Brookhaven residents may see a new pedestrian bridge over North Druid Hills Road near the intersection with Tullie Drive. The City Council approved a conceptual design for the bridge, which includes bus stations, at a Feb. 9 meeting.
The concept for the bridge was presented to the council at a Jan. 29 work session as a way to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow and integrate with other proposed transportation improvements and developments in the area.
In the conceptual designs, ends of the bridge fall on properties the city does not own. Director of Economic Development Shirlynn Brownell said the city has not yet selected an official design and construction firm yet, but she has reached out to property owners who would be affected by the construction.
City spokesperson Burke Brennan said there would be encroachment on a Bank of America property and McDonald’s property near the bridges’s location. Those companies could not immediately be reached for comment and the city did not immediately respond to questions about the identity of the property owners it is contacting. None of the affected property owners have responded yet, said Brennan.
The bridge connects Emory University’s Executive Park development and a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campus in what the city is now calling the Briar Hills Innovation District. Executive Park is a multi-use project that would include apartments, medical buildings and a hotel. Children’s Healthcare is building a $1 billion hospital and other facilities.
Conceptual drawings of the bridge and bus station show a covered pedestrian bridge running across North Druid Hills Road. A ramp leads up to the bridge from the proposed transit area, which is located on the western side of the site. The transit station features a central roundabout where the design firm, Kimley-Horn, has proposed green features such as gardens and bioswales, which collect and filter stormwater.
“Welcome to Brookhaven” can be seen written across the bridge in the conceptual drawings.
“We think that this is a great opportunity to incorporate Brookhaven’s branding. We’ve looked at your standards of materials that you have for your city itself, and we wanted to incorporate that into the design,” said Jonathan Doherty of Kimley-Horn during the Jan. 29 meeting. “So … when you’re going through it, you know you’re in Brookhaven.
In 2019, the City Council approved rezoning requests that would allow for the creation of the campus. That included a “Community Investment Agreement” with Emory University where approximately 825,000 square feet of the Executive Park development will be considered taxable property.
The final cost of the bridge will be determined after the engineering design is complete and a contract awarded to a developer after a competitive bid process, according to Brennan.
“The city is paying for the bridge, and Brookhaven has already identified that property tax revenues generated by the new facilities going in at Executive Park will offset those expenditures over time,” Brennan said. “It remains possible that additional funding sources need to be identified in the future, depending on final cost estimates.”
The other two proposed bridges include a vehicular flyover bridge over I-85 into Executive Park, which would provide a second entrance to the campus and is intended to reduce traffic on North Druid Hills Road. The second would be another pedestrian flyover bridge over I-85 between West Druid Hills Drive and Executive Park.
In the Jan. 29 meeting, Project Manager Gavin Good from Kimley-Horn presented the conceptual drawings for the North Druid Hills bridge and discussed the importance of integrating successfully with other transportation and development projects in the area.
Good specifically mentioned projects from Brookhaven’s 2020 Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update. In an effort to lessen traffic, the Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed redesigning the North Druid Hills/I-85 interchange.
Good also mentioned a proposed arterial rapid transit route, a MARTA bus that would run alongside North Druid Hills Road. Drawings of the pedestrian bridge show it connecting to a proposed transit station.
“We wanted to integrate with the proposed multimodal transportation improvements along the corridor, and the significant investment in adjacent developments,” Good said,
No official timeline has been set for the project, but Brennan said it will be after the Emory buildings appear on tax rolls. The first building isn’t expected to do so until late this year or in early 2022.