Jeff Fuqua: Atlanta's Most Controversial Developer 

After 25 years, more than 8 million square feet, and lots of opposition, few have shaped the city like Fuqua

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DINE OR DASH: Jeff Fuqua believes Glenwood Place could transform southeast Atlanta, but some nearby residents are fighting it at all costs. - JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
  • DINE OR DASH: Jeff Fuqua believes Glenwood Place could transform southeast Atlanta, but some nearby residents are fighting it at all costs.

Dunham-Jones says the developer generally avoids stacking big-box stores above parking like one would find with the Target in Washington, D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood; nor has he lined major anchor tenants with boutique retail or placed condos or apartments above those spaces, similar to what you'd find at Vancouver's Cambie Corridor. While she acknowledges that Atlanta's property isn't as valuable as those cities, she thinks Fuqua can do a better job creating developments that are true to the character of Atlanta's neighborhoods.

"Atlanta is Atlanta," Fuqua says. "It's not D.C. and it's not New York and it's not San Francisco and it's not L.A. The cost of doing a lot of those kinds of developments just don't really make sense at this point."

Fuqua's urban developments in metro Atlanta continued in the late 2000s, including the transit-oriented Lindbergh Plaza, Perimeter Place, and the Prado. Some projects slowed during the recession and others such as Town Briarcliff and Westside Crossing were tabled. The massive 600,000-square-foot mixed-use development Town Brookhaven survived.

He amicably split from Sembler in March 2012 and moved forward on his new firm's projects without many hiccups, aside from a stalled Walmart-anchored retail center last fall near Lindbergh. In September 2012, Fuqua Development unveiled preliminary plans for a mammoth retail site near Glenwood Park along the Atlanta Beltline.

The 10-acre property would potentially include a 143,000-square-foot anchor tenant (rumored to be a Walmart), a giant surface parking lot, and no residential units. Streetfront retail would line Glenwood Avenue and a new street grid system would include an extension of Chester Avenue. About 1,500-1,800 feet of the Beltline's multi-purpose trail would meander onto the site.

The 800 Glenwood Ave. project has become a divisive battleground for future development in the neighborhood, along the Atlanta Beltline, and throughout the rest of the city. Despite intense rallies, residents say the developer either doesn't care about, or seems oblivious to, their calls for a denser and more walkable site. For many, it's hard to tell why Fuqua builds these kinds of cookie-cutter projects other than for profit.

Fuqua contends that his projects positively impact communities. He thinks 800 Glenwood Ave. has the potential to be beautiful and could invigorate an old cement factory — even if a big-box store gets erected along the Beltline. He says his team tried to take the Edgewood approach and collaborate with neighborhood organizations, but after a handful of meetings, talks stalled.

"They wouldn't communicate," Fuqua says. "We met with them many times with groups of our architects, design people, and attorneys to talk to them about how we could work together. They only had one idea and that was to stop us."

Several local residents, who asked to remain anonymous, dispute his claims. They say citizens made requests to work with Fuqua on a more urban, mixed-use project that adhered to the Beltline Master Plan.

"He was asked, at the first meeting, if he would work with the community to rezone the property to a mixed-use designation," says one neighborhood representative. "He said he would not consider doing that until after the big box was approved and constructed."

Unlike Edgewood, Fuqua didn't need to go through the long and uncertain rezoning process with the cement factory. After applying three different times, he received several exemptions from streetscape and street grid requirements from Atlanta's Office of Planning. Given the amount of residents' time and public money invested into the Beltline, East Atlanta Community Association Vice President Ted Bradford wants whatever happens to the old freight corridor to benefit taxpayers instead of private developers.

"His developments all have the same look and feel," he says. "He has not shown he's capable of delivering that style of development that everyone understands is necessary for the Beltline."

Because of the adamant neighborhood opposition, Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith introduced two ordinances to proactively, and controversially, rezone the property to prevent Fuqua from building the retail complex. Emotions ran high last month at a contentious Zoning Review Board hearing over Smith's proposals. At the standing-room-only hearing, citizens heckled Fuqua's representatives, community supporters applauded their leaders, and one woman wept tears of joy after the ZRB voted in favor of the ordinance.

Last week the ordinance moved to Atlanta City Council for a vote. Fuqua sat alone in the second row of Council's chambers and watched as Atlanta's elected officials approved the measure, effectively undermining his development.

Technically speaking, Fuqua plays by the rules. His firm knows the ins and outs of the city's outdated codes and how to use them to its advantage. Until the recent rezoning, his 800 Glenwood Ave. project met all the legal requirements.

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