A proposed food hall for the Dunwoody Green site in Georgetown is no more after developers could not find tenants, forcing city officials to rethink a site where a distinctive restaurant hub was once envisioned.
Whatever the future is, the city says it plans to move forward in locating restaurant and retail on the property despite more than a year of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The food hall proposal was believed to be the answer to filling the space rather than the original concept of constructing up to six individual restaurants on the small plot.
“We’ve been pushing uphill [to make this] a restaurant site, because we thought with the park [in the center of the project] we could create a unique hub of restaurants,” city Economic Development Director Michael Starling said.
“We still believe that, but it’s tough to convince restaurants to move when they see [other sites] on high-traffic roads,” he said. “We’ve always known this was a secondary [or] tertiary site for retail and restaurants because of low traffic counts.”
Owned by the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency, the parcel is part of the larger public-private Project Renaissance, a plan dating back to 2012 to revitalize the Georgetown area with green space, trails, single-family residential housing and commercial uses. Developing Dunwoody Green, adjacent to Georgetown Park, as a commercial site is the last piece of the Project Renaissance puzzle.
Crim & Associates and their partner Ed Hall of Capital Properties Group in May pitched the idea of building a 20,000-square-foot food hall facility with several small restaurants and retail businesses located inside, similar to Ponce City Market in Atlanta.
But last month Crim said the deal was a no-go, leaving the city to start over from scratch. A major issue with the site is that it is not on a high-traffic road, a key factor many restauranteurs consider when opening a new business.
Crim entered into an agreement in February 2018 with the URA to purchase Dunwoody Green at 4600 North Shallowford Road for $900,000. The agreement gave Crim time to finalize its plans before closing on the property. But since that time, Crim has had a difficult time finding tenants and asked for and received several contract extensions from the URA board, including an extension to pursue the food hall concept.
Original site plans for Dunwoody Green included five or six restaurants and retail space with a small park at the center. City officials at one time boasted the area would be the location of “chef-driven” restaurants that many Dunwoody residents have been clamoring for.
But after no luck finding individual tenants, Crim teamed up with Hall and Capital Properties Group to propose a food hall. That idea did not pan out, either.
“The food hall looked very promising, but then they came back and said no,” URA Board Chair Ken Wright said.
The URA and Crim mutually agreed to end their contract and the URA is now ready to start anew, he added.
“Which honestly I’m thrilled about,” Wright said. “I think Crim did everything they could, and they were a good partner. They certainly saw the vision. But they just couldn’t pull the pieces together.”
Wright said board members are considering scaling the project back to much smaller than 20,000 square feet and perhaps reaching out individually to one or two restaurant owners who prefer owner-operated businesses rather than leasing through a developer.
“We know this site is challenging, as is the area,” Wright said. “Traffic numbers are terrible on that road … It’s a corner pocket, and then there is parking.”
But just down the road a bit, at the North Shallowford Plaza at 4630 North Shallowford Road, such small restaurants as Simply Thai, Sababa and Bay Leaf are thriving.
“They are killing it night and day. There is a draw over there,” Wright said.
Starling said the city believes Dunwoody Green is still viable as a retail and restaurant site, but plans are to go back to residents living in the area to hear more about what they would like to see. There are no plans to sell the property to a developer because the city wants to control what is built on the site, Starling added.
Wright said the board and city staff plan to keep studying and thinking about what to do at Dunwoody Green until the right development is found that fits in with Georgetown and Dunwoody’s comprehensive plans.
“I believe in Georgetown,” he said.
“No matter what, we’re not going to flip it and have something that’s not good for the community,” he said. That includes no apartments and no banks, he said.