Decatur commission approves mixed use development alongside East Decatur Station

An artist's rendition of a proposed new development on Decatur's East College Avenue with Sams Street to the left and New Street to the right. The project features 410 apartments and about 18,000 square feet of retail. Courtesy Dwell Design, Inc.
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An artist's rendition of a proposed new development on Decatur's East College Avenue with Sams Street to the left and New Street to the right. The project features 410 apartments and about 18,000 square feet of retail. Courtesy Dwell Design, Inc.

Two years ago Decatur rezoned a little more than 50 acres on the city’s east side from heavy commercial to mixed use. On Dec. 21 the city commission approved the first mixed-use project under that zoning, a proposed development on seven acres fronting East College and bordered, east and west respectively, by Sams Street and New Street.

Architect Jay Silverman described the Dec. 21 action as a “preliminary approval,” with the project still about a year away from breaking ground.

Features include 410 apartments, with about 45 percent one-bedroom, 40 percent two-bed and less than 10 percent three-bed. Ten percent of the total units get set aside for affordable housing at 80 percent of the Area Median Income (metro Atlanta’s AMI for a two-person household is currently $52,960).

The concealed parking deck will hold 630 spaces not counting another 20 to 30 spaces on the street. What’s described as a “Neighborhood Cowork and Café” operation comprises 6,000 square feet and faces College, not counting another 12,000 square feet of retail that could host five or six more tenants.

From Sams to New the development faces a 40-foot drop in terrain, meaning it will go from six to four stories, but even at its highest it’s still one-story lower than the next-door Cortland East Decatur.

A new street, Freeman Street, will run behind the project connecting Sams to New. But in future developments it will tie in further with a very old section of Freeman that runs off South Columbia Drive and dead ends.

“We’re also going to use a European street design with a narrow roadway or alley that connects New Street to Freeman,” Silverman told the AJC. “It’s designed to slow traffic down and it’ll be mostly one way where you can enter the deck off that alley.”

East Decatur has long been the city’s most underdeveloped corridor, a semi-industrial area for decades where parts have eroded into crumbling structures and weed-strewn parking lots. The city officially codified its vision for the sector with its 2002 Decatur-Avondale MARTA Liveable Cities Initiative.

But East Decatur Station, completed in the early 2000s, was the area’s only major development until Cortland East Decatur opened two years ago. Once it begins the new project’s buildout is expected to take two years.

The 2018 rezoning included a swath of properties bordered by Commerce/South Columbia to the west and Talley Street to the east and also including jagged portions of the city’s eastern-most boundaries.

Given recent projections by City Schools of Decatur, based on data over the last four years two- and three-bedroom apartments average .5 students each (one-beds and studios generally don’t produce school-age children). Based on the new development’s 166 two-beds and 31 three-beds, this would come to roughly 98 students.