Decatur commission displeased with Callaway site plans

After getting a long-awaited first glimpse of Cousins Properties plans for redeveloping the Callaway Building site, Decatur’s commission gave a unanimous thumbs-down to what they saw.

“The project is beautiful, with great open space,” Mayor Jim Baskett told Cousins Senior Vice President Bill Bassett. “But it’s not what we want. We want more retail, less residential.”

Plans call for 361 residential units, 20,000 square feet of retail and 5,000 square feet of office on the five acres.

Bassett admitted “the mix has definitely changed” since Cousins and the city first began collaborating on the Callaway site in 2011. Since then the major chain organic groceries have landed elsewhere and he added that more office/retail space “would not make this a financially feasible … [The current plan] is absolutely what the market is asking for. I couldn’t underwrite 50,000 square feet of retail.”

The commission wound up tabling Cousins’ request for “special exceptions” to the development’s design standards, although Baskett said he saw no problem with the exceptions, which he considers minor. But the commission wants to take at most 30 days to meet with the developer and discuss a large-picture revision of plans.

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