Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Phase II of "Decatur Crossing": negotiation summary

via Theresa Same, MANA Zoning Chair 

On June 23, 2015, the DeKalb Co. Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved Phase II of Fuqua Development’s “Decatur Crossing” to redevelop the single family residential homes adjacent to the former Scott Blvd Baptist Church (primarily Barton Way and Blackmon Drive between N. Decatur Road and Scott Boulevard) into a mixed-use development. The plan was presented to the Community last March and is outlined here.

Following the community meeting, the Cross Neighborhoods Committee compiled and considered all feedback received from the community and provided that feedback to Fuqua Development. This feedback was used as the basis of our negotiations which took place over many weeks. The BOC voted in favor of the rezoning request with 27 conditions negotiated by the Cross-Neighborhoods Committee* plus two more which the Commissioners added at the BOC meeting. All these conditions will become part of the permanent zoning for the property.

The Cross-Neighborhoods Committee also negotiated a separate, legally binding zoning agreement which includes $40,000 in funding for off site improvements, including a partial closure of Blackmon Drive at the new signal (on Scott Boulevard at Blackmon Drive) and a pedestrian island at the crosswalk across Scott Boulevard at the new traffic signal. The additional funds will go towards sidewalk projects on N. Decatur Road (in front of Church’s Chicken to form a complete sidewalk on that block of N. Decatur) and Scott Boulevard (between Willow Lane and Medlock Road). The legally binding agreement was signed by MANA with the support of the entire Cross-Neighborhoods Committee. The 27 negotiated conditions and agreement can be reviewed here.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the required variance requests on July 8, 2015. If approved, the project will be clear to move forward into what promises to be a long permitting and construction process.


The site plan includes a “natural grocery store,” restaurants (one with a patio on the park), including one drive-through restaurant which is conditioned as a “deli-cafĂ©,” banks, retail, office, and 450 apartments. A portion of the apartments will be reserved as workforce housing** as negotiated in our contract. The development also includes tree-lined sidewalks around the entire perimeter and throughout the development as well as an almost one-acre park. None of the retailers have been announced yet. Jeff Fuqua has said that it will be a mix of local and national retailers. Please note that this site plan was modified before the final hearing and differs slightly from the final site plan included in the private agreement with MANA.

Site plan for Phase II for Fuqua's "Decatur Crossing" development. The triangular, unannotated section encompasses Phase I of this development; details about Phase I (approved in April 2014) can be found here.
As part of the development, Fuqua plans to place a new traffic signal at Blackmon Drive (on Scott Blvd. between Medlock Rd. and Tuxworth Cr.). A “new" Blackmon Drive will be built to align with Blackmon Drive in the Medlock neighborhood. This "new Blackmon" will be the main road through the Fuqua development, and ends at the new light at N. Decatur Road that is located at the main entrance of Suburban Plaza and Walmart.

Composite map, neither perfectly to scale nor showing perfect street alignment! This rendition (using multiple maps provided by Selig Enterprises and Fuqua Development) offers a bird's eye view of what the area will offer once construction is completed. Click to enlarge. See below for a more accurate rendition of how the "new Blackmon Drive" aligns with Suburban Plaza's main entrance on North Decatur Rd.

Traffic concerns and pedestrians and cyclist access

While the new Blackmon crossing includes signalized crosswalk and safe way for Medlock residents to cross Scott Boulevard, I believe it would also greatly increase the cut-through traffic into the neighborhood. We already experience a great deal of cut-through traffic, much of which enters and exits on Blackmon Drive. The new traffic signal would exacerbate this issue by inviting additional cut-through traffic onto neighborhood street that do not currently safely handle the existing traffic volumes. After meeting with neighbors on Blackmon Drive and discussing all of our options with the County, we decided that a partial closure of Blackmon Drive was the best solution for the neighbors on Blackmon as well as the larger neighborhood. Once the traffic signal is installed and the partial closure is in place, the only traffic movement allowed from Blackmon to Scott Boulevard is a right out only. This will eliminate right turns into the neighborhood from west-bound traffic during the morning rush hour as well as greatly reduce afternoon traffic using Blackmon to exit the neighborhood. Please see the illustration below to better understand how the intersection will work.

New traffic patterns at the Blackmon and Scott Blvd intersection. Click to enlarge.
This decision was a hard one for us as there was no ideal solution and we are aware that the partial closure will cause inconvenience for many neighbors who currently exit the neighborhood by taking a left turn onto Scott from Blackmon Drive. However, left unrestricted, this intersection would have invited significantly more traffic into our neighborhood and negatively impacted the quality of life for those living on cut-through streets, such as Blackmon Drive, Sunnybrook and Desmond. We realize that this change may push cut-through traffic to other streets in the neighborhood. Since Dekalb County does not require impact studies about traffic in a larger context, we are only able to plug holes. If cut-through becomes a problem on other streets in the neighborhood, MANA will address it with the same commitment.

Barton Way is now closed
(as seen from North Decatur Rd.)
Demolition for Phase I has begun and is expected to be completed in August. Construction on the new apartment building is expected to begin in September and last 18 to 20 months. Depending on permitting, the commercial portion of Phase II will likely open about the same time as Phase I. The second apartment building will take a bit longer to build. 

Demolition (not caused by the beautiful kittens
available for adoption at Pet Supermarket),
as seen from Medlock Rd. 

* Cross Neighborhoods Committee – includes the following neighborhood representatives: Jim Smith, Clairmont Heights Civic Association; Deanne Thomas, Decatur Heights Neighborhood Association; Theresa Same, Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, Inc.; David Duncan, Medlock Place Neighborhood Association; Todd Link, Springdale Heights Resident; Mary Shellman, Good Growth Dekalb, Inc.
Fuqua is represented by Jeff Fuqua (Principal, Fuqua Development), Heather Correa (Partner, Fuqua Development) and Dennis Webb (Attorney, Smith, Gambrell and Russell).

 ** Workforce housing (as defined by the Urban Land Institute) was used for this agreement and means that professionals such as teachers, nurses, and fire fighters could afford to rent these apartments.