Questions surround 8 Kirkwood Road projectKirkwood. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Atlanta, GA — Kirkwood is buzzing with questions about the new development at 8 Kirkwood Road NE, a property in the downtown district that has been vacant for a couple of decades.
A broker representing the property said a “permitted project” on the site included 5-townhomes and 1,000 square-foot commercial space that will closely border longtime businesses and residents. Unnamed sources have told Urbanize Atlanta that this project is moving forward. But on March 14, the broker – Marco Welch with Bull Realty – said his company is no longer involved with the project. He said the seller wants to develop it himself.
Welch identified the owner as Fred Singleton. A James F. Singleton is a part of Eight Kirkwood LLC, which is the legal owner of the property.
Attempts to reach the owner were not immediately successful.
“[We were] marketing it for him briefly and we had interested parties and he would never let go of it,” Welch said.
The prospect of a residential development being so close to residents and businesses has neighbors concerned.
Joann Schwartz, owner of Kirkwood Bark & Lounge, has been in Kirkwood for over 20 years now. She started her doggy daycare business as a pet retail store in 2004, and later expanded to include doggy daycare and boarding in 2008.
“The business district is not huge. It’s not a Highlands. It’s not a Decatur. It is a small footprint for a business district, so there’s not a lot of space,” Schwartz said. “In my opinion, what they’re wanting to put on a 0.24-acre piece of land is just not going to be what Kirkwood represents.”
As long as Schwartz has been in Kirkwood, the lot behind her business has always been empty.
“I’m not so naive to not think that growth isn’t going to happen…but when you’re going to put something like that six feet from my outdoor fence, it’s a dog care business,” Schwartz said. “I don’t want people walking back there because it does upset the dogs. I just don’t know what to expect…My concern is, what’s going to happen to me as a business owner if out of the five people that move in, three of them don’t like to hear barking dogs?”
And Kirkwood Bark & Lounge isn’t a small space. Schwartz owns 1,000 sq ft of outdoor space for 30 to 40 dogs to run around, play and sunbathe. Oh, and also, bark. But barking aside, Schwartz is concerned with new neighbors leading to safety issues.
“Safety is paramount to me. We want the dogs to be safe, so if there’s a group of dogs out there, and three or four people walk by the fence or there’s a loud noise, that could set the dogs off,” Schwartz said. “My main concern is the safety of the dogs and my employees and making sure that everybody’s safe.”
Similarly to Schwartz, Steve Akins moved to Kirkwood in 1999 and has resided there ever since. He raves about the neighborhood and its makeup of great people.
And just like Kirkwood Bark & Lounge, his house neighbors 8 Kirkwood Road NE, just on the other side. Again, for as long as Akins has lived there, the lot has been vacant. While empty, Akins and his husband have kept up the property for almost two decades, planting trees, mowing the grass – “trying to make it prettier than just a vacant lot,” he said.
Akins said there was talk for a while of building a one-story residential/commercial building by the previous owner of the property. That never came to fruition, though. The land remained untouched until construction began on the property a few weeks ago.
“With transition, things change. I accept change – that’s OK,” Akins said, “But now it’s a four-story building with five condos and a retail shop in the front…All the properties will have decks overlooking our house and our yard…It’s very intrusive to the neighborhood.”
Dan Wingate is a partner at Bob & Harriet’s Home Bar, which neighbors Kirkwood Bark & Lounge on Hosea L Williams Drive. Wingate has called Kirkwood home for about 15 years, and later opened the pub in January 2012.
As for Wingate and his business, he’s neutral about the new development. Over the past decade, he said he’s seen several new folks come to Kirkwood. His expectation for the developing space is that their new neighbors are great, too.
In Wingate’s eyes, one example of great neighbors are Akins and his husband, Mark.
“As the property was in disrepair, I know that Steve and Mark have done an amazing job keeping up the property through various owners that really sort of just let it lie fallow,” Wingate said.
“And whenever we have made changes to our business – particularly on the back side of our business, we built little patios – they’re some of the first people that I’ve always checked with, just to make sure that we’re not impinging on their home because I recognize that it’s their home.”
Aside from opinions about how the space will pan out, finding and getting in contact with the current owners of 8 Kirkwood Road NE has been a consistent theme.
Schwartz and Akins have reached out for more information about who owns the lot and plans for the property with no answers in return. The same goes for members of the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization (KNO).
Susanne Blam co-chairs the Kirkwood Zoning Committee with her husband, Nazeer Kutty. The committee is one of many KNO committees and volunteer opportunities.
When asked about the vacant property, Blam said that she unfortunately does not have any reliable information right now.
“I have reached out to the property owner we dealt with a few years ago to find out if he still owns the property but have not heard back. I’ll continue to try to find out more,” she added.
In addition, 8 Kirkwood Road NE was a meeting agenda item at the most recent KNO meeting, held on Thursday, March 10.
But Kirkwood’s growth isn’t going to stop with this soon-to-be occupied lot. During the KNO meeting, Blam and Kutty gave an update on another proposed development.
What was formerly the Stanton Grove Baptist Church on the eastside corridor is now a proposed 81-townhome development. The site is located at 2015 Memorial Drive, an area that was annexed into the City of Atlanta a year ago. Now, Empire Properties is requesting to rezone the property from R-4 to MR-3 for the townhome development.
“The development team has met with neighbors and the Kirkwood Zoning Committee numerous times,” Blam said. “There is general support for the increased density, but conversation has also focused on making sure the development is environmentally sustainable…walkable and safe for cyclists, feels connected to the community and respects the canopy on its and the adjacent neighbors’ properties.”
Blam added, “There has also been a lot of discussion about the safety concerns of Memorial Drive and the need for a light or protected crosswalk at this location.”
Editor and reporter Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story.
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