Brookhaven approves rezoning for $260M complex, including 630 new apartments

Brookhaven recently approved the rezoning of 21 acres so it can be redeveloped into a mixed-use complex, featuring hundreds of apartments and new retail and commercial space. But nearby residents spoke against the plan saying it will worsen existing traffic problems.

The development, which is estimated to cost $260 million, will feature 630 multi-family apartments and will include single, double and triple bedroom floor plans, according to the proposal. About 10% — or 62 units — will be dedicated as affordable workforce housing. There will also be 25,000 square feet of commercial and retail place in addition to about five acres of dedicated open space and a multiuse trail.

The project would replace the former Cox Enterprises office building at 1400 Lake Hearn Drive, which has been vacant for several years. The property is no longer owned by Cox, a privately held company which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution among other holdings.

Atlanta-based Pope & Land Real Estate submitted the rezoning application for the development, which will be handled by Chicago-based AMLI Residential. Carl Westmoreland, an attorney representing Pope & Land, said that the current site is no longer viable as office space during last Tuesday’s Brookhaven City Council meeting.

“Pope & Land is primarily an office developer and if there were a market for it, they would have certainly of looked at that,” he said. “That’s obviously been exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation, but it’s apparent by the fact that the building has been vacant for over three years that a change needs to be made.”

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The city council agreed, unanimously approving the rezoning. However, several members of the community who live in nearby neighborhoods voiced their opposition, citing traffic, overcrowding and infrastructure concerns. A recent petition garnered more than 100 signatures against the project.

Pamela Burnett, a member of the Murphy Candler Neighborhood Association, cast doubt on Westmoreland’s claim that the area can’t be redeveloped as office space.

“Just because it has not sold as a commercial building or a commercial property is not a reason to change the zoning,” she said. “There’s plenty of proof around the Perimeter area that (commercial) is the appropriate use for that site.”

Credit: City of Brookhaven

Credit: City of Brookhaven

The city’s planning commission recommended the site’s rezoning following several studies, including an August traffic analysis. The study found that it would increase eastbound delays on Ashford Dunwoody Road, but residents claimed traffic would be pushed through nearby neighborhoods.

“Come to Ashwoody Trail at 5 o’clock and see the number of folks who are cutting through the residential neighborhoods because Ashford Dunwoody (Road) is shut down in both directions (due to traffic),” resident Brian Savory said during the meeting.

The developer’s proposal calls for two new access roads onto the property to alleviate traffic into the new mixed-use complex, splitting entrances for commercial shoppers and residents.

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Brookhaven Councilwoman Linley Jones, whose district encompasses the area, said the effect the new apartments will have on DeKalb County’s overcrowded school district and nearby roads will be minimal.

“This was not in any way swept under the rug, and it did not fly under the radar,” she said. “This project was not hidden from the public.”

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