By James A. Budd

A proposed $98 million mixed-use community on Collier Road just west of Interstate 75 is getting support from nearby civic leaders, but they are increasingly concerned about the city’s failure to make much-needed road improvements on the Westside to handle a surge in redevelopment.

The boom has been spearheaded by Selig Enterprises’ 600,000-sqaure-foot mixed-use development, The District at Howell Mill, at Howell Mill Road and I-75. The project included a 150,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter– the first in the city limits of Atlanta– that opened last fall.

Pollack Partners and landowner MK Management Company plan to build 55,000 square feet of commercial and office space along with 650 residential units on a 13-acre tract in the shadow of I-75. The new development will replace an existing office and industrial complex.

“We’re going to create a community where people can live in a vibrant, urban setting, where it’s a convenient and pleasant walk to the new restaurants, stores and offices we’ll build here,” said Pollack Partners Chairman and CEO Marc Pollack.

The developer plans to build luxury multi-family residential units featuring swimming pools, a fitness center, business center, a clubhouse and other amenities.

“Our family has owned the land for decades,” said Doug Kuniansky, of MK Management Company. “The community around our property has changed dramatically over the years and the new development will be much more compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods than the current industrial park.”

A public meeting will be held on the development Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at MK Management Company’s headquarters, 1011 Collier Road, according to Rick Bermish, president of the Channing Valley Homeowners Association.

Bermish said he’s supportive of the project, but said gridlock in the area has become a major issue.

“What we are concerned with is traffic on Howell Mill Road and Collier Road at I-75,” said Bermish. “Traffic is unbearable.”

Another longtime civic leader, Michael Kilgore, said over the years the city has taken money earmarked for improvements to the area and used it elsewhere in Atlanta. The area, bordered by Northside Drive on the east, Collier Road on the north and I-75 to the south and west, is bisected by Howell Mill Road. Traffic at the intersection of Collier Road and Howell Mill Road is awful and will only get worse unless the city takes action, he said.

Collier Road is becoming increasingly congested as commuters from Cobb and Vinings use the road to get to jobs in Midtown.

Kilgore said several more projects are on the drawing board in addition to the Pollack Partners project. One project by Novare Group, known as the “super block,” includes improvements to the area bounded by Howell Mill Road, Collier Road and Emery and Beck Streets.

The Holiday Inn at Howell Mill Road is slated for demolition in a few weeks to make room for an office development, he said.

Kilgore accused the city of “stealing” money in a 1997 general obligation bond issue earmarked for traffic improvements in a corridor from Howell Mill Road to 14th Street.

Of the $5 million earmarked, only $3 million was actually spent for improvements in the area, he said. “We got one intersection improvement instead of the two promised.”

He also accused the city of taking $1 million in impact fees from the Selig development and using the fees elsewhere in the city.

Both Kilgore and Bermish said traffic could be improved by building the proposed Beck/Emery Street Bypass.

Motorist could avoid the Collier Road and Howell Mill intersection by cutting through to Emery Street and then to Beck Street before getting back on Howell Mill and I-75.

Kilgore said the project could be built by simply widening Emery Street and Beck streets and purchasing right of way. A developer in the area has already agreed to donate part of the right of way.