Monday, September 30, 2013

Fuqua: Proposed DeKalb development becoming 'more conventional' due to community push back

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Atlanta developer Jeff Fuqua says he wants to find middle ground in the coming weeks with local residents over his latest mixed-use project in DeKalb County.

Fuqua told CL late last week that his firm is working on a revised plan for Decatur Crossing, the proposed 7-acre retail center envisioned at the corner of North Decatur Road and Scott Boulevard, amid concerns from local residents during the past few months. He plans to meet with neighborhood groups and county planners as early as this week to continue those conversations.

Fuqua Development last week received a 60-day deferral from DeKalb County's Board of Commissioners so the firm could continue to flesh out a plan that includes community input. Following the zoning meeting, Commissioner Kathie Gannon told CL that the project will ultimately need to have a "comprehensive approach to the entire area."

At the moment, local residents say they've been presented with several different plans from the developer. Fuqua says the current proposal in the works would reflect some of those recent talks. The latest site plan would still feature retail with a "natural" grocery store as an anchor tenant. But the firm might consider replacing a five-story apartment complex with townhouses or high density single-family homes given some the of pushback it's faced from nearby residents about density.

"It's moving from high-density, mixed-use to a more conventional development," Fuqua says. "[It's becoming] what everyone opposes intown [with my other projects]."

Plans for the new site could also be split up into two separate phases with retail being built first on the Scott Boulevard Baptist Church's current lot. Residential could come later to avoid pressuring homeowners to sell their land.

Fuqua confirmed that he's been negotiating to buy houses on both Barton Way and Blackmon Drive. The developer says his representatives have been offering "very fair" deals for the houses despite some concerns from residents. And he thinks that opponents who criticized his attempts to purchases lots from 29 homeowners during the DeKalb County zoning meeting were "trying to negotiate purchase price of their home in a public forum."

"The [neighborhood's] dynamic is going to change around them a lot from all sides," Fuqua says. "It's not the tree-lined, Norman-Rockwell neighborhood people think it is."

Ultimately, he thinks Decatur Crossing could be a "grand" mixed-use project that could spur redevelopment in the surrounding area. He's crossing his fingers that a plan can come to fruition over the next two months.

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