By Leslie Johnson
In the wake of the Great Recession, business development in Chamblee has picked up, and the onset of activity is bolstering the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“It’s exciting. We’re in a development cycle, and it’s a good problem to have,” said Adam Causey, the city’s economic development manager.
Major recent and still-unfolding developments – several of them ambitious mixed-use projects – in Chamblee include:
The Olmsted, near the Chamblee MARTA station, will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, restaurants and retail. It has been touted as a “Transit Oriented Development,” or TOD. Delivery is set to begin in early 2016. Cocke Finkelstein Inc., along with Macauley + Schmit and Origin Capital, are involved in bringing the project to life.
The Blee on Peachtree, another mixed-use concept and reimagining of the former Roswell Junction. According to its website, plans call for a chef-driven Food Hall spanning 13,500 square feet; access to a terraced pocket park; 130,000 square feet of selected retail “to fit into the district and be part of the community redevelopment” and 30,000 square feet for a natural foods grocer; year-round artist market; up to 125 “loft-style residential units”; electric car plug-ins, bike racks and a rooftop garden, among other amenities.
Parkview on Peachtree, at Peachtree Boulevard and Clairmont Road, is to be completed in two phases. Plans call for nearly 600 apartment units on top of a diverse commercial component.
Peachtree Crossing, a new project in the works with reported plans for a Whole Foods in an anchor spot. Chamblee City Council gave the OK for the development, covering some 11 acres, according to The Chamblee Post.
New construction of Ed Voyles Kia Galleria on Peachtree Boulevard, next to Wendy’s and a new Jim Ellis Audi dealership.
“It’s like we’re just hungry right now for activity around here, post-recession period,” said Lou Alvarado, chairman of the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce, which was formed last year. “We have a City Council, a city manager and a mayor that want business to come to Chamblee. And they’re making that happen,”
In addition, the 107-year-old city, which sits at the edge of the rapidly growing Perimeter area, plans to work on an economic development strategic plan, with plenty of public input, that will help determine where it is now and where it should look in the future in terms of growth.
Once a town centered on dairies and railroads, according to its history page on the city website, Chamblee also had a strong military presence at different points in its history.
Today there is the Chamblee Motor Mile, an effort to draw attention to the dealerships and other car-related businesses scattered along Peachtree Road from I-285 to Clairmont Road, according to the Chamber’s website; a busy Walmart Supercenter and other big retailers; as well as small and mid-sized entities, including antiques and consignment shops.
The new chamber was built on the foundation of the Chamblee Area Business and Professional Coalition, which was largely about networking, and the Chamblee Business Association. “You start with a foundation, then go with the walls and framing, and the Chamber of Commerce is like the roof,” said business owner Alvarado, founder of Handy Husband.
Chamber officials also want to promote local arts. “We are establishing an arts community. That’s one of the things we’re trying to create is an art incubator, an art activity center here in Chamblee,” Alvarado said.
Some of the ideas behind the developing “Arts Chamblee” initiative include art shows and events. “We feel there is no voice for the arts anywhere in the area,” Alvarado said.
“Chamblee is nestled amongst three great communities: Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Doraville,” Alvarado said. “We’re inside I-285 and we still have affordable properties, and I think the city wants to do some really neat stuff. Art is part of that neat stuff. It all goes back to the leadership.”
Alvarado attributes Chamblee’s increased business activity to several factors, including the presence of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, proximity to the redevelopment of the former General Motors plant in nearby Doraville, a strong entrepreneurial push supported by city officials, as well as millenials, who are keeping the ingenuity wheels turning.
“The mindset around here is we all want the best for the city,” Alvarado said. “We hear sometimes where people want the best for themselves, but it seems we have more of an attitude of, at the end of the day, it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about the city.
“We have a lot of people that want to make that happen, a lot of people that are engaged. It’s a really a good community.”