During Monday’s Dunwoody City Council meeting, tree preservation was a point of contention for a rezoning request to allow a new-to-market furniture store at 11 Ravinia Parkway.

According to city documents, the empty lot at the corner of Ravinia Parkway and Ashford Dunwoody Road was previously slated to hold a 156-key hotel, 41,400 square feet of retail or restaurant space, and a three-level parking deck. The council approved that rezoning in 2019, conditional to the construction of that hotel.

The new application for the property is requesting to modify the conditions of that zoning to allow for a two-story, 110,000-square-foot furniture retail showroom from the company Living Spaces Furniture on the property. The applicant is also requesting the construction of 37 surface parking spaces and 132 subsurface parking spaces.

Senior Planner Madalyn Smith said that the Public Works department accepted the crosswalk as a reasonable alternative to the sidewalk, but in return they have requested that the applicant provide a 20-foot easement to the city to accommodate any future improvements.

“If at some point the city does want to go in there and do some sort of connectivity project, they have the ability to do so,” Smith said. 

The application also requests a variance that would allow relief from street frontage requirements on Ravinia Parkway, citing the preservation of trees as a major reason. The site plan for the property also shows the property preserving a group of trees at the corner of Ashford Dunwoody Road and Ravinia Parkway and creating a courtyard in that area. 

“Essentially, they’re asking to not have to build the sidewalk in that area,” Smith said. “Instead, they are proposing a crosswalk across Ravinia Parkway, and that will connect with the existing sidewalk infrastructure that’s on the other side of the road.” 

If approved, staff recommends removing a driveway and a curb cut from the original site plan to ensure protection of a stretch of mature, large oak trees along Ravinia Parkway. However, attorney Den Webb spoke on behalf of the applicant and said the curb cut staff recommends removing could negatively impact truck deliveries for the showroom. Webb suggested an alternative which would remove some parking spaces in an attempt to try and preserve those trees. 

While the council did not lean one way or another, they did agree that saving the trees should be the priority. 

“We’ve got to figure out the curb cut,” said Mayor Lynn Deutsch. “Part of the inherent beauty and what makes Ravinia different than say something you’ll find in Brookhaven or Sandy Springs is the tree line gateway, and it was done intentionally … I anticipate the next week or so, you’ll work that out with staff.” 

Some council members expressed concern over whether the furniture store would be a good fit for the city. Living Spaces Furniture represents famous TV personality designers such as Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show “Fixer Upper” and Jonathan and Drew Scott, known as “The Property Brothers.” 

“What do we do with 110,000-square-foot shopping space that is owned by a company in California when the TV personalities get divorced, and their show goes away,” said Councilmember Stacey Harris. “What I don’t want to end up with is … a 110,000-square-foot empty building that we don’t know what to do with.”

 The rezoning is expected to come back before the council at its next meeting. Residents can watch the presentation and the Jan. 10 meeting in its entirety on the city’s Facebook page.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.