No Costco as North DeKalb Mall demolition plan is nixed

The now-closed Macy's North DeKalb Mall store on January 7, 2015.
The now-closed Macy's North DeKalb Mall store on January 7, 2015.

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC file photo

Credit: KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC file photo

Plans for a mixed used development at North DeKalb Mall have fallen through after the developer and the county could not agree on a master plan hampered by budget constraints.

Attorney Kathyrn Zickert for the Sterling Organization confirmed the company withdrew its zoning application with DeKalb County for the property last week. The development would’ve been anchored by a Costco and included 450 multi-family housing units and 50 townhomes. Some existing stores, such as Burlington, the AMC theater and Marshalls were also expected to stay.

Zickert said budget and site plan issues were what killed the plan.

“They wanted us to do a number of off-site improvements not warranted by our project,” she said.

Those plans included building an extension of PATH trail from its terminus in Medlock Park to Lawrenceville Highway, Zickert said. Another was to improve Mistletoe Drive with a bike and pedestrian path.

Zickert admitted the county’s requests were standard.

“Every jurisdiction tries to get us to pay for improvement for developments so that they don’t have to,” she said. “A lot of developments, if they have enough money, will do them, but we didn’t.”

While Zickert couldn’t divulge the cost of the proposed development, she said the improvement to the PATH trail would’ve been $1 million.

On top of that, Zickert said the county wanted them to reconsider where the big box stores would sit on the property.

“The county wanted to move our big box stores to the main entrance street,” she said. “Which meant our customers would be parking where our trucks would be unloading. It’s not safe much less inviting.”


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DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader told The AJC he still wants to work with Sterling in developing a “plan that would be attractive and leaned in to future opportunity.”

“We pointed out areas that we felt were weaknesses in their plan and were working to correct weaknesses,” he said.

Rader expressed concern with the 18-month construction plan Sterling proposed since many developments in the area had similar timelines and retail spaces.

“There’s been a great deal of retail that’s been absorbed in nearby markets,” he said. “...I think that ultimately, the economics of it will support the type of development that people want to see there,” he said. “We want to make sure that we act in public interest and try to purse the opportunities that are available there.”

Announcement of the withdrawn plans came as a shock to the DeKalb Cross Neighborhood Council.

“Frankly we were surprised,” DCNC Chair Theresa Same told the AJC in a phone interview. “But we also felt like we hadn’t gotten far in the process and knew they were having a hard time making the numbers work.”

Same said the council, comprised of members that sit on other neighborhood groups, had been involved and consulted with the development. The council’s main concern was the location of the truck loading docks near a residential community on Latham Road.

“We had suggested possibly moving (the loading dock) to other side of building,” she said of the Costco development.

Same said she hoped the two sides would work on a new site plan that would appease everyone.

“The neighborhood is really supportive of having the mall redeveloped,” she said.

For now, the county and Sterling have a January meeting in the works.

“We would expect that Sterling would like to come back and present more tangible plans,” Rader said. “We certainly are very interested in working with them.”

“The company want(s) to make clear it was an economic decision and not something one should take personally or that they didn’t want to do business in DeKalb County,” Zickert said.

The issue is close to Zickert, who also lives in the area of the proposed development.

“This is a dying mall now,” she said. “We would like it to be valuable again.”


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