Plans for a mammoth mixed-use district in the heart of Dunwoody’s Perimeter Center are officially moving from concept to reality.

Developers are ready to break ground this year on the $2 billion “High Street” project, which totals 41 acres and spans the equivalent of 10 city blocks next to Perimeter Mall.

The idea for High Street has been in the works since before Dunwoody became a city in 2008. Developers hope the project will change the landscape of Dunwoody through a more trendy shopping and dining experience and thousands of new apartments and condos.

As shopping centers across metro Atlanta experiment with redevelopments that have more entertainment and mixed-use components, High Street hopes to build on that trend amid rising online retail sales.

“Our intent is that this really becomes the primary social hub, one of the core elements, of the entire Dunwoody community, and (we) really want the community and its residents to have a sense of ownership over it,” said James Linsley, the president of GID Development Group, standing over a 3D model of the High Street design on Wednesday.

GID Development Group President James Linsley with a 3D rendering of phase one of the High Street project in Dunwoody. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Construction fencing has gone up around the site located near the Dunwoody MARTA station and the towering new State Farm offices. The first phase of the project is set to have 600 apartments and a mix of retail and office space.

At the center of the complex, developers plan to build a “public realm” — a 25,000-square-foot plaza surrounded by shops, restaurants and a “grand staircase.” High Street hopes to hold more than 200 events a year in and around the plaza — a sign of the continued urbanization of the historically suburban Northside community.

Unlike some other shopping centers in metro Atlanta, High Street will not rely on a traditional retail anchor tenant like a department store, Linsley said. Instead, a movie theater, a food hall and the central outdoor space will serve as the “anchors.”

“The world of how people interact with one another, and how they shop and dine, is much different that it was even five years ago,” Linsley said, comparing High Street to nearby Perimeter Mall, which opened in 1971. “There’s the mall, which is great, but it’s a little bit of a different generation of product. This is where the new world of retail and … mixed use real estate is headed.”

The first phase of High Street, on the northern end of the property, is scheduled to open in 2022. After that, the following phases will involve tearing down two office buildings and constructing more office space, another 2,400 residences, retail and a hotel on the southern side. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution currently leases office space in one of the buildings that is set to come down.

GID recently received the necessary land use and land disturbance permits to begin construction. Developers are also set to receive a tax break from the Dunwoody Development Authority worth an estimated $19 million over 10 years.

This red outline shows the approximate boundaries of the total High Street site in Dunwoody.

Credit: Mathis III, George (CMG-Atlanta)

Credit: Mathis III, George (CMG-Atlanta)

“We have been waiting for this for quite some time,” said Michael Starling, Dunwoody’s economic development director. He said High Street will create a true “downtown” for Perimeter Center. The project will have a traditional street grid design, with a road called “High Street” running through the middle.

The development has also won the favor of Discover Dunwoody, which markets the city as a tourism destination. The group’s research found that visitors and residents are looking for dining and entertainment excursions “where they can linger longer,” executive director Katie Williams said in a statement. “High Street will be the game-changing addition to our community.”

In a part of town dominated by the mall, office buildings and conventional shopping centers, Starling said residents and people who commute to Dunwoody will benefit from the entertainment aspect of the project. High Street, he said, is “not something that’s just 9-to-5,” describing it as a mix of the Avalon shopping center in Alpharetta and The Battery in Cobb County.

Developers hope to have some rooftop bars and restaurants at High Street.

Credit: GID Development Group

Credit: GID Development Group

The project also signals a shift in Dunwoody’s Perimeter shopping scene because it will bring an influx of new apartments. No multifamily apartments have been approved and built anywhere in Dunwoody since it became a city over a decade ago, Starling said, though new apartment complexes have recently popped up around the corner from High Street in neighboring Sandy Springs.

The concept and design for High Street have morphed since GID first got the land rezoned by DeKalb County in 2007. Linsley said the Great Recession initially delayed the project, and the changing retail market over the last decade caused the company to spend more time “crafting” what will go into the project.

“We’ve been quite careful and intentional,” he said. “We are much more interested in doing things the right way than the fast way.”

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