would bring to Dunwoody is uncertain. Transwestern estimates the project will bring nearly 2,500 jobs to the city.