Dunwoody residents are concerned over the possibility of a new daycare facility in their neighborhood. 

A development company called Vantage Commercial Contractors met with the Dunwoody Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA) during an Aug. 29 meeting to pitch a Luma Montessori Daycare and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Center for a parcel of land along 4400 North Shallowford Road. An ABA center provides behavioral therapy for children with autism. 

The company originally came before the URA at a June 9 meeting where they pitched a taproom and restaurant concept called Bru Foundry. According to Jay Parekh, a representative from Vantage, the taproom is still part of the plan. The building that contains the taproom would be a “two-user building.” The other part of the building would be the daycare facility. 

The parcel in question is roughly 2.5 acres included in Dunwoody’s “Project Renaissance,” a 35-acre redevelopment project meant to revitalize the Georgetown neighborhood by adding parks, trails, restaurants, and commercial uses. The URA owns the land and is leading the redevelopment. 

The city approved Project Renaissance in 2012, and this is the last parcel that the agency controls. A food hall was once planned, but the developer drew out in 2019 when tenants were scarce. 

During the meeting, Economic Development Director Michael Starling said that during a call with Vantage, the city learned that one of the proposed uses for the parcel would be a daycare facility. The current zoning for the parcel does not allow for that type of business, so if the URA were to move forward, the rezoning would have to go before the Dunwoody City Council. 

“It came up that one of the uses would be a daycare facility, which in the original zoning was not allowed,” Starling said. “It would require a rezoning of the property.” 

At the June 9 meeting, Parekh proposed a dual restaurant concept at the 4400 North Shallowford parcel, with Bru Foundry on one side and an attached breakfast concept similar to First Watch on the other. Some URA members had questions about why Vantage decided to make the switch to a restaurant and a completely separate use. URA member Carol Allen asked what happened to the breakfast idea.  

“As it was presented to us, it was two separate restaurants,” Allen said. 

Parekh said that the breakfast concept would be integrated into the same building as Bru Foundry. In response to questions about why Vantage did not present the daycare concept earlier, he said that the company didn’t want to mention the idea until they had finalized details. 

“From the very beginning, we had communicated that we would be interested in doing this as a two-user facility,” he said. “One of the uses is still the Bru Foundry, and was the Bru Foundry. It is the second use that we are proposing to be Luma Montessori.” 

URA member Samyukth Shenbaga had concerns over whether the proposed project would align with the desired outcome for the neighborhood in terms of walkability. Parekh said Vantage believes this type of facility is needed in the area. 

“Most ABA centers have waiting lists that are beyond reasonable,” he said. “Most daycares in the area … all have waiting lists.” 

Some residents who spoke in public comment said that while they understood the need for daycare, they didn’t think the proposed development was in line with the character of the neighborhood. 

“I have two children, so I understand the need for a daycare,” said resident James Koo. “However, a daycare facility for that area is not exactly a good match.” 

Some URA members also had concerns about whether traffic would become a problem with a daycare center. According to Parekh, there will be a dropoff queue that Vantage plans to design so it does not back out into the street. He said Vantage would probably not do any traffic studies. 

“These are very small, commercial developments,” he said. “Traffic studies are typically not conducted for something like this.” 

Starling said it would be up to the city’s Public Works and Community Development departments on whether a traffic study would be a requirement if the project moves forward. 

Many Dunwoody residents spoke in public comment, and all were against the daycare with some also against the taproom concept. Many residents said they would prefer something like the new Dunwoody Village entertainment complex, which opened its first restaurant in 2021. 

“I think the right concept for this land is what’s going on over at the Village … which is Bar(n) and all the restaurants surrounding that courtyard,” said resident Joe Fernandez. “But they beat us to it.” 

Andy Daugherty said he worried about the amount of traffic in part because of the new elementary school that is planned for the west side of the area at 4680 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. He worried that with both the daycare and the elementary school framing the area, traffic during pick-up, drop-up, lunchtime, and rush hour would all increase. 

“You’re going to have constant traffic … in this neighborhood, and the neighborhood is not equipped for it at all,” Daugherty said.

URA member Allen ended the meeting by saying she did not like the idea of rezoning the area, adding that residents bought homes in the area believing there would be restrictions on what could be built.

“This is not the vision that people were sold,” she said. “This is not what they were pitched when they purchased their homes.” 

The URA did not vote on the item, but will view the proposed project at a future meeting. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.