City officials are finalizing details on recommended changes to Dunwoody Village to create a more vibrant mixed-use downtown district. How to pay for some of the new zoning regulations and recommendations including public green spaces include calls for the city to put its own money to update the area known as the heart of the city.

A consulting firm is recommending the city divide Dunwoody Village into four zoning districts shown here in different colors as part of updating the overlay district area. (Dyana Bagby)

Dunwoody Village is a retail and restaurant hub at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads surrounded by residential neighborhoods. A 2011 master plan for the 165-acre area envisioned the commercial area with a “village green” that would attract residents and visitors to its dining, retail and entertainment options. But that vision has failed to materialize within several shopping centers currently dominated by large surface parking lots. City leaders are hoping an update to zoning regulations will guide future redevelopment to create more of a mixed-use, vibrant downtown area.

“The main question is how will we make this come to fruition,” said Stacey Harris at a Nov. 16 community meeting to review the suggested updates. Harris was elected Nov. 5 to the City Council. The council is expected to get a final plan for review and a vote early next year.

Harris was one of nearly 100 people who crowded into a room at Vintage Pizzeria on Nov. 16 to hear the proposals from consulting firm TSW. The proposals are based on a survey, city staff and community input made online and during a June meeting. Participants at the Nov. 16 meeting also submitted more comments to be considered before a final draft is submitted to the city for a council vote.

TSW planner Caleb Racicot, at front to the left, answers questions at a packed Nov. 16 community meeting on recommended changes to the Dunwoody Village Overlay district. (Dyana Bagby)

TSW recommended the city consider making public investment in what is now an area largely owned by private companies Regency Centers and Brand Properties. The shopping centers are mostly full of tenants with long-term leases and some say they have no incentives to change what there is now because they continue to see profits.

Harris said she supports the city investing in public green spaces and parking decks as suggested in the plan.

“But how will we invest, from where will we get the money and how much will be invested still has to be decided,” she said. “The 2011 plan did not take into account this was on private property … but this [plan] takes into account we have to work hand-in-hand with private property owners.”

Robert Wittenstein, a former City Council member who also worked on the 2011 plan, said it is time for the city to make financial investments in the area, including possibly buying parcels of land.

“Setting up zoning is a passive way to encourage change,” he said at the meeting. “Let’s spend some taxpayer dollars to make a green space instead of waiting for another entity to make an open space sometime in the future.”

Danny Ross, who served on the inaugural council and worked on the 2011 plan, also said private property owners have no reason to make any of the changes being recommended unless the city provides incentives.

TSW outlined some suggested land uses, such as open spaces and parking decks, that would only be required when new redevelopment takes place, according to the draft plan.

Key recommendations include:

  • Dividing Dunwoody Village into four districts: DV-1 would be Village Commercial and includes existing shopping centers area outside Dunwoody Village Parkway and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road such as where Mellow Mushroom is as well as Dunwoody Plaza ; DV-2 would be Village Office and includes current small office parks along Mount Vernon Road ; DV-3 would be Village Residential and includes the new townhomes along Dunwoody Village Parkway, the Dunwoody United Methodist Church site, and where the Spruill Center for the Arts and Dunwoody Library are located; and DV-4 would be Village Center and would include the major shopping centers enclosed within Dunwoody Village Parkway.
  • Maximum building heights in DV-4, the Village Center, would be 5 stories; building heights in the other districts would be 3 stories.
  • Single-family detached houses would not be allowed in any of the new districts.
  • Multiunit residential buildings would be allowed in all districts. However apartment buildings would be required to obtain a special land use permit from the City Council. Owner-occupied townhouses and condominiums would be allowed by right. This would allow for people to live in condos above storefront retail, for example, according to TSW. Maximum density for residential would be capped at 12 units per acre.
  • Commercial buildings would not be allowed to be more than 50,000 square feet to prevent “big box” retail.
  • Drive-throughs would be prohibited. No new banks would be allowed within a quarter-mile of an existing bank.
  • Gas stations, car sales lots and car repair businesses would be prohibited.
  • Open space requirements for any new development would be required to be designed as a “high-quality spaces” such as a plaza, park or common area. For example, a redeveloped site under 1 acre would require a 5% open space; a redeveloped site over 10 acres would require 15% open space.
  • Two large open green spaces would be required in the Village Center area where surface parking is now located around the U.S. post office.
  • Two public parking decks are recommended in the north and south sections of the Village Center district.
  • Storefront retail would be required along Chamblee-Dunwoody Road portions of Dunwoody Village Parkway and Mount Vernon Road within the Village Center district.
  • A long-term proposed street framework to create more of a grid within the Dunwoody Village area so the area is not only served by Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads is also proposed. The two roads are often congested with traffic and smaller streets within Dunwoody Village could alleviate that traffic, according to TSW.
  • New streetscape designs on Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads include multiuse trails and landscape buffers to protect pedestrians. Slower speed limits and narrowing the roads is also being recommended to slow traffic.

Slide presentations and more information on the Dunwoody Village update can be found by clicking here.