Thursday, January 7, 2016

Notes from community meeting: proposed Phase III for Fuqua's Decatur Crossing development

Phase III of Fuqua's Decatur Crossing development is being proposed for the site of the old Banner Ford lot on Scott Blvd. Redevelopments for Phase I (former site of Scott Blvd. Baptist Church) and Phase II (formerly single-family lots on Barton Way and Blackmon Drive) have been approved are under way.
Phase III, bound by yellow line, is being proposed for the site of the old Banner Ford lot on Scott Blvd.
The meeting (January 6, 2016) was led by Dan Webb, representing Fuqua Development. 80-100 people attended.

Fuqua is proposing to develop the site to include:
  • senior affordable living (NOT assisted living but rather, smaller apartments for independent living; affordable per federal definition). 5 stories, 102 units proposed with podium parking (i.e., under the building vs. adjacent)
  • a grocer (more traditional as compared to specialty such as the Sprouts grocer coming to Phase II)
  • a restaurant with drive-through
  • a multi-story, multi-family housing building with parking located at its center (therefore not visible from the street). 260 units, 5 stories proposed.
  • a self-storage facility (to include storage in the upper floors and conference centers in the lower floor; the idea is that stock can be stored in the upper stories and vendors can use the lower levels to meet with clients)
  • there would be 2 access points on Scott Blvd. (one existing, one new) and two on Church Street
This is part three of the Decatur Crossing complex that began with Phase I at the site of the old Scott Blvd. Baptist Church.

Details for proposed Phase II, with access from Scott Blvd. and Church St. Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
The parcel is 9.2 acres and has C2 zoning and Fuqua would be requesting a zoning change to allow for the construction of the residential buildings (senior and multi-family housing).

There were a number of questions and comments from the audience around the following concerns. Answer is from Mr. Webb unless otherwise noted.

Q: Total number of residential units in the apartment building?
   A: 260

Q: Updates on Phase I and II?
   A: as previously reported. Phase I is under development, foundation work in progress. Parking deck should be complete in April and residents should be able to move in early in 2017. Phase II--land disturbance and demolition permits secured, utilities have been removed, preparing to install land disturbance fencing and should expect 6-9 construction period.

Q: Have traffic studies been done? 
  A: No, need to work with DeKalb on these.

Q: Workforce housing?
   A: Some of this was assigned on Phase II, 20%? [note: MANA is not sure that this percentage was agreed upon]

Q: Impact on Tuxworth condo residents' ability to enter/exit? 
   A: Stop light should slow things down a bit but the left turn onto Tuxworth likely to get a bit worse.

Q: Does a drive-through really fit our vision for the area (walkability, community-building) and if a drive-through must exist, can it be a nice one like is being done for the Suburban Plaza Starbucks?
  A: Will look at it. Fuqua agreed to install a drive-through in order to get one of the small property owners to move over.

Q: Active seniors are different.  They are ACTIVE.  They need pedestrian and bike access from their building to other area amenities – like the bowling alley.

Q: What is the parking for senior facility?
  A: it will be podium parking – building at grade.

Q: A blank wall of parking will not be a pleasant walking environment.

Q: Estimated rental cost for senior and multi-family housing?
  A: Not available at this point. Fuqua will partner with residential developer.

Q: Where are the bike trails and connectivity? All I see is buildings.  There is a creek that runs under Banner Ford.  Can’t you take advantage of it? This is over-building.  Need progressive thought – be creative; put a field on top of the parking lot, make beautification and greenspace a priority.  This is an opportunity to have a development that enhances the quality of life. People are taking more responsibility for their health and wellness. We need more green space per capita given the number of residents being added? [Clapping from the audience]
  A: 1 acre park in Phase II, pocket park, sidewalks are adding connectivity within the development and out of it

Q: Square footage for apartments?
  A: Small, in the 1-2 bedroom range

Q: Need to do traffic studies now, after many people move in, it's too late. Same for greenspace. Emphasis on multimodal transport is needed.
  A: There was a traffic study for Phase II. Fuqua could add more commercial that would further increase traffic rather than residential.

Q: Phase II didn't include recommendations from previous meeting at this same location
  A: Sidewalks are being added, met with Cross-Neighborhoods Committee and incorporated much feedback

Q: What is considered affordable senior housing. Will this be HUD housing? Need in-between housing, for people who don't qualify for HUD but cannot afford the expensive senior housing
  A: federal definition. The financing sets some guidelines and so does the market. We need a number of units "affordable" in order to get the tax credit.

Q: Need a stop light for seniors to get in and out of Scott Blvd.
  A: will be right in, right out on Scott

Q: Stops for MARTA, Cliff Shuttle?
   A: yes, on Phase II

Q: Who is the developer for the senior facility?
   A: Can't say at the point

Q: Connectivity? Sidewalks on other side of Scott Blvd?
  A: The crosswalk is in place, will have pedestrian island.
  A: Acknowledgement this area is not very walkable right now. There is a very narrow, overgrown sidewalk on that side.

Q: Any chance to eliminate that drive-through restaurant concept
   A: It's this market that adds this kind of set-up. 
       Q: Then can we at least make it look good?

Q: Development with retail on bottom floor?
    A: not on Phase III. The jury is out on whether putting business under apartments is good.

Q: Can't we have something original and creative, like Ponce City Market? Add quality of life and still have options to be outdoors?

Q: There is a community within the development. Need bike lanes.
  A: will look at it

Q: Any environmental remediation needed on this site?
  A: no issues so far; none for Phase I and II.

Q: Can we just make this a 9 acre parking lot so we can drive here and park our cars and take the Clifton Corridor (train)?

Q: Concerns about the glut of apartments being built in the area (Decatur Crossing, Milscott, Church St.) when there are vacancies in nearby apartments on DeKalb Industrial
  A: Building to meet projected needs. We are still under the recommendations of the Medline Study. People don't want to live in "dinosaurs" like the apartments on DeKalb Industrial. "Folks with liquidity" want nearby amenities.

Q: This is a suburban development and not what people in Decatur want. This is not mixed use--it's 85% residential.
  A: We've heard your concerns; you were the sole opposition on Phase I and II.
  A: an audience member said he felt he's the so-called target audience and the development does not appeal ("I would never go here")as it's high on residential as compared to developments such as Ponce City Market, Krog... Edgewood is NOT the goal here.

Q: Paces and Jamestown are good progressive developers. This is suburban development here--we don't want suburban development.
  A: Town Brookhaven is very successful. I've seen lots of people walking within the development -- many successful restaurants
  A: (from audience member) There are 5 closed restaurants in Town Brookhaven right now. People don't walk to it
  A: the location doesn't have any residential so you have to drive to it.

Q: The access point on Church St. has serious elevation problems.
  A: We know.

Q: Has Fuqua considered developing incubator space for start-ups?
  A: There is office space facing N Decatur Rd in Phase II. That could be used as incubator space. Can't answer if Fuqua could subsidize. Will talk later about what exactly the questioner is talking about.

Q: Is Fuqua going to listen to any of these comments?
  A: Mr. Webb took notes and read back the issues he had annotated.

Q: Look at northeastern cities -- old trees lining streets make the cities beautiful. THey must be given space to grow -- like large oak trees. Cannot stuff a crepe myrtle into a box and call it tree-lined. Not healthy for trees.
  A: We had community feedback about types of trees to install in Phase I and II.

Q: Can you meet with the PATH foundation --they installed the beautiful path from Medlock Park to the tennis courts (Mason Mill Park). They have grants for thsi type of thing.
  A: We will meet with PATH. We will meet with the County and ARC.

Q: What now? What is your next meeting? How do we continue?
  A: MANA has done a good job serving as the mouth piece on these developments. Check the website. Fuqua will be meeting with neighborhood leaders so talk to your representatives [Cross-Neighborhoods Committee email appears below]

Additional comments and discussion:
  • about the Clifton Corridor, area traffic/transportation issues. Davis Fox (from Commissioner Gannon's office) provided a brief summary about routes being considered as part of MARTA's potential expansion in this area. He wondered if Clifton Corridor would be better served by connecting to Decatur station via Church St. Also mentioned light rail down N Decatur Rd. with bike paths. This could cause people to change their route. PATH is still working to better connect to Emory and Druid Hills Rd.
  • about not being short-sighted in developing the area: a desire for walkability, healthy outdoor spaces, preserving large trees and the importance of conducting studies now rather than later and trying to retrofit livability into the area
  • about whether Fuqua is going to use the email addresses in the sign-up sheet to stay in touch with those in attendance
  • recommendation that Fuqua contacts the PATH Foundation that built the South Peachtree Creek trail (that connects Medlock Park to Mason Mill Park), asap.
Thoughts, comments, concerns? Email them to