Dunwoody Planning Commission members want people renting a unit at a proposed self-storage building in the Georgetown community to be able to buy a croissant and a cup of coffee or visit with a tax specialist in the same building. The developer, however, said there is no chance of that happening.

The situation of a developer securing a recommendation for approval that includes conditions it doesn’t want stems from the Jan. 15 meeting of the Planning Commission. At that meeting, commissioners voted 5-1 to recommended approval of a special land use permit for Adevco Corporation for an up to five-story self-storage building on nearly three acres at 4444 North Shallowford Road. The recommendation for approval also requires retail on the ground floor.

A developer wants to build a three-story self-storage building at 4444 North Shallowford Road that would like this illustration, but the Planning Commission has recommended it be built up to five stories and include retail on the ground floor. (Special)

However, Adevco only wants to build three stories and does not want to incorporate retail beyond selling cardboard boxes and tape needed for moving. The property’s current zoning of office distribution only allows for two stories, so the developer is seeking a special land use permit for an extra story. A five-story building on the site would require a complete rezoning of the property, according to Community Development Director Richard McLeod.

“We aren’t going to do that. We just want to build three stories,” Dave Kraxberger, president of Adevco, said in a phone interview of the commission’s recommendations. By right, Adevco can build two stories without any kind of city approval, he said. He declined further comment. The City Council is slated to take up the SLUP request and Planning Commission recommendations on Feb. 11.

Planning Commission Chair Bob Dallas, who pushed for the five stories with ground-floor retail, was unfazed by the city’s and developer’s disapproval.

The parcel is located in the Georgetown Square Character Area which calls for a “dynamic mix of uses” including pedestrian-oriented developments that encourage a live, work and play district. That includes storefront businesses to activate the area and engage walkers and cyclists, Dallas said.

“When you look at proposed uses in the whole Georgetown area … where does a personal storage facility fit in? Not anywhere as it is currently planned,” he said in an interview. “The comprehensive land use plan was produced with citizen input; they’re the ones that described what they wanted.”

Developments currently surrounding the Adevco property include a Georgia Power business office and a large parking lot and storage area for utility trucks. There are also some Emory medical offices, a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall and such businesses as a daycare center and insurance office. Numerous apartment complexes are also in the area.

The city owns a building at 4470 North Shallowford adjacent to the proposed self-storage site. The city’s two-story annex building includes training rooms and evidence storage for the police department and community rooms for the Parks and Recreation Department. Due to limited parking at the annex building, Adevco has agreed to share its parking lot with the city as part of the SLUP request.

There are three other self-storage buildings within a mile radius of the site, Dallas said. A new, three-story CubeSmart Self Storage building on Savoy Drive near Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and I-285 in nearby Chamblee includes space for a restaurant on the ground floor, Dallas added. Chamblee’s zoning ordinance for the area requires ground-floor retail.

New toll lanes along I-285 could include bus rapid transit, said Dallas, who is also a member of MARTA’s board of directors. North Shallowford Road could be a likely spot for a stop, he said, and passengers would need a place to eat or buy coffee.

Mike Bell of Adevco told Planning Commission members at the Jan. 15 meeting it was not financially feasible to build retail on the storage building’s ground floor because the suburban market does not support it. “The market will determine if there is a demand for retail,” Bell said. “You can’t just force it.”

“This is dead space,” Bell added. “Retail needs synergy from other retail. Storage has very little traffic. It will be a number of years before this community can support [retail]. Today it is not a viable alternative. The community is not going to like a dark space of retail.”

Recommending the self-storage building be built up to five stories is intended to provide more units to rent and bring in more revenue to help get a return on the cost of building out and leasing a retail space, Dallas told him at the meeting. “Never would I suggest you do something that is financially unfeasible,” he said.

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