The location of a sidewalk and store entrances caused the Dunwoody City Council to defer a decision on a new restaurant and retail space at a Monday meeting.
Branch Properties is requesting to modify zoning conditions for a property located at 600 Ashwood Parkway. The property in question is located within Branch’s Perimeter Center Marketplace, a mixed-use development anchored by a Publix grocery store.
The city saw initial plans for a new retail and restaurant space at a Feb. 14 council meeting. The space includes an 8,400-square-foot building, 62 parking spaces, and a walk-up ATM.
During the February meeting, council members expressed concern over how to ensure that the area is as pedestrian-friendly as possible. In particular, Mayor Lynn Deutsch requested more spaces for people to park their bicycles, and Councilmember Tom Lambert asked for assurances that outdoor patio spaces on the site plan would be activated regardless of whether the space was used by a restaurant or not.
At the Monday meeting, Lambert requested another condition that the applicant provide a pedestrian walkway around the perimeter of the property. He also requested an amendment to a condition that requires that each tenant in the building have glass doors that face Ashwood Parkway. The amendment would require that those doors are accessible to the general public and open during business hours.
Senior Planner Madalyn Smith said that the addition of the walkway would lead to the loss of some parking lot landscaping and trees.
“There’s a bit of a trade off here,” Smith said.
Lambert said he wanted to add the walkway to give residents coming from surrounding apartments more direct access to the grocery store and avoid having them cut through the parking lot.
“As we’ve stressed and hopefully made abundantly clear, we are trying to be a pedestrian-friendly city,” Lambert said.
Laurel David with The Galloway Law Group spoke on behalf of the applicant and said they had concerns about the placement of the proposed sidewalk.
“The thing that concerns us about this is not only would it obviously take away all that landscaping … but also it puts people walking past the dumpster,” David said.
Lambert said he didn’t think the placement of the sidewalk near the dumpster was a reason not to move forward. Jack Haylett of Branch Properties said he didn’t think a sidewalk would fit in the proposed area.
“I don’t have a problem putting a sidewalk where you’re saying, it’s just very tight, constrained, and it’s very heavily landscaped,” Haylett said.
The applicant also had concerns about making the glass entrance doors on the street side of the building accessible to the public. Nicholas Telesca of Branch Properties said it would be difficult for smaller businesses to function with entrances from both the street side and the parking lot side of the building. He said it wouldn’t work from a size perspective and also it might be hard for small businesses with limited staff to adequately watch both doors.
“The reality is we would love it as much as you would love it, but a small retailer cannot function financially with two entrances. One, the spaces don’t allow for it because they’re too small,” Telesca said. “Two, you can’t afford the labor and staffing in these small businesses. This is economic reality.”
Despite the applicant’s concerns, council members stressed that having a street-facing entrance would be very important to them. As the plan exists now, patrons would enter the building from the parking lot side.
“We want the front of the building to be on our streets, not in our parking lots,” Lambert said. “We are trying to create a walkable city, and that’s how you do it – by having access to your businesses on your main streets.”
Telesca said that something like a restaurant with a patio would have an entrance from the street side of the building, but he did not think it would be feasible for smaller retailers.
“The parking lot is what dictates the front of the building,” Telesca said. “Unfortunately, in the city that we live in, the reality is no one walks around the front of the building.”
Council deferred a decision on the rezoning to its next meeting on March 14 in order to give the applicant and city staff more time to look over the new conditions.