Dunwoody residents and officials are hopeful a new Walmart store will bring an economic boost to the east side of their city.

A Walmart neighborhood market, which is a smaller, grocery-focused store, is slated to be built on Winters Chapel Road.

The store will be on the Gwinnett County line, with the building sitting in Gwinnett and much of the parking lot in Dunwoody.

Though it won’t technically be in Dunwoody, many believe that the Walmart store will be a great benefit for the eastern portion of the city.

Max Lehmann, a commercial real estate agent who lives in the area, said the proposed store “signals new life.”

“I’ve talked to neighbors about it,” Lehmann said. “I’m just delighted to see a name brand store in this center. This center has struggled for 12 years to get a good combination.”

Lehmann said the neighborhood market would address the “food desert” in the area.

“People in that area can’t walk and get food,” Lehmann said.

Michael Tuller, Dunwoody’s community development director, said Dunwoody and Gwinnett County officials have met to discuss the area and what could be done to attract commercial development.

“It’s showing its age and needs something like a Walmart … to really kind of reinvent that area,” Tuller said. “We hope it happens.”

Tuller said the area is underutilized.

“There really should be a higher-end kind of establishment in that corridor,” Tuller said.  “We’re hoping it’s really going to incentivize leasing new commercial in that area with its proximity to Walmart.”

Tuller said the two governments were trying to focus on the area that falls between them.

“You had two different jurisdictions vying for control,” Tuller said. “That’s why it didn’t have a lot of definition in the past.”

Officials are also pleased that the store will be filling a vacancy in an existing shopping center.

“I’m very happy that this is going in,” said City Councilman John Heneghan. “Commercial development to revitalize commercial areas that are already in place is a huge priority for me.”

On Nov. 15, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners approved a buffer reduction on the site, said Bryan Lackey, acting director of planning and development for Gwinnett County.

Walmart will now go through a plan review process to make sure they address things like building codes, site consideration and landscaping, Lackey said.

“If they’ve met all their codes and regulations, we’d be glad to issue them a building permit for that project,” Lackey said.

Lackey said Gwinnett and Dunwoody had a positive experience working on this development.

“It’s a good example of how two jurisdictions can come together to benefit a neighborhood,” Lackey said. “It was good to see there weren’t any hang-ups between the jurisdictions on moving that forward.”

–Melissa Weinman

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.