A pedestrian bridge over I-85? City considers plans for Emory complex

Plans for a $1 billion Emory University medical complex in Brookhaven have received initial approval from the city’s staff — but on the condition that Emory install some major infrastructure improvements.

The city’s desires, which include a pedestrian bridge over I-85, were made public in documents released ahead of Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting. Commission members — and representatives for Emory — were expected to discuss the development plans and possibly vote whether to approve them. The plans would still need a final vote by the Brookhaven City Council.

Emory announced in May that it hopes to build a hospital, hotel, apartments and miles of walking trails and paths on 60 acres of land in southern Brookhaven in the Executive Park area. The new development, the university said, could be gradually built over 15 years.

According to plans filed with the city, the complex could include a 140-bed non-emergency inpatient hospital; an apartment building with more than 700 units, a 200-room hotel and more than 40 acres of medical/office space. The complex would connect with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's new North Druid Hills complex.

To make that grand-scale vision a reality, Emory needs approval from the city to rezone the property to fit their “mixed-use” needs. The plots are currently zoned for a mix of office, commercial and residential and are mostly vacant.

Brookhaven’s community development department recommended the rezoning be approved, with several conditions aimed at executing the city’s “vision” for the North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway area.

Specifically, the city is asking that Emory work with the city and state to install a pedestrian bridge across I-85, connecting the medical site with West Druid Hills Drive. It would be just south of North Druid Hills Road and let out near the future Peachtree Creek Greenway.

Officials also want Emory to help build a pedestrian bridge across North Druid Hills Road, connecting to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campus. The documents did not specify who would pay for the bridges.

The staff also said Emory should build a “transit center” within its development that will serve any future MARTA bus rapid transit system in the area, according to the documents.

Emory already operates medical offices in Executive Park, including a sports medicine and training facility opened in 2017 in partnership with the Atlanta Hawks.

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst previously heralded the project, but said it needs to address transportation needs in the area. Officials envision the campus as comparable to “Pill Hill,’’ the Sandy Springs health care destination that includes Northside, Emory Saint Joseph’s and Children’s Scottish Rite hospitals.

“This could be Pill Hill Two or Brook Hill,” Ernst told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in May.

If approved by the Planning Commission on Wednesday, the plans could go before the City Council as early as Sept. 24 for a public hearing.