The Brookhaven Planning Commission Nov. 4 recommended green-lighting a  mixed-use redevelopment of a vacant Cox Enterprises property in the heart of Perimeter Center. But approval came with conditions as commissioners negotiated to ensure adequate workforce housing, traffic safety and stormwater retention.

“This is a great-looking plan,” commission Chair Stan Segal told the team of developers following the vote. “Y’all did a really nice job and we look forward to it as part of the city of Brookhaven.”

The proposal would replace an existing office building at 1400 Lake Hearn Drive with a 629-unit apartment complex and a 25,000-square-foot commercial center.

The planning commission unanimously approved an ordinance to rezone the property’s land use designation from office to master-planned development. In addition, the board approved a pair of zoning variances sought by developers. One was to reduce the required buffer surrounding retention streams from 75 feet to 25 feet. The other will allow developers to construct ramps and sloping floors in the property’s parking deck to make it visible from I-285.

The plan must now go before the City Council for final approval.

The site of the estimated $260 million redevelopment covers 21 acres and is currently occupied by the five-story office building — formerly the headquarters of Cox, which is now based nearby in Sandy Springs — and its parking lot.

Atlanta-based developer Pope & Land partnered with TriGate Capital, a real estate investment firm headquartered in Dallas, to buy the 300,000-square-foot building for $13.3 million in November 2018 as part of a limited-liability joint venture dubbed TGPL Lake Hearn Owner, DeKalb County Property Appraiser records show.

The property sits along the southern side of I-285. A MARTA Red Line bridge passes over the parcel’s southeast corner.

AMLI Residential, a Chicago-based luxury apartment developer, will spearhead the project. AMLI Vice President Annie Hirst said Cox was the only previous owner of the existing V-shaped building, which was built in 1982.

The developer originally envisioned 615 multi-family residences, but AMLI submitted a revamped plan that increases the residential footprint to 629 units.

A site plan of the proposed mixed-use redevelopment at 1400 Lake Hearn Drive.

They will be complemented by a 5-acre public park on the south end of the campus and 25,000 square feet of commercial space in the center of the development replete with retail shops, restaurants and business offices.

The housing complex will feature a mix of apartments with 65% of the one-bedroom variety, 30% two-bedrooms and 5% three-bedrooms, according to plans.

An aerial view of the existing 1400 Lake Hearn site from the developers’ filing with the city.

AMLI has also agreed to dedicate at least 10%, or 62 units, to workforce housing, which Brookhaven carves out for households earning less than 80% of the area median household income for Atlanta’s Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Segal asked how the developers contemplated incorporating the affordable housing units into the complex. Hirst said her team was still hashing out those details with city officials, but the affordable housing park” would probably include a mix of one- , two- , and three-bedroom units.

“It will likely not be relegated to a single type of unit, but we’re looking forward to discussing that and coming to a mutually agreeable solution,” she said.

An illustration from the developers shows what the mixed-use development at 1400 Lake Hearn Drive could look like. (Special)

Commissioners sought to lock AMLI in on a few of its promises. Segal added a condition to the commission’s vote stipulating that the developers agree to include the workforce housing stock.

AMLI’s plans included two retention ponds in the park area. But Michael Diaz pushed an amendment to ensure the storm water facility remains part of the design plans.

Commission Vice Chair John Funny worried about an intersection near the north entrance of the development that slants at 30-degree angle. He deemed it a safety hazard for motorists and called for the developers to hire traffic engineers to consider a traffic circle at the oblong intersection.

The development team pledged to work with city officials on those recommendations.

“This is currently a hidden office building behind a dense green wall oriented fully to 285, with Brookhaven and Lake Hearn in the backyard,” said Kirk Billings, a managing director for Pope & Land. “We want to flip the orientation of the property by creating an authentic community gathering space. And opening up the site to create a publicly accessible park with Lake Hearn and Brookhaven in the front yard.”

Matt Bruce is a writer based in metro Atlanta.