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Decide DeKalb president talks development, housing affordability

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Decide DeKalb president talks development, housing affordability

DDDA President Dorian DeBarr

DeKalb County, GA — Decide DeKalb President Dorian DeBarr discussed development and affordable housing during a Zoom call with reporters on Jan. 24.

During the call, DeBarr highlighted a few developments Decide DeKalb has supported, including the Assembly in Doraville and the redevelopment of North DeKalb Mall in Greater Decatur.

“How do you repurpose malls? I think we found out that you take the mall, and you turn it into a higher and better use that looks like mixed-use, that looks like housing, that looks like retail, that looks like office space, that looks like hotels, and we’re doing just that in DeKalb County at North DeKalb Mall,” DeBarr said.

DeBarr added later that Decide DeKalb’s tax allocation districts have helped with mall redevelopment in the county, and the organization hopes it will encourage more mall redevelopment.

“That tax allocation serves as a signal to the private sector that we’re serious about seeing redevelopment of this mall, so Edens stepped in,” DeBarr said. “They took down the mall, and they’re doing this robust redevelopment project. We want to replicate in other malls here in DeKalb County. That was a part of the reason we created the Southwest Dekalb tax allocation district.”

Edens is the developer of the Lullah Hills project at North DeKalb Mall, which will include housing, retail, and a hotel. In 2023, Decide DeKalb created a tax allocation district in southwest DeKalb, which includes the Gallery of South DeKalb Mall.

DeBarr said the TAD sends a signal that Decide DeKalb and the county are serious about economic development.

“We want to see this mall and this area be developed into something at a higher and better use for our citizens, and also include our citizens in that and so that signal to the private sector should draw more interest and more prospects here to Decide DeKalb and even get down to the current owners to really take a second look and a harder look at how can they extract value from this mall to redevelop,” DeBarr said.

With the TAD, Decide DeKalb is focusing on improving areas in South DeKalb, such as south of Memorial Drive. Covers Candler Road, Shadow Box development, Flat Shoals Road, and Bouldercrest Road.

“We want to be able to deliver affordable quality housing, we want to deliver jobs, opportunities, we want to redevelop these commercial corridors within this community,” DeBarr said. “We want to provide opportunities and access to opportunities to these residents to grow and to thrive from an economic development standpoint. We want them to be able to have livable wages, and not only livable but sustainable wages.”

Decide DeKalb is working to tie that work to industries that are thriving in South DeKalb, particularly the film and television industry.

DeBarr also discussed affordable housing and additional plans to revitalize South DeKalb.

This year, Decide DeKalb plans to launch a strategic South DeKalb plan, which will include housing. The organization offers a down payment assistance program as well for homeowners.

“That tool and that program is really a down payment assistance program where we provide a forgiveable loan/grant to new homeowners to DeKalb County,” DeBarr said. “The idea is how do we attract quality residents and citizens to DeKalb County and call it home and help improve economic prosperity.”

Decide DeKalb also has requirements around affordable housing for developments.

“When we support housing projects through any of our incentives, we have a requirement that those housing deals or transactions include an element of affordability. In on of our recent transactions…20% of the units are set aside at an affordable rate for that community. That’s typically 80% of the area median income,” DeBarr said.

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