Emory University’s plans to transform the aging Executive Park office complex into a $1 billion “health innovation district” got approval from the Brookhaven City Council Nov. 26. The redevelopment project includes building out some 3 million square feet of medical buildings, apartments, a hospital and a hotel over approximately 15 years.
The city had requested, as part of granting the rezoning needed for the redevelopment named “Emory at Executive Park,” that Emory build pedestrian bridges over North Druid Hills Road and I-85, but the request was scrapped after months of negotiations.
The city now intends to build the bridges using tax dollars collected from the redevelopment to ensure Executive Park does not become an “island surrounded by moats of concrete” while also providing safe connectivity.
The 60-acre Executive Park site is across the street from a massive new Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical complex under construction. Emory already operates several medical offices in Executive Park, including a joint medical and training facility with the Atlanta Hawks basketball team that opened in 2017.
“A lot of work has been invested into creating a vibrant and sustainable medical corridor in the southern gateway of Brookhaven which addresses the transit, infrastructure, public safety and medical needs now and in the future,” said Mayor John Ernst in a written statement. “The partnership with Emory University is key to the overall success of this city and the region as a whole.”
The City Council also voted to enter into a “community investment agreement” with Emory. The agreement includes keeping 825,000 square feet of the 3 million square feet of planned development as taxable property. Over time, university buildings can become tax-exempt, said City Manager Christian Sigman.
Ensuring the planned apartments, hotel and office/commercial buildings stay taxable ensures a revenue stream for the city to pay for infrastructure improvements and other city services, he said. The agreement requests the hotel and apartments be finished by 2024 if financing is available to do so.
Revenue from the future property taxes is expected to cover costs for the city to build the pedestrian bridges.
The bridges are needed “otherwise [Executive Park] is an island surrounded by moats of concrete,” Sigman said after the meeting.
Construction is underway for Emory’s new $30 million Musculoskeletal Institute. As part of the community investment agreement, this building will stay on the city’s tax rolls for 15 years after it opens in 2021.
Sigman gave the example that if DeKalb County assessed the building at $30 million, that would mean about $600,000 a year in taxes for the city and its special tax district of Executive Park and CHOA, and to DeKalb County and DeKalb County Schools.
Sigman said building a pedestrian bridge over North Druid Hills Road is tied to construction of the Musculoskeletal Institute. As employees begin working there, they are likely to want to cross the road to go to the CHOA campus, and vice versa.
The bridge ensures safe crossing across the busy road, similar to the pedestrian bridge across Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs that connects Northside Hospital to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
Emory also agreed to dedicate a path through Executive Park to the nearest public sidewalk in coordination with the city to construct the landing and public access for a pedestrian bridge from Executive Park over I-85 to the Peachtree Creek Greenway.
Transportation plans for Emory at Executive Park include:
- A traffic study to provide analysis for the 10-year and 15-year developments.
- North Druid Hills Road and Executive Park Drive/Tullie Circle realignment with CHOA.
- Multiple roundabouts proposed within the site to facilitate efficient traffic flow.
- Adding approximately 1.5 miles of sidewalks and a half-mile of off-street, multiuse trail, as well as connection to the Peachtree Creek Greenway in coordination with CHOA.
This story has been updated.