The fate of an office tower adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA station remains unclear after developers received approval for a 16-story building rather than the requested 20 stories.
The Dunwoody City Council voted 5-2 on Nov. 14 to approve the proposed Nexus speculative office tower from developer Transwestern be built at 16 stories and not 20 stories on an unused 4-acre portion of the Perimeter Mall parking lot across the street from the State Farm development on Hammond Drive.
The vote came after Councilmember Lynn Deutsch made an amendment to a motion to approve the special land use permit for 20 stories to instead approve only 16 stories. Voting in favor of the amendment for 16 stories were Mayor Denis Shortal and Councilmembers Lynn Deutsch, Terry Nall, Jim Riticher and Pam Tallmadge; voting against the 16-story amendment were Councilmembers Doug Thompson and John Heneghan.
“Where I’m struggling … is I think there is a lack of cohesive vision of what the Perimeter Center will be in the future,” Deutsch said.
“Certainly the amount of density is appropriate in the Perimeter where a big chunk of the economic engine in metro Atlanta [is located]. What I worry about is where is the tipping point,” she said. “If congestion gets too backed up nobody is going to want to do business there.”
At 20 stories, the building measured 456,840 square feet and would include ground floor retail and restaurant space. The project includes a 5-story parking deck. As part of the purchase of the land from Perimeter Mall’s owners, General Growth Properties, Transwestern would also buy the 600-space MARTA parking deck currently leased to MARTA.
Deutsch added her concern was more about square footage and not height.
“Eliminating offices is the intent because it eliminates cars,” Nall said.
The current zoning of the property only allows for two stories. Transwestern had originally been seeking 16 stories when the project was first proposed to the city in May. The developers are also seeking a tax abatement from the Dunwoody Development Authority. The development authority approved a $14.5 million preliminary tax incentive package for the project in July, but it has not been finalized.
A representative from Transwestern said the project is not just losing offices or parking by shrinking it by four stories because the size of the project affects how much rent must be charged to tenants for the project to be financially viable. The developers have to run numbers to determine if the 16 stories will work, he said.
Attorney Jessica Hill, representing Transwestern, declined comment after the vote. Dunwoody spokesperson Bob Mullen said the “ball is their hands” to either accept or reject to approved SLUP. A new rezoning request by the developer cannot be made for two years, according to city code.
The City Council vote on the proposed development was deferred from September when members raised concerns about lack of green space in the project as well as the desire for a traffic study.
Hill explained at the Nov. 14 meeting that developers were able to find space for a 6,100 square-foot pocket park south of the existing MARTA parking deck to include benches, walls and landscaping. A traffic study showed no significant impact to the area, she said.
The developers would also add pedestrian trail within the property, a plaza area for outdoor eating, an elevated platform directly from the MARTA station into the building and streetscape improvements on Hammond Drive including a 5-foot wide bicycle lane and 8-foot wide sidewalk as part of the pending Hammond Drive Corridor study being conducted by Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.
“We are meeting all benchmarks … and think this is really an enhancement,” Hill said.