The North DeKalb County community has waited for years for something to happen to the area’s floundering and mostly empty mall.

County leaders recently rezoned the 77-acre property and gave their endorsement to an ambitious plan to bring life back to North DeKalb Mall, which opened in 1965 as metro Atlanta’s first enclosed and air-conditioned mall.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader said it’s the “generational” project residents have been waiting for.

“To the credit of the community, they have waited for the development they believed this site deserved,” he said. “This is that development.”

Edens, a real estate company that acquired the mall last year, laid out a vision to transform the struggling mall into a mixed-use community with nearly 2,000 residential units and more than half a million square feet of office and retail space. During the recent zoning meeting by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners, the company’s representative said the long-term project is well-planned and will redefine the area.

“Everyone has done their homework on this application,” Den Webb, Eden’s attorney, said. “There is no impact that has not been considered or addressed.”

The company’s plan will preserve the AMC theater and surrounding mall infrastructure while adding 1,700 multi-family apartments, 100 townhomes, a grocery store and a 150-bed hotel. Webb said the project will take eight to 10 years to complete, adding that Edens plans to be the site’s long-term owner.

Only a handful of residents spoke against the rezoning request Thursday. Most of their complaints focused on traffic and density concerns, but they still welcomed the mall property’s overall redevelopment.

“Our neighborhood can not handle the 1,700 apartments and 100 townhomes that are proposed here,” Carol Hayes said. “I beg of you to put a condition on this (to reduce density).”

Due to the size of the project, Edens had to complete a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) application, which is required for gigantic projects that will affect more than just the city or county where the project is located. The Atlanta Regional Commission, which vets those applications, endorsed the site plan while finding it would generate 15,000 new daily vehicle trips to the mall’s property.

“While the project will generate a significant number of new vehicular trips, its mixed-use and highly walkable design as well as immediate adjacency to several MARTA bus lines offer meaningful multimodal alternatives to driving,” ARC’s report said. The project will also connect to the county’s growing multi-use trail network, including the Peachtree Creek Greenway.

Edens, which developed Atlanta’s West Village community and North Druid Hill’s Toco Hills Shopping Center, has held multiple, well-attended community town halls meeting, and Webb said they’ve tried to address resident concerns. Mary Shellman, who lives in the nearly Medlock neighborhood, said she’s been impressed with the company’s actions so far.

“Edens has listened to our concerns from the beginning and has been open to many of our suggestions,” she said. “One of our primary concerns was navigation throughout the site as well as connectivity to each of the surrounding neighborhoods... our concerns have been met and sometimes exceeded.”

Webb also touted that 10% of the homes built onsite will be set aside as affordable and workforce housing, and he said the developer is not asking for any tax abatement or financial incentive in return.

“Those are significant numbers, and the important thing here is that we are asking for nothing in exchange for them,” he said. “Typically, Decide DeKalb comes in and provides a tax abatement or some financial incentive for people to provide affordable workforce housing. We’re asking for nothing here.”