A proposed 900 condominium and mixed-use development in Perimeter Center got the go-ahead from the Dunwoody Planning Commission Oct. 9. But the commission’s chair is expressing concern that affordable rental units are not part of the plan.

The Planning Commission voted Oct. 9 to recommend approval of North Carolina-based Grubb Properties’ proposed development, named The Park at Perimeter Center East. The 20-acre site at 41, 47 and 53 Perimeter Center East was formerly the home of City Hall and currently holds two other office buildings and large parking lots.

An illustration of Grubb Properties’ proposed Park at Perimeter Center East project, with condo and retail towers on the ends and townhomes in the middle. (Special)

The developer is seeking to rezone the property from office industrial to Perimeter Center subarea 2.

Besides the 900 for-sale condos, the development would include 500,000 square feet of office space, approximately 12,000 square feet of retail and a nearly 3-acre park.

Grubb proposed a similar plan earlier this year, but with 1,200 residential units that included 300 apartments. The developer was forced to withdraw the application after the City Council and members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association balked at the density and the number of rental units in an area that already has a large number of apartments.

To appease their concerns, Grubb came back with a plan with only for-sale condos. The DHA voted at its Oct. 7 meeting to back the project with the for-sale units, said DHA President Adrienne Duncan.

Planning Commission Chair Bob Dallas raised the issue at the Oct. 9 meeting of the need for affordable housing in Perimeter Center. He said in an interview the backlash from DHA and the council earlier this year resulting in the elimination of the rental units was unfortunate.

He said he hopes “calmer voices” and less emotion are part of future conversations around the issue of affordable housing, a topic metro Atlanta and communities around the country are grappling with.

“The city should address this before it becomes an issue,” Dallas said. “We need a road map.”

City Councilmembers Lynn Deutsch, Pam Tallmadge, John Heneghan and Tom Lambert voted at the council’s February retreat to create an affordable housing task force. Deutsch, who is heading up the effort, said a task force is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

Because Perimeter Center is close to public transportation with the Dunwoody MARTA Station and it serves as a major economic engine for the region, it makes sense to include affordable rental units as part of future projects in this area, Dallas said.

“[W]e have to consider how important we are to the region; we are not an island unto ourselves,” Dallas said. “Being silent on this issue is not the right thing.”

But with only for-sale residential units in the current Grubb Properties application, there is no way to address the issue of affordable housing, he said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that no more than 30 percent of a person’s income should go toward paying for housing. Affordable housing by many standards is considered 80 percent of the area median income. In metro Atlanta, that translates to $42,000 for one person or $60,000 for a four-person household, according to HUD figures.

The city of Brookhaven is seeking ways to accommodate housing for low-income residents now living on Buford Highway as the corridor rapidly gentrifies. The city is close to wrapping up a zoning rewrite that proposes mandating 10 percent of new multi-unit developments on Buford Highway include affordable housing. The Brookhaven Planning Commission is also asking the City Council to consider the affordable housing mandate be included in other areas of the city where apartments are expected to be built, such as along Peachtree Road.

As part of the zoning rewrite, Brookhaven is also considering economic incentives to developers who include affordable housing in residential projects.

Sandy Springs is also looking at ways to incorporate affordable housing as part of a north end task force that is looking at redevelopment in the area.

Dallas said in Perimeter Center, middle managers who work at its many restaurants or professionals beginning their career in the area after graduating from college but saddled with enormous student debt could benefit from some kind of affordable housing. People who are able to live close to where they work also eases traffic congestion, he said.

Dunwoody’s proximity to “Pill Hill” and its hospitals and medical facilities also make it attractive for older people who may have limited incomes, he added.

“Not every person in Dunwoody is wealthy,” Dallas said. “We can’t ignore this issue; that’s not the right answer.”

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.