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Decatur building boom continues to reshape downtown core

Business Decatur

Decatur building boom continues to reshape downtown core

The current Bank of America bank building at the corner of Commerce and Clairemont Avenue. This building will be demolished once the bank's new building at the corner of Commerce and Church is complete. Photo by Cathi Harris
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By Cathi Harris, contributor 

Decatur, GA – The long-awaited completion of the redevelopment of the old Callaway property next to Decatur High School is entering its final stage and the city expects to issue the final certificates of occupancy as soon as the interior site work is complete, Angela Threadgill, Decatur’s director of planning and economic development, said Friday.

Threadgill presented an update on major development projects underway in the City of Decatur to Decatur’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) at its February board meeting. 

“The sole remaining component is the buildout of WeWork,” she told the board. “WeWork continues to plan to open their Decatur location and we have not heard otherwise.”

The city planning department is ready to perform a final inspection of the site and issue permits for occupancy whenever they submit the request. Although WeWork has canceled developments in other locations, the Decatur office space is in line with their core business, which company leaders have said they intend to focus on, she said.

“I think for a while they were getting into a lot of other areas [besides office space], and now they are going back to their core business and this is part of that,” board member Linda Curry added.

Other projects in progress include:

Bank of America site – The redevelopment of the Bank of America downtown branch property will soon enter a new phase as the bank will move into a new building on the northeast corner of the property, and construction will begin on the mixed-use commercial and residential development that will surround it. Mill Creek Residential plans to build a podium-style development with underground parking, street-level restaurants and retail shops, and an 194-unit apartment building on what used to be the bank’s surface parking lot.

Under the terms of the agreement Mill Creek worked out with Bank of America, construction on the mixed-use component can only begin once the new bank building is complete and occupied. Once the bank moves into the new building, the existing one will be demolished and construction on the new project will begin.

Board member Linda Curry said the bank has told customers it expects to move over one weekend and will only be closed for business for one day.

Mill Creek is currently in the permitting process for the initial phase of the new mixed-use building, Threadgill said.

Decatur First United Methodist’s Sycamore properties– Decatur First United Methodist has reached an agreement with a local company to sell its chapel on the corner of Sycamore Street and Commerce Drive as well as the adjacent education building that currently houses the Decatur First United Methodist Preschool. 

“Since both of those properties are in the Old Decatur Historic District, demolition would not be a possibility with either of them,” Threadgill said. “But the LLC [that is purchasing the properties] may want to make use of certain tax credits that are available for development in this district. And any exterior changes would have to come before you, as well.”

(For more information on this project, see Decaturish’s related story here.)

Arcadia Avenue Publix – A new mixed-use development is also underway near the corner of N. Arcadia Avenue and East Ponce de Leon. That development will be anchored by a stand-alone Publix grocery store. The developer, Toll Brothers, has just begun site preparation on that project, which encompasses 11 acres along East Ponce and Grove Place. The building immediately at the corner of East Ponce and Arcadia is not part of the development, but it will wrap around that parcel. A separate, 101-unit apartment complex is also under construction on the opposite side of Arcadia at the intersection of Winn Way, Threadgill noted. That project, by developer CF Real Estate Services, will feature one- and two-bedroom apartments surrounding a small podium parking deck toward the rear of the property.

325 Swanton Way – The former home of the Task Force for Global Health, which moved over to occupy a larger building at 330 West Ponce de Leon, the Swanton Way building now houses the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and a nonprofit organization, ProVention Health Foundation. ProVention, which is dedicated to researching disease prevention initiatives, is launching a capital campaign to expand its footprint here. The 325 building contains approximately 30,000 square feet of office space and an additional 10,000 square feet of conference space.

“Their organization is growing, and they also want to start a Social Innovation Lab, which is part of their long-term vision here, to look at all aspects of the intersection of quality of life issues like housing and transportation and health,” Threadgill said. “They love Decatur and they love the proximity to the Task Force for Global Health.”

Weekes Street/S. Columbia Drive development – The developer of a proposed 322-unit apartment building and multistory parking deck on Weekes Street just south of East College Avenue is appealing a Decatur Zoning Board of Appeals denial of stream buffer variances in DeKalb Superior Court. The developer, WSE Development, LLC, previously signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the DDA to fund streambank restoration on a parcel of land to the south of that development that the DDA is negotiating to acquire from Thrive Homes. The MOU makes the funding contingent upon approval of the Weekes Street apartment development, so that restoration project is on hold pending the final outcome of the litigation, Threadgill said.

The previous owner of the Thrive parcel, AT&T had indicated it would donate the property to the development authority. The DDA still anticipates the donation from Thrive, but it has not yet occurred, Threadgill said.

In other news, Decatur’s Affordable Housing Task Force is expected to release its final report on Friday, February 21. The City Commission will consider adopting the report and recommendations at its next meeting on February 24. Going forward, the recommendations of the task force would be incorporated into the work of the city’s 2020 strategic planning process.

“Throughout our initial discussions in the [strategic planning] community roundtables, residents have made it clear that affordable housing is a priority,” Threadgill said. “These recommendations are really the beginning of the process.”

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