Developer hits pause button on controversial $61M project in Brookhaven

A rendering of the outside of the Dresden Village project in Brookhaven. (via Connolly/Gables Residential)

Credit: Connolly/Gables Residential

Credit: Connolly/Gables Residential

A rendering of the outside of the Dresden Village project in Brookhaven. (via Connolly/Gables Residential)

A controversial $61 million project in Brookhaven is in limbo after its developer asked to retool its plans and an agreement with the city for millions in tax abatements.

Brookhaven said that the Dresden Village project, initially nicknamed “Project X,” is "no longer viable for the developer (Connolly) at this time,” according to a statement.

The project has been controversial because of $13.5 million in tax abatements approved by the Brookhaven Development Authority. The county and DeKalb County Schools both objected to the abatement agreement, saying they were not consulted about the abatement and that it would deprive them of property tax revenue.

Brookhaven on Wednesday asked the DeKalb County District Attorney to dismiss a Dec. 1 bond validation hearing, where the tax break would have been discussed. A judge recently ruled that the county and school district could appear at the hearing to argue their case against the tax abatement.

“The City of Brookhaven and the (Brookhaven) Development Authority are disappointed about the loss of a quality redevelopment that augments and completes the Dresden corridor,” the city’s statement said. "The future revenues from this project would have positively benefitted the City, (DeKalb) County, and (DeKalb) School Board, while enhancing the corridor’s walkability, connection to transit at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station, and ultimately the City Centre Masterplan area.

Connolly’s CEO, J.R. Connolly, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the project will still happen. He said his company wants to change its plan for the development and its deal with the Brookhaven Development Authority before reapplying.

“We’re not pulling out of the Dresden Village project,” he said. “We wanted to retool our project to reflect what is going on in the world today. We have withdrawn our request without prejudice and are going to retool and come back in the future with the project changes.”

Neither Connolly nor Brookhaven specified if the tax abatement would be renegotiated for the retooled proposal. They also did not offer a timeline for the project to be resubmitted.

The project planned to vastly change a 4-acre lot on Dresden Drive near Caldwell Road. More than 180 luxury apartments, seven condo townhomes and 30,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants were planned along the corridor. Connolly said he couldn’t provide details on the retooling at this time.

The proposed layout of the mixed-use complex on Dresden Drive.

Credit: Connolly/Gables Residential via City of Brookhaven

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Credit: Connolly/Gables Residential via City of Brookhaven

“It would be best to share the details once the retooling is set. It would not be appropriate in the midst of these changes," he said. “We’re working actively very hard on it in hopes of having it retooled very quickly.”

DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader, whose district encompasses Brookhaven, said he was relieved the tax abatement’s proposal has been withdrawn.

“(I) remain hopeful that a development consistent with the city’s vision can be accomplished, with Brookhaven funding Dresden corridor infrastructure improvements desired by the city,” he said in an email.

The property tax abatement influenced Rader’s decision to delay the release of $6.3 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to Brookhaven, he previously said. The city has since received and allocated the funds.

J.R. Connolly previously said that the tax abatement was crucial to the development, adding that a project of this level of investment would not become reality without an abatement.

“The project will not vastly change," Connolly said Wednesday morning. "But it will change enough that we had to basically postpone the approval of the bonds and to do that, unfortunately, it requires a dismissal without prejudice and then resubmittal at a later date once we have it retooled.”

The city’s statement said it looks forward to working with Connolly in the future.

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