Developer tweaks mixed-use plans to add public greenspace in Decatur

Credit: City of Decatur

Credit: City of Decatur

A large mixed-use development in Decatur will look a little different after the developer reduced the number of apartments to add public greenspace.

East Decatur Station, a project approved last December, will include 372 apartments rather than the initial plans of more than 400. Ben Yorker, vice president of development for the project’s developer, Northwood Ravin, told the Decatur City Commission on Monday that the more condensed apartment design will free up roughly an acre of greenspace, which can be turned into a public gathering area.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the design tweaks, which Yorker said will help attract more residents to the area’s first mixed-use community.

“We think it’ll do a lot to generate additional foot traffic in that area, which will presumably accumulate to the benefit of retailers and commercial establishments that are already there,” he said during the meeting.

In 2018, the city rezoned 66 parcels — roughly 45.5 acres — in east Decatur to focus on mixed-use development rather than commercial and light industrial projects. Then-Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne said the city envisioned the area becoming a walkable district near the Avondale MARTA station.

“With mixed-use zoning we’ll have green spaces, planned streets, trails and a walkable district,” she said at the time. “We also envision some creative office projects, retail and restaurants.”

East Decatur Station was the first mixed-use project the City Commission approved for that area. Located at 715 East College Avenue, Northwood Ravin’s project will build an apartment building with roughly 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the 7.5-acre parcel. The site will also include a parking deck.

On Monday, Yorker said the apartment unit reduction is to match market trends, which favor slightly larger units to accommodate people working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The retail design was also tweaked to leave more space for a larger anchor tenant.

He also emphasized that the developer will still include 41 units below market rate, which was included in the original plans. He said he didn’t want the reduction to seem like a “bait and switch” to limit the project’s number of affordable units, which will be listed at 80% of the Area Median Income — meaning a family of two can’t make more than roughly $55,200 and qualify for those units, per federal guidelines.

Angela Threadgill, the executive director of the Decatur Downtown Development Authority, said the DDA backed the new plans.

“(The DDA) appreciated the compact building footprint because it resulted in almost an acre of greenspace,” she said. “In conversations with the developer, they are open to making that publicly accessible, so that was another desirable outcome.”

Yorker said Northwood Ravin is open to collecting public and city input on the design for the greenspace.