The Dunwoody City Council had concerns during the first read for a new restaurant and retail space during a Monday meeting.
Owner Branch Properties is requesting to modify zoning conditions for a property located at 600 Ashwood Parkway. The property is located within Branch’s Perimeter Center Marketplace, a mixed-use development anchored by a grocery store, now a Publix, that the city approved in 2019.
In 2019, a 1.5-acre tract of the roughly 10-acre development was left blank with the understanding that the applicant would request to amend the conditions of zoning once they had a proposed plan for the site. According to Senior Planner Madalyn Smith, that plan now includes an 8,400-square-foot restaurant and retail space, 62 parking spaces, and a walk-up ATM.
The building itself would be able to hold multiple tenants, said Jack Haylett of Branch Properties. Haylett said the ATM in question would be more of a full-service automated teller, which would be different from the other ATM that is already located in the complex. He also said multiple financial institutions have expressed interest.
“The ATM that’s at Publix is a cash machine,” Haylett said. “If we get financial services … they want full-use automated tellers.”
Smith said the building is set back further from the property line than some other buildings in the area due to several large underground utilities. Because of this, the applicant plans to add outdoor patios to further activate the space. Councilmember Tom Lambert said he wanted assurances that those patios would be activated even without a restaurant.
“I would love to have a restaurant there with outdoor dining. That would be terrific,” Lambert said. “But there’s nothing in here that guarantees us that … I want to make sure we’re not just getting a hump of concrete, that we’re getting a space that can be activated and used and a benefit to the area.”
Smith said it would be possible to add a condition that required the applicant to activate the patio spaces.
Councilmember Stacey Harris said she worried Branch was not holding up their end of the bargain for the development of Perimeter Center Marketplace, particularly in regards to a commuter trail and streetscaping along Ashford Dunwoody Road that was meant to be developed concurrently with the project.
“Ashford Dunwoody Road in front of your property can best be described as a hot mess,” Harris said. “You haven’t fulfilled your commitment to the city, and so I’m very reluctant to give you more when you haven’t done what you’re supposed to do.”
Haylett said there have been setbacks for the project, including the discovery of 24 unmarked fiber optic lines below a steel water line that didn’t show up on city or county plans. He also said the pandemic has caused some setbacks, but the goal is to have the relocation of those lines and other development of that outdoor area done by May 8.
“We started this job prior to a pandemic, we’ve been building in a pandemic, and we’ve been busting our butt to get that done,” Haylett said.
Mayor Lynn Deutsch asked if it would be possible to include more spaces for people to park bikes in order to make the area as pedestrian and bike-friendly as possible. She said when the council originally heard the plan, the idea was to have a specialty grocery store and chef-driven restaurants.
“I love the Publix, but to be clear, we need to have the amenities and the walkability and the attractiveness, because otherwise … I get emails that it’s another mattress store,” Deutsch said. “I get emails or Facebook messages that it’s Lucky China. We’re a capitalist society, and that’s who wanted to be there. But we need to make this center as nice as it should be.”
The project is expected to be back before the council at its next meeting.