By John Schaffner

Renovation of the strip shopping center that previously housed the Garden Hills Cinema theater may begin as early as March now that Neighborhood Planning Unit B and the Garden Hills Neighborhood Association have approved plans with certain conditions.
Michael Hough, president of Brand Properties, which owns and manages the center on Peachtree Road north of Rumson Road, said the start of work “is all contingent on getting the final approval from the city,” which he hopes will come in February. “We are lined up to start as soon as we get that approval.”
Brand Properties, a subsidiary of Gwinnett-based Brand Bank, originally planned to redevelop the shopping center into a mixed-use area that would have included either office space or residential units above ground-level retail. A key element of that redevelopment would have been Brand Bank’s entry into Buckhead with a retail banking facility.
With the economic downturn over the past couple of years, those plans changed, Hough said, and it was decided to renovate the center and aggressively seek new tenants to make it a more viable retail destination  and a greater asset for the local community.
Conditions placed on the existing zoning for the property required that any changes would require the owners to provide more onsite parking spaces than presently exist. So Brand Properties, under the property name of Gardenbrand LLC, sought a special exception to reduce the required parking from 165 to 80 on-site parking spaces, which currently exist at the location.
That exception to the zoning regulations was approved unanimously by NPU-B Jan. 5 after months of negotiations with the NPU’s Zoning Committee and the Garden Hills Neighborhood Association.
Those negotiations, however, resulted in a total of 15 conditions to the development plans that were agreed to by all parties prior to the Jan. 5 vote.
Some of the major conditions include:
–“There shall be no modification in the size or height in the existing building” as measured on Dec. 29, 2009.
–Owner must maintain a minimum of 71 marked, paved parking spaces in the rear and nine along Peachtree Road in front as permitted by the City of Atlanta.
–Owner shall ensure that it controls all trash and debris on the property, both during and following renovations.
–Owner shall erect signs in the parking lot stating that unauthorized parking will result in towing/booting and enforce such restrictions during regular business hours.
–Owner shall not utilize nor lease to others the 6,000-square-foot space configured as a movie theater until a written parking agreement has been executed providing a minimum additional 60 off-site parking spaces controlled by a private valet service.
–The shopping center on the property will not be open for business between midnight and 7 a.m. (The Fellini’s and LaFonda restaurants are not part of the shopping center owned by Brand Properties.)
–The shopping center “shall not be used for “religious worship facilities more than 10,000 square feet, commercial greenhouses, listed commercial recreation establishments, hospitals, laundry and dry cleaning larger than 5,000 square feet, multi-family dwellings, parking structures and lots, service stations and car washes, and supportive housing.
–Any demolition and construction is limited to 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and none on Sundays.
The shopping center now is home to Peachtree Bikes, Fantasyland Records and House of Fleming gallery. Hough has said there has been leasing interest expressed by a coffee/ice cream/sandwich shop operator, a major retailer and another restaurant, in addition to neighbors Fellini’s and LaFonda.
Hough would love to attract an independent theater operator to take the space of the former Garden Hills Cinema, which was very popular with the neighborhood. “However, single-theater operators are hard to find these days,” he said.