A proposed development including apartments for seniors received a $7 million tax break from the Dunwoody Development Authority, but the City Council balked at making a decision on zoning because of concerns age restriction would not stick. 

The property at 84 Perimeter Center East, which sits at the corner of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Center East, was originally approved as a 12-story hotel by the council in 2019, but has been revamped in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry. 

An illustration of the apartment complex proposed as part of the 84 Perimeter Center redevelopment.

The new proposed development would have approximately 225 age-restricted, for-rent housing units and about 43,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The Council previously saw initial renderings of the development at a Jan. 14 meeting.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the council took issue with a special land-use permit request from the developer, JSJ Perimeter LLC, to increase the limit of impervious surfaces, like concrete or pavement. Limits on impervious coverage exist to reduce surfaces that prevent the absorption of rainwater, which can damage the environment. 

The request to increase the limit of impervious space was still brought before the city council at a Feb. 22 meeting, but John Digiovanni — a representative of JSJ Perimeter LLC — said they had worked with city planning staff to try and reduce impervious coverage, specifically replacing some parking with greenspace, and moving the proposed pool to the roof of the property to decrease impervious space on the ground. 

Some council members said they appreciated the effort to make changes, but were still skeptical of the project, and worried the developer wouldn’t stick to the age-restricted component of the development.

“One of the fears in the community about this project or any project is that magically overnight it won’t be 55-plus anymore,” said Mayor Lynn Deustch. 

Deustch asked if the project would be obligated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to maintain its age-restricted nature. According to DiGiovanni, the developer is not using HUD financing, so any obligation to maintain age-restricted housing would be tied to zoning conditions from the City Council. 

The council chose to defer the decision in order to make sure they could adopt HUD rules to protect the city in its zoning for age-restricted apartments. 

On Feb. 18, the Development Authority narrowly approved an “inducement resolution” for the proposed development at 84 Perimeter Center. The estimated value of the offered tax break for the development is $7 million over 10 years.

At the Development Authority meeting, DiGiovanni said this development would cost about $15 million more than standard, market-rate apartments, partly due to higher expectations from future tenants. 

“When you’re 25 and you get an apartment, it might not [meet] exactly what your expectations are. That’s okay, because you might leave in a year, or get married in a year or so and move into a house,” DiGiovanni said. “When you’re 61, this is probably the last move you’re going to do. You’re going to age in place.” 

The approval was not unanimous. Two members, Greg Killeen and Susan Mitchell, voted against the resolution. 

“The developer stated that it would cost $15 million more to develop age-restricted apartments versus a traditional apartment complex,” said Killeen in an email. “That’s about $67,000 per unit.  In my opinion, he did not provide the support to make that assertion credible.”

During the meeting, Killeen pointed out an example of an age-restricted apartment complex in the area that was recently completed without tax breaks. 

“Attiva, in Chamblee, is an age-restricted apartment,” he said. “That’s getting built without tax abatements. Why are they able to do that and you’re not?”

DiGiovanni said he could not speak to the Attiva development, and without the tax abatement there is a “zero chance” the 84 Perimeter Center development will happen. 

“I can only tell you what I’m dealing with in Dunwoody,” he said. “Our understanding of the market is people are selling their large homes. They’re going to have a lot of cash in hand, they’re going to want to move to a product that is either the last step or next-to-last step in their lives.”

Authority Chair Jonathan Sangster said if the City Council is looking favorably at the development, it “doesn’t hurt” to do an initial inducement since the Development Authority would still have to enter another agreement with the developer to issue the funds. 

“We’d still have to do a [memorandum of understanding], but it advances the process,” Sangster said. 

The proposed development was scheduled to return to the council on March 8.