Homeowners can enjoy fresh eggs from their backyard chickens and residents can now visit their elected officials in a new City Hall thanks to the work done in 2017 and included in our top stories of the year. Other major stories include a bid for Amazon to locate its new $5 billion headquarters in Perimeter Center and the rise of progressive political activism in the city regarded as a Republican stronghold.
City gets a new look, new home
The city unveiled its new, sleek yet simple logo to go along with its new home at 4800 Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The city purchased the 45,000-square-foot building in May for slightly more than $8 million. Renovations and buildout have been ongoing for several months with move-in wrapping up this month. The building where the current city hall is located, 41 Perimeter Center East, is part of a massive proposed redevelopment from Grubb Properties that includes six residential towers and an office tower.
Eggs-ellent news for backyard farmers
This was the year the backyard chickens came home to roost, so to speak. The City Council approved an ordinance to legalize backyard chickens for residents who want to keep chickens as pets and also for fresh eggs. Local Girl Scouts helped lead the charge to legalize backyard chickens with several speaking during public comment periods at City Council and Planning Commission meetings. The new ordinance sweeps aside a 2010 vote where the council voted 4-3 to not allow backyard chickens. Mayor Denis Shortal cast the lone no vote; he also voted in 2010 to keep chickens out.
Nature Center celebrates 25 years, expansion planned
The Dunwoody Nature Center celebrated its 25th anniversary and the city gave the gift of $400,000 in funding to go toward building a new pavilion slated to be completed in the fall. The city also formed a new Public Facilities Authority that will enable the Nature Center to enter into a 40-year lease agreement with the city rather than traditional year-to-year leases. The long-term lease is necessary to solicit funds from foundations and corporations as the Nature Center undertakes a nearly $3 million capital campaign to add facilities and expand programming.
Left-wing activists awaken
Political activism took to the streets as anti-Trump protests stretched into the historically Republican suburbs. Some residents rallied in support of “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children — at the corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road following President Trump’s announcement to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA students at Dunwoody High School and their supporters also held a rally to protest the president’s action and to raise awareness. Another rally at Dunwoody High School protested alleged racism at the school. The grassroots Perimeter Progressives formed to recruit and urge Democrats to get involved in local and state races.
6th Congressional District race
Republican Karen Handel won the 6th Congressional District seat in a narrow victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election that burned through record-setting campaign funds and drew a national spotlight. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state and Fulton County Board of Commissioners chair, is a well-known figure in the majority-Republican district, which includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Ossoff was a political newcomer who lived outside the district, an unusual situation allowed by the U.S. Constitution. The race was viewed nationally as a sort of referendum on President Trump and locally as another sign of the area shifting from Republican red to mixed GOP-Democrat purple. Ossoff ran on a slogan of “Flip the 6th.”
Hotels, hotels, hotels everywhere
A hotel boom in Perimeter Center took place in 2017, with a 7-story AC-brand hotel approved for 121 Perimeter Center West; a 10-story hotel approved at 1134 Hammond Drive in a small, unused portion of Perimeter Mall’s parking lot and adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA station; and 12-story hotel proposed at 84 Perimeter Center East. A new 7-story, 127-room Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, which is part of the Spruill Gallery property redevelopment, opened in August.
Plan looks at mixed-use future for Peachtree Industrial area
The city is asking for community input on the future redevelopment of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Winters Chapel Road. While city officials say no official plans are in the works, concept plans include the replacement of some older apartment complexes — home to nearly 1,900 households — with mixed-use projects. The study of the Peachtree Industrial Boulevard area includes apartment complexes that the city once controversially targeted for replacement with a sports complex. Such a use is not in the current study, but it does show those apartments replaced with single-family houses and townhomes.
Amazon HQ2 and High Street
Amazon started a nationwide frenzy when it announced it was seeking a city to locate its new headquarters, known as HQ2. The High Street property, 42 acres at Hammond Drive and Perimeter Parkway and near the Dunwoody MARTA Station, is a contender along with several other spots in metro Atlanta as Georgia hopes to woo the corporate giant and its promise of more than $5 billion in construction and jobs for up to 50,000 people. GID Development Group, the Boston-based developers for High Street, submitted the property bid to the state, but city officials have said GID is also still moving forward on its plans for a giant mixed-use development at the site, a plan that’s been in the works for more than a decade.
Perimeter Center to get green space
The City Council agreed to raise its hotel-motel tax rate to create additional revenue slated to go toward adding trails and green space to Perimeter Center. The tax increase will bring in an extra $850,000 a year to the city to design and build the green spaces and another $850,000 to the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau to market them. Hotel management officials agreed to the tax hike in return for the city’s promise to build park amenities near their hotels for their customers.
Local moms create group to fight anti-Semitism
Following a series of bomb threats early in the year — including Dunwoody’s Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta — a group of Dunwoody-area mothers founded the Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism. Some 200 people attended its first meeting in March, which covered topics such as a push to enact a state hate crimes law and concern over a wave of anti-Semitic bullying in North Fulton schools. The group held another, private forum on school bullying later in the area, with similarly large attendance.