Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Proposed Fuqua development in DeKalb would level 58-year-old church for mixed-use complex

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM

An aerial map of where Decatur Crossing would be built
  • Fuqua Development/Google Maps
  • An aerial map of where Decatur Crossing would be built
Fuqua Development, the company behind a controversial retail center near Glenwood Park and a proposed Walmart near Lindbergh Center, has another new project in the works: Decatur Crossing.

The nearly 7-acre mixed-used development located near the busy intersection of Scott Boulevard and North Decatur Road is technically just outside Decatur. Early plans, which were presented to surrounding neighborhoods on Monday, include a 5-story, 200-unit apartment complex and an "organic" food store that would serve as the development's anchor tenant. Retail shops would line the street and wrap two levels of parking - one of which would potentially be underground. At the 6-way intersection, the developer says, pedestrians and passersby will be able to convene in a "public gathering space."

To build the shopping center, Fuqua would have to raze the current properties. Historic 58-year-old Scott Boulevard Baptist Church, which has tried to sell the property to more than a dozen potential buyers, would be demolished under the firm's plan. As would 10 homes on Barton Way that the developer currently has under contract.

Fuqua's plans, however, haven't sat well with all of the neighborhood's residents, many of whom would rather see the church re-purposed or retrofitted for another use.

"It's shocking to us," Good Growth DeKalb co-organizer Betty Blondeau tells CL. "We think there's much more creative thinking that could go into this."

Good Growth DeKalb's leaders attended a mandatory community-wide meeting with dozens of other concerned residents to hear Fuqua executives present their initial plan, ask questions, and offer feedback. Tensions boiled inside the church as some community members criticized the company for being "disingenuous" and not entirely transparent with its proposal.

The development is hardly a done deal. Unlike the proposed Walmart Supercenter across the street at Suburban Plaza, which Good Growth DeKalb is battling in court, Decatur Crossing would need to be rezoned. The company is expected to file for a land use permit today but the county likely won't vote on the issue until late September.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader thinks that whatever eventually replaces the church on that lot will likely transform the intersection.

"It's a big change for the area," Rader tells CL. "The congregation appears to be declining ... they don't believe it's a viable site for a house of worship anymore."

Rader hopes that an upcoming planning study looking at how to retrofit that intersection will "ideally inform" the developers' decisions in the area. But that study, called a Livable Centers Initiative, must first be completed, which won't happen until next year. He adds that Fuqua remains entitled to move forward at its own pace, effectively forcing DeKalb commissioners to consider the application now instead of when the LCI is complete.

Fuqua's application will likely come up next at a DeKalb County Community Council District 2 Meeting in mid-August. By that time, we'll have a clearer picture about the nearby Suburban Plaza lawsuit, which could somewhat impact Decatur Crossing's plans.

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