It was touted as a sleek, gray, 12-story boutique hotel across from Perimeter Mall when it was approved by the Dunwoody City Council in 2019.

But now, due to the economic destruction to the hotel industry following the pandemic, the plan for 84 Perimeter Center East has been scrapped in favor of an age-restricted apartment complex. That type of project is something the city has been seeking for years, said Michael Starling, director of economic development for Dunwoody.

Attorney Laurel David presents a conceptual design for a hotel in the 84 Perimeter Center East project at a 2017 Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting. Now the developer aims to replace the hotel with an apartment building for seniors. (File)

“Hotels are great from an economic development standpoint. They are great for many reasons,” Starling said. But the senior living “is a market we’ve been after for a while. We need options for residents as they age. It’s a good trade-off.”

The 2.8-acre property, located at the corner of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Center East, is being proposed now as an adults-only apartment complex. Currently the site of a vacant bank, the planning board has recommended approval of a rezoning of the property.

JSJ Perimeter plans to construct a 14-story apartment complex with up to 225 units and reserve 80% of the units for people aged 55 and older. Starling said he understands it’s going to be high-end “with a concierge” and similar amenities.

More than 43,000 square feet of retail and commercial space is also included in the project, along with a five-level parking deck.

There’s nothing like it in Dunwoody right now, Starling said. So the hotel not materializing, “is not a huge loss.”

The city has had four hotels built since it incorporated in 2010.

But it’s another blow to the hotel business, which has taken one of the hardest hits in 2020, officials said.

We “have been devastated by this crisis,” said Jeff Sprouse, executive director of the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association.

84 Perimeter, as the hotel was to be known, fits the mold of what happened after March 2020 – people started backing away from the hotel building business, said Vik Zaver, who works in investment sales of hotels for the real estate firm Colliers International.

Developers that had financing and had hotels already under construction stuck with it, he said. Otherwise they canceled plans. But Richard Hathcock, a city planner, said off the top of his head he couldn’t remember any other hotel projects recently falling through in Dunwoody.

Across the Atlanta metro area and the state, though, that has been the case. Zaver said that developers are not likely to go ahead with a hotel project knowing “they weren’t gonna make any money at all in the next two years.”

The losses are staggering. Sprouse said 2020 started as probably one of the best years in Georgia history as far as profits and expansions. And then March came. Cancellations for conventions and personal travel started pouring in. A lot of hotels that were at 70% capacity before the pandemic have fallen to 15%.

It will be 2023 or 2024 before the numbers get back to where they were, he said.

For some hotels, it’s getting to the point that it’s just a matter of how long they can last with the lack of revenue. “It’s getting harder and harder,” Sprouse said.

For these reasons, the hotel group pulled out of the deal at 84 Perimeter, said Laurel David, an attorney for JSJ Perimeter LLC, which owns the property. She wouldn’t name the hotel group.

The property at 84 Perimeter has been considered for a hotel before.

In 2008, the property was zoned by DeKalb County for a 12-story hotel and a 70,000-square-foot fitness center. Branch Properties tried to revive the hotel plans in 2017 and replace the fitness center with commercial and retail. But that never happened.

“It’s amazing that this site has been vacant as long as it has,” Starling said.

The former bank at 84 Perimeter Center East was transformed into “Perimeter Trust” in the action-packed movie “Baby Driver,” about an eclectic band of bank robbers. The “Perimeter Trust” scene included a heist that went wrong and had the getaway driver forced to drive up on the stone walls in the bank’s parking lot to escape the police.

But other than that memorable moment in motion pictures, the building and property have been unused for several years.

Developer, JSJ Perimeter LLC, is now picking up the flag to build a mixed-use project at 84 Perimeter Center East, located on the prime real estate in Perimeter Center. To do so, the developer needs major modifications to the 2008 rezoning to make room for 40,000 square feet of retail.

Laurel David, attorney for JSJ Perimeter, said there is interest by restaurants and retailers, but nothing has been nailed down yet.

Conditions of the rezoning request include a minimum of 20% open space, including green space and landscaping that could include a plaza area or outdoor patio.

The Planning Commission is requesting the project include a crosswalk and pedestrian refuge across Perimeter Center East on the northeast corner of the property to provide a connection to Park Place shopping center where Alon’s is located. Credit unions and savings and loans offices would only be allowed on the second story of the retail building and any kind of traditional bank with a drive-through is banned.

City staff reports 235 trees would be cut down for the development, including 10 specimen trees. Approximately 75%of the trees are pine.

The project would include an 8-foot-wide street buffer, 8-foot-wide sidewalk and 16 feet of extra sidewalk width for patio dining along Ashford-Dunwoody Road. On Perimeter Center East, the project would have a 6-foot street buffer, 6-foot sidewalk and 7- to 10-foot of extra sidewalk or landscape buffer or potential patio seating.

The City Council is expected to take up the first presentation of the proposed development in January.

Holly R. Price is a freelance writer based in metro Atlanta.