The Sembler Company and Fuqua Development want to build a mixed-use commercial development near the busy intersection of Lindbergh Drive and Piedmont Road and across the street from the Lindbergh Center MARTA station. The centerpiece: a 150,000 square-foot "anchor tenant" - which, according to sources and reports, is Walmart. If built, the store would literally sit across the street from a Target.
The developers are getting ready to ask the city to amend its comprehensive development plan to allow them to build the shopping center on the proposed site, which is actually several parcels bounded by Piedmont Road and Morosgo, Adina, and Lindbergh Drives. The approximately 21-acre site is currently zoned for high-density residential and home to several outdated (and occupied) apartment complexes and a vast vacant lot.
On Tuesday night, Neighborhood Planning Unit B, which isn't keen on suburban-style, big-box stores - especially so close to Lindbergh, which many members think needs more transit-oriented, residential development - told the developers no thanks. They think the area, which they'd like to see become more walkable and dense, is better suited for more residential development. Simply put: They don't want a stereotypical, suburban-esque, big-box store near Lindbergh - regardless of what company's name is on the building.
For more than a year, Sembler has come with hat in hand to the members of Neighborhood Planning Unit B, which includes the proposed site and such communities as North Buckhead, Lenox, and Peachtree Hills, to pitch its proposal to build a mixed-use commercial development on the site.
Originally, Sembler discussed bringing a much-desired grocery store to the area. But NPU members were none too pleased when the developer opted for the big-box concept after it claimed grocers didn't express interest. (Buckhead View's John Schaffner has been following the drama in excruciating, delicious detail and deserves a read.) NPU members told Sembler they weren't wild about that proposal.
For the last few months, the developer, NPU leaders, city planners, and Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook have met in back-and-forth meetings to discuss how the proposed development might evolve. But after all the sitdowns, the big-box store and surface parking lot remains.
Sally Silver, who chairs NPU B, says she and many residents have high hopes for the area. According to the long-range plan, the area would be served by an improved grid system, new streetscapes, and a park - all features that, when coupled with the nearby transit stop, residents think would attract more residents and improve the area's walkability. The trailhead of the proposed bike trail along Ga. Hwy. 400 would be located just a few blocks away at the end of Adina Drive, she says. A proposed rail spur linking Lindbergh Center to Emory University is among the projects that would be funded with revenues from a regional transportation tax voters will decide on July 31.
"It could be a vibrant area and more like the long-range plan we wanted it to be, with parkspace, active street life, people living there, shops," says Silver. "There are better ways to do it without a sea of parking lots."
Residents are urging the developer to avoid replicating suburban big boxes when it comes to designing the shopping center. Among the suggestions: including more housing in the proposal - more than the proposed 240 units - and burying the parking. She stresses the residents' opposition isn't a knee-jerk reaction to the controversial big-box retailer that will most likely set up shop in the 150,000 square-foot store.
"This is not anything against Walmart," Silver says. "This is about a suburban-style development in an urban setting. I don't care whose name is on the building. It needs to be designed in a way that meets urban standards."
She adds: "We are not in the suburbs. We don't need to bring the suburbs back in Atlanta. We need to become the city that Atlanta claims to be."
In addition, Silver and other residents have concerns about what will happen to the people who live in the apartments that would be rezoned and, according to the site plans submitted to the city, torn down to make room for the shopping center and a surface parking lot.
"They'll be displacing a lot of folks, some of whom don't have cars," says Silver.
To move ahead with the shopping center, the developers will first have to convince the city's Zoning Review Board to change the land use and zoning. That meeting's scheduled for July 12. Then comes approval from the Atlanta City Council.
The NPU has already told Sembler and Fuqua they're not sold on the plan. The NPU's zoning committee last week recommended the full organization give a thumbs down to the proposal. The full organization on Tuesday night denied the developers' request to rezone the properties.
We left messages last week with Sembler, Fuqua, and the attorney representing the developers. A Sembler employee told us last week she had no information about the project but passed our request for info to other executives.
If built, the Lindbergh Center-area Walmart would be one of several currently in the works in metro Atlanta. Construction crews are currently building a Vine City location. Selig Enterprises plans to redevelop Suburban Plaza, its strip mall just outside of Decatur, with a Walmart. In addition, the Atlanta-based developer is planning a development in downtown Athens that would most likely include a Walmart.
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