A developer wanting to build a self-storage building on Buford Highway tried to gain a rezoning approval from a skeptical Brookhaven Planning Commission by saying future plans are to build a co-working office space next door.

A rendering of the proposed self-storage building at 2991 Buford Highway. (City of Brookhaven)

Brookhaven Planning Commission members were not sold, and at their May 2 meeting recommended denial of the rezoning request needed for the five-story self-storage facility at 2991 Buford Highway. Commissioners said a self-storage facility does not meet the criteria outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan for mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly development along the corridor.

The property at 2991 Buford Highway is adjacent to the Stardust adult business and Lips, a venue featuring drag shows with dinners and brunches.

Roger Burgin, senior vice president of development at TD Self Storage, said his company’s plans are to buy the Brookhaven Laundry property next door to the used car lot and build an IShare Space co-working office building on that property. Together, he said, the two developments make a mixed-use development.

Sandra Campbell, the owner of Brookhaven Laundry, said last year that she was selling her property for $550,000. She could not be reached for comment for this story.

Burgin also mentioned plans by TD Self Storage to buy 5 acres at the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway and build a hotel there, though he more recently said that deal won’t happen.. On the properties now are single-story office buildings and the 1.4-acre Hi-Speed Car Wash property.

But commissioners were not convinced. “This is our one opportunity to get it right,” Commissioner John Funny said before the vote. “All eyes are looking to how we develop Buford Highway. This creates a precedent if we approve it.”

Other commissioners suggested Burgin come back with a master plan for what his company wants to do on Buford Highway.

In an email days after the meeting, Burgin said his company is no longer moving forward on the 5-acre purchase. He did not answer whether his company had closed on the Brookhaven Laundry property. IShare Space was founded in 2016 and currently has offices in Mumbai, Gurgaon, Chennai and Bengalaru in India, according to its websites. No U.S. offices are listed. An email seeking comment was not returned.

Joe Gebbia
Joe Gebbia

Councilmember Joe Gebbia said in an interview that the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway and several other parcels adjacent to it on Buford Highway are “high profile” pieces of property in Brookhaven.

The properties are around the corner from the massive 80-acre Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campus redevelopment at the North Druid Hills and I-85 interchange, including plans to build a $1.3 billion hospital, and from Executive Park, purchased by Emory University two years ago and where the Atlanta Hawks now have its practice facility.

“I’m proud of the Planning Commission for making a rationalized decision based on vision statements and policy set by the council,” Gebbia said in an interview. “This development doesn’t meet the criteria we want on Buford Highway. Let this be a loud message to other developers.”

Gebbia emailed residents of the Pine Hills community that straddles Buckhead and Brookhaven and urged them to speak out against the proposed self-storage facility at the May 2 Planning Commission meeting.

“[The proposed project] would block the ability of a developer to assemble the five parcels of land that make up this strip to build projects that would meaningfully advance in the redevelopment of Buford Highway,” Gebbia stated in the email.

“These parcels are located at ‘ground zero’ for the start of redevelopment along Buford Highway, and a self-storage facility is totally out of place and does not serve the community well,” Gebbia added.

He confirmed those statements in an interview. “Why put a self-storage facility there? It doesn’t promote the economic development of Buford Highway,” he said. “I want that message out there loud and clear.”

He declined comment on the five parcels other than to say he believes available property should be assembled on Buford Highway. At the City Council’s February retreat, he suggested that stretch of property along Buford Highway from North Druid Hills Road to Lips be purchased by the city, perhaps through the Brookhaven Development Authority, to ensure the city gets what it wants built on that property.

As “ground zero,” this area of Buford Highway at North Druid Hills Road is the entryway into Brookhaven from the tony Buckhead community. Rising property costs are following that path, too, as developers eye Buford Highway for redevelopment.

Burgin told the Planning Commission his company purchased the approximately 1-acre property at 2991 Buford Highway for more than $1 million.

All the property along this stretch of Buford Highway also back up to Peachtree Creek, where the Peachtree Creek Greenway linear park is expected to break ground this year. The city is investing tens of millions of dollars into the linear park and raised its hotel-motel tax last year from five percent to eight percent to fund its construction.

Speaking out against the proposed project at the Planning Commission meeting was Betsy Eggers, chair of the Peachtree Creek Greenway nonprofit and advocacy group. She said a self-storage facility was the direct opposite of what was wanted on Buford Highway and connected to the Greenway. She suggested the site was more appropriate for a bike shop.

Also speaking out against the proposed self-storage facility was Marian Liou, founder of We Love BuHi, an organization dedicated to advocating for the multicultural people who live and work on Buford Highway, known for its international communities and businesses.

“This proposal runs contrary to the community vision [for Buford Highway],” she said. That community vision is an understanding to re-imagine Buford Highway “for people and not for their stuff,” she said.

The rezoning request is slated go before the City Council at its May 22 meeting.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.