Dunwoody Village could be getting five new restaurants and a courtyard with outdoor seating, a movie screen and a concert stage. 

David Abes of Dash Hospitality Group went before the Dunwoody Development Authority on March 18 with a plan to create a “central entertainment complex” at an open courtyard in Dunwoody Village, a shopping and retail center at 1317 Dunwoody Village Parkway. The courtyard in question sits next to a Fresh Market at 5515 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. 

Abes said he has been working on developing the courtyard for about two-and-a-half years. The plan would outfit the space with seating and a stage area to host events like concerts, farmers markets and festivals. Abes also plans to open up five new restaurants surrounding the courtyard. 

A concept sketch of the courtyard and location of the five restaurants in Dunwoody Village.

“We really want to spruce it up and make it look like this is the place where [residents] can come and read the newspaper, meet friends, do that whole thing,” Abes said. “Make it look like, ‘Wow this is a cool spot. I want to go hang out in Dunwoody Village.’”

Abes said he came to the DDA, a government body which gives out tax abatements for real estate projects, because of the community aspect of the project.

“This is a common area for all of Dunwoody,” Abes said. “Whether you come to one of the restaurants, or you’re just walking by and want to hang out – that’s why I went to the city of Dunwoody for this.” 

Last November, the Dunwoody City Council approved a rezoning meant to remake the entirety of the Dunwoody Village area around Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads into a mixed-use and more pedestrian centered complex. Tailored specifically to the area, the Dunwoody Village Overlay is a special zoning district which includes provisions designed to encourage the development of larger, modern structures, as well as more pedestrian use. For example, new developments would be required to update sidewalks and automobile-centric businesses, like drive thrus or gas stations, are not allowed. 

Back in April of 2020, the authority discussed what to do with its then $800,000 plus bank account. At that time, the possibility of supporting development in Dunwoody Village came up, with Economic Development Director Michael Starling noting the city’s interest in developing the area.

The total cost for the restaurant portion of the project would be about $3 million. Abes asked the DDA for a grant of $160,000 to cover outdoor furniture, an outdoor screen and speakers, and a covered stage. Abes said the outdoor stage would not be built until the second phase of the project, so the first phase of funding would focus on furniture and the outdoor screen set up. The furniture is estimated to cost $40,000 while the screen and speakers are at an estimated $60,000. 

Development authorities are barred from simply giving away funds, said the authority’s attorney, Dan McRae, but they can make a bargain through a “memorandum of understanding.”

“Out of this we will have to have a bargain. We will have to have a document to evidence the bargain,” McRae said. “Something that can be proven it was done and that the public received the benefit of … one structure or another has to be built into that MOU.”

The DDA tacitly approved the process to begin negotiating a memorandum of understanding, or a formalized agreement issuing the funds, and seemed enthusiastic about the project. However, members stressed the importance of the real estate investment company Regency Centers’ cooperation as well as the investment of the city. 

Regency Centers owns Dunwoody Village and the courtyard while the city owns some of the surrounding roadways. Starling said this project could help jumpstart a city plan to improve walkability through Dunwoody Village, but Regency Centers would have to be involved in an equal capacity.

“If this moves forward, the Development Authority is making a fairly significant investment in this site,” Starling said. “The city would then make our investment in our roads and our sidewalks, and then we go to Regency and say, you need to do your part as well.” 

Regency Centers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The project is expected to be completed in three phases. Abes said the first is expected to finish later this year sometime between September and November. It would include the opening of a “community wine, craft beer and whiskey bar” called Bar(n), according to Abes’ presentation. 

Bar(n) would be situated on the far side of the courtyard closer to Dunwoody Village Parkway, and will have a rustic design with indoor and outdoor seating and a food menu that features charcuterie and small plates. Abes said the outdoor screen should be set up in the courtyard by the first phase, as well as a temporary stage. 

Examples of concept inspiration for Bar(n). This restaurant is expected to open later this year.

Abes said the first phase has the most concrete timeline. The goal is to complete the second phase by 2022 along with two restaurants, Morty’s Meat Supply and Cuco’s Cantina. Morty’s and Cuco’s would be across the street from Bar(n), but closer to the Dunwoody-Chamblee Road side of the courtyard. Abes said the goal is to have a permanent stage for the courtyard by the second phase. 

Morty’s Meat Supply is described in presentation documents as a “North-meets-South BBQ experience,” while Cuco’s Cantina would serve Mexican street food. 

Plan sketch for Morty’s Meat Supply and Cuco’s Cantina.

The third phase is hoped to be completed by 2023 and would include the final two restaurants, Yoffi and Message in a Bottle, both situated to the right of Bar(n).  Yoffi would offer Mediterranean street food, while Message in a Bottle is described as an upscale seafood restaurant. 

Plan sketch for Message in a Bottle and Yoffi restaurants.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.