Developer provides more details about 365 by Whole Foods projectJeff Garrison, a partner with developer S.J. Collins, speaks during a community meeting on June 13. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
The developer behind the proposed North Decatur Square shopping center, anchored by a 365 by Whole Foods Store, says it will potentially include businesses with a drive through. It will also have 200 to 300 apartment units.
An undetermined percentage of those units will be “workforce housing” geared to lower income residents – like teachers, police officers and firefighters – who might not otherwise be able to afford to live in the area.
Those were just a few of the details released during the meeting, held June 13 at North Decatur United Methodist Church by developer S.J. Collins Enterprises. Attendees liked the developer’s presentation and even gave him a polite round of applause at the end.
Jeff Garrison, a partner with S.J. Collins, told the audience that the company is seeking to rezone the property at the corner of North Decatur Road and Church Street to a mixed-use classification. It is currently used by a Nalley Nissan auto dealerships. The Nalley Nissan plans to move to the former General Motors plant in Doraville. S.J. Collins will also be submitting an application for the drive through for a bank and a “fast casual” restaurant, Garrison said.
He said he anticipates a decision on the applications by September. While the 365 store is the anchor tenant, no additional tenants have been announced.
“It’s not necessarily a sort of dumbed-down Whole Foods. I think it’s an improved Whole Foods,” Garrison said. “They’ve got a lot of the things you see in Trader Joe’s, the specialty items made specifically for Whole Foods.”
The Decatur 365 store will be about 35,000 square feet, he said.
“What we see in this new product is very much a food hall concept,” Garrison said. “… The things we loved in the New York and LA and Colorado [locations] is where people are able to walk in and grab a good meal very quickly.”
While Garrison wouldn’t name any other tenants – it’s too early in the process, he said – he did give some hint as to the kinds of things Whole Foods likes to see. He said the goal would be to “create a lot of movement” throughout the center.
“The foodie culture that is Whole Foods likes to be with, the foodie culture that is chef-driven restaurants,” he said.
He anticipates drawing customers from DeKalb Medical across the street. The company wants to create safe conditions for employees crossing over. As part of the company’s safety improvements, it is proposing installing a new signal along North Decatur Road and a new signal at Milscott Drive and Church Street.
S.J. Collins is also planning to install 10-foot-wide sidewalks around the property, which will provide enough space to accommodate cyclists.
“I’m not interested in someone who’s biking 100 miles,” Garrison said. “I’m interested in someone who is biking to eat. We are successful in promoting that in these 10-foot-wide paths.”
Abdul Amer, with A&R Engineering, said according to his studies, during the morning peak hour traffic there should be 149 vehicles entering the site and 185 leaving. In the evening peak hour, it will be 304 vehicles entering and 256 vehicles leaving. He said roads are rated at a level of service using letter grades A through F, but it doesn’t quite match up to letter grades in school. He said the good roads in Atlanta are a C or a D grade, meaning traffic levels are below capacity. He said E is at capacity. The intersection of North Decatur and Church Street is graded D, and he said the Whole Foods development will not bump it down to an E.
“Once we add cars to the intersections and make all the improvements we are planning to make, we’re able to retain the same level of service,” Amer said. “There will be a slight increase in delay.” He said the apartments will generate about 30 trips an hour.
Garrison and the other speakers did not have an exact percentage of workforce to upscale housing. That will be determined in conversations with DeKalb County.
S.J. Collins did receive $1.8 million in tax breaks from the Decide DeKalb Development Authority to support the project. Most of the taxes abated will be property taxes, according to a fiscal impact analysis of the project.
Garrison said the project has about an “acre and a third” that will be a public space, the specifics of which will be determined by the community. Some suggestions included a community meeting space or a rotating installation of art work.
“As developers we’re good at developing and considering how to program the site,” he said. “We’re not very good at designing park space.”
Garrison said S.J. Collins, which is based in Fairburn, Ga., would maintain ownership of the project when it’s completed. The shopping center is expected to be open by spring of 2018.
“We will own this project,” he said. “This is our home turf. When we develop in Atlanta, it’s our strategy to hold long term.”
He promised there will be another community meeting in the near future that will have more specifics about the project.
Here are some additional renderings that were presented during the June 13 meeting.