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Plans call for turning old GM plant into green hub

A central park, stream and pedestrian walkways will transform the look of a giant gray General Motors plant that’s slated to become a business and residential district, according to a first glimpse of plans for the 165-acre site along Atlanta’s northern perimeter.

Developers say they envision offices, shops and residences surrounding green spaces, making the area a destination for both recreation and work.

To mark the launch of the project Friday, a wrecking crew knocked down bricks from the complex’s main building during a demolition ceremony attended by business and local government leaders. Sketches of what the area would look like were unveiled to the public earlier this week.

The shuttered General Motors facility, dormant since 2008, was sold for $50 million in September to an ownership group led by Atlanta-based Integral Group.

Drawings show a road to enter the site will be built under existing rail lines, connecting the area to the city of Doraville, the Doraville MARTA station and nearby roads like I-285, I-85 and Buford Highway.

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From the Station Square, visitors could walk to an area dubbed The Commons, which is the heart of the unnamed project’s park, biking and water systems. An old creek that existed decades ago could be uncovered or remade to complement the environment.

Egbert Perry, the chairman and CEO of The Integral Group, said businesses will arrive once they see the value of the development.

“We can influence the market by having the great place, the bones, established,” Perry said during a presentation Monday to the Doraville City Council. “As people are looking for, ‘Where do I want to locate my office, where do I want to locate new business, where would I like to live?’ they’ll fall in love with the natural experience of being in a place that feels like it’s a unique destination.”

Another section of the project, called The Yards, could remodel and expand existing structures to form a warehouse district for young workers, high-tech businesses and entrepreneurs, said Stan Eckstut of Perkins Eastman, a New York-based architecture firm.

Cars will be able to navigate the property on single-lane roads, but the area will be built to accommodate pedestrians, he said.

“You drive to here, not through here,” Eckstut said during the presentation. “Cars are going to behave themselves here.”

Demolition of the 67-year-old factory could last about eight to 10 months, and rebuilding it would take years.

Eventually, Perry said, a public school could be built to anchor the site as a family-friendly area, but DeKalb school officials haven’t yet been approached about that idea.

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