Tucker approves Northlake Mall annexationThe Tucker City Council met on May 13, 2019. Photo by By Rosie Manins
This story has been updated.
By Rosie Manins, contributor
A major redevelopment of Northlake Mall is imminent, with the Tucker City Council annexing over 50 acres of the mall into its city limits, at the request of the Texas-based property owner.
Five parcels of land and buildings comprising most of the struggling mall complex was annexed from unincorporated DeKalb County into Tucker by a unanimous city council decision at its regular meeting Monday night, May 13.
The annexation becomes effective on June 1.
Dallas-based property owner ATR Corinth Partners, which applied for the annexation, is reportedly negotiating with Emory Healthcare over a $20 million development of the mall, to include administrative offices, a training and conference center, and a centralized medical lab.
Both parties are keeping tight lipped about the proposal, although Emory confirmed in an interview with Georgia Health News that it is “considering Northlake Mall as a potential location for consolidating administrative functions”.
A Feb. 15 article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle stated Emory’s plan could fill about a third of the 1-million-square-foot mall, built in 1971, at Interstate 285 and Lavista Road.
ATR Corinth Partners purchased the bulk of the mall, excluding Macy’s, three years ago. Its portion includes Sears and J.C. Penney.
Monday’s annexation brings another 53 acres of commercially zoned land into Tucker’s city limits, as well as 916,485 square feet of department stores and warehouses.
There was no opposition among councilors or the 50-plus people present at the May 13 council meeting in regards to the annexation.
Debbie Miller, who lives in Randolph Estates beside Northlake Mall, was the only member of the public to speak about the annexation and proposed mall development during the meeting.
She is excited about the mall “finally” getting a new lease of life, and asked the council not to forget about Randolph Estates residents in any associated community consultation.
“We are very excited to see some movement, but we worry that we may not have representation as the development of the mall unfolds,” she said. “Please keep is in the loop.”
Miller and her fellow neighbors remain in unincorporated DeKalb, but will be impacted by any mall activity. She told Decaturish her preference is to see a new high school built on the site, but concedes a complex as proposed by Emory is more likely to gain favor on economic grounds.
“With change comes great opportunity and I’m hoping for much better things on that property,” Miller said. “We would just like to have a chance to be part of the discussion and to provide some input.”
The five parcels of land just annexed into Tucker, between Briarcliff Road and Northlake Parkway, have a combined taxable value of around $28 million, although Tucker does not collect city property taxes – instead paying DeKalb County for basic infrastructure and services.
At the council’s first reading of the annexation application, on April 8, Tucker Mayor Frank Auman said any increased revenue realized from the mall redevelopment would benefit DeKalb as a whole and not just Tucker. Speaking after the annexation approval, Auman said “exciting things are going to be happening” in and around the mall going forward.
The annexation, through the 100 percent method, does not require legislative or county approval. The newly annexed property is within the proposed limits for a new city of Vista Grove. It will remain in Tucker if the suggested new city becomes a reality.
ATR Corinth Partners also owns Northlake Mall property to the north and east of Macy’s, which will remain in unincorporated DeKalb to prevent an unlawful island of county land surrounded by city limits.
In other business:
– The city council unanimously adopted its $69.2 million Recreation and Parks Master Plan created over the past year by Barge Design Solutions with community input.
It sets out guidelines for the city in realizing its best possible park system in the decade through 2029, but does not commit council members to any or all of the proposed spending.
Barge Vice President Steve Provost told the council it’s currently getting great value for money with its 176 acres of existing developed parkland, and has another 88 acres of undeveloped land suitable for mini, neighborhood, and community parks.
“If you do these things in the plan, you’re going to have a much better parks system than most here in Metro Atlanta,” he said.
Provost expects the council’s annual parks maintenance budget will more than double in the next decade, from $706,200 to at least $1.5 million, once additional land and facilities are developed.
The plan recommends adding another 32 acres of developed parkland through 2029, producing a feasibility study to improve or replace the Tucker Recreation Center on Lavista Road, upgrading existing park facilities, and constructing additional amenities.
There are $22.9 million in potential bond projects, including improvements to Fitzgerald Field, Lord Park, Johns Homestead Park, Montreal Park, and the recreation center.
Council members Michelle Penkava and Noelle Monferdini emphasized Tucker does not have to implement the plan, and communities will be consulted further before any major spending.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Monferdini said.
The council also unanimously agreed to pay Barge an additional $48,500 to develop a more in-depth feasibility study for upgrades and new construction of the Tucker Recreation Center; awarded a $40,375 contract to BrightView for multi-purpose field sod installation at the recreation center; renewed its $560,700 annual parks maintenance contract with OPTECH for five years; and approved the first read of an ordinance for a long-term lease of Fitzgerald Park for the Tucker Football League to operate youth football and cheerleading programs.
– The Tucker City Council is considering an application from Idlewood Road resident Megan Thomas to operate a small child daycare service in her home.
Thomas requires a Special Land Use Permit to undertake a commercial operation in a residential zone. She told the council during a public hearing at its regular meeting on May 13 that her “tiny, private” childcare service only accommodates five families whose children are usually dropped off around 8 a.m. and picked up between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“There aren’t a ton of kids coming in and out, and I have plenty of space for the cars and plenty of space for the kids to have a good time,” she said.
Thomas said the 0.7-acre property at 1940 Idlewood Road is her husband’s family home, where he was born and raised.
“When my husband’s father passed away recently, he left the home to us,” she said.
Tucker Community and Economic Development Director John McHenry said Thomas did not plan to amend the structure of her 2,176 square foot home for the childcare operation, and the property would continue to primarily be used as the Thomas residence.
He said the nearest existing child daycare facility is over 2000 feet to the north of Thomas’ home, and that no major impact on the surrounding neighbors is expected.
“There are large 15-acre parcels adjacent to this property,” he said. “The community council reviewed this and made a unanimous recommendation for approval.”
Council staff recommended several conditions, including limiting hours of operation to between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., fencing the child play area, and banning signage for the business.
Six Tucker residents spoke in support of Thomas’ application at the public hearing, vouching for her as a responsible neighbor and childcare provider.
They said her childcare service would not significantly affect traffic in the area. However, one of the two residents who spoke in opposition of the application raised traffic as a concern, as well as the potential for the business to grow.
The city council will hold a second read of the application, and vote on it, at a future public meeting.